Birds of Prey Director Explains Casting, Character Choices

We're less than two months away from the release of Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), the next film in the DC Extended Universe pantheon. The upcoming female ensemble is set to unite some of DC's most beloved female characters in an unconventional, action-packed story, including Dinah Lance/Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Helena Bertinelli/Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), and Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco). During a visit to the film's set earlier this year, director Cathy Yan and star and producer Margot Robbie discussed the process of casting actresses to play such iconic characters.

"We saw everyone, we had them do chemistry reads and both Jurnee and Mary just gave such depth to their characters," Yan explained. "I think that's what was really compelling about them immediately from the get-go. There's such personality to them. When I cast, I'm always looking also to find a similar soul in the actors as well as the characters that they play. So I think with Jurnee, I mean she's just so intelligent and deep and grounded. And she manages to be both very soft but also really street smart and tough, which was very much Canary."

"And then I think with Huntress... Huntress has such an interesting backstory in the psychology of someone who frankly is a little bit you know has potentially PTSD and you know, reeling from all that," Yan continued. "And Mary was able to really understand that and bring the depth to it so that she became, yeah, a real character and not just like a bad-ass."

"I've been a big fan of Rosie Perez for many years. And I think for me, when I first read the script, I always sort of imagined a bit of a more mature Renee, as like a nice balance with the other women, in the way... I've always described this group it's a motley crew. They don't look like the typical girl gang, and I like that. I like that they come together kind of unconventionally and randomly. And so you know with, with Rosie, I mean she just brings such strength to the role and such personality as well. And she's just, yeah, she's awesome."

"Yeah, it's an eclectic group, which I love, that everyone kind of has a distinct and different personality," Robbie added. "And coming from a different angle, I suppose, you've got Renee, whose set of morals... Her moral compass points a very different way to Harley's and Canary's. And everyone's kind of got their own rule of ethics that they abide by, and they kind of conflict with each other, which I think is always interesting in an ensemble."

Robbie, who pitched the idea for the film after researching the world of comics for Suicide Squad, also dove into the thought process of how each character was chosen for the film.

"It really started with Huntress. I just loved Huntress," Robbie revealed. "And with my initial kind of pitch on the story, I said I wanted to keep it quite contained and kind of get no bigger, no world-ending stakes. Like the stakes were as big as perhaps mafia level, or gang level. And that's when I started reading a lot of Huntress comics, obviously coming from a mafia family, and found her story. Plus, I always gravitate -- not always -- but I do often gravitate towards a revenge story because it is so straightforward. But you are so clearly motivated, so I find myself getting on board with that mindset quite quickly, which is why. And then after Huntress, it kind of fleshed out from there which other members kind of counterbalance her revenge story. Harley's version of what's right and wrong, that's how you kind of needed a more moral character like Renee Montoya. You kind of need a cop in there. Canary obviously is so crucial to the Birds of Prey. I really wanted to introduce her as well."

"And then Cass. Christina [Hodson], the writer, and I actually spoke about a lot of our favorite films and kind of wanted to pay homage to a few things," Robbie continued. "Léon: The Professional was one of them, and we just loved that relationship, the mentor and mentee. A very unexpected friendship there we kind of found ourselves gravitating towards, as well."

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Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) will be released in theaters on February 7, 2020.