While Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey is very much a movie centered around its female heroes and their unlikely team-up, it's the villains of the film that have captured the attention of audiences. In the film Roman Sionis/Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) and Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) serve as a terrifying, chilling pair of bad guys who have a complex relationship that is, in many ways, at the heart of their villainy. It's something that both McGregor and Messina spoke a bit about with Entertainment Weekly, with the actors digging into their relationship that, while may sometimes be a bit ambiguous, is far more than just two villains working together.
For McGregor, the whole thing came down to Sionis being more than just the villain, as in he approached the character as one that has multiple layers that all inform who he ultimately is as a whole.
"The big mistake would be to play the villain," McGregor said. "I don't think you approach something to play the bad guy. You play somebody who's made up of all different things and has different reasons for being the way he is. And I thought that's what we both did because like, there was an awful lot going on between the two of us. A lot of that wasn't about being like... there were power struggles and romantic struggles, trust and relying on somebody and resenting relying on somebody, wanting somebody because you don't want to be on your own but at the same time not wanting somebody to be to close. There's so many things going on in our relationship and our dynamic that it sort of, the last thing that I was thinking about was playing the bad guy. "
It's interesting that McGregor specifically notes the "romantic struggles" between Sionis and Zsaz. Before Birds of Prey debuted in theaters, McGregor and Messina teased that their characters might be gay, something that angered some fans who felt like the comments were likely an instance of "queer baiting" in which it's teased that characters will be LGBTQ+ only for them to end up being straight or have their relationships undefined. While there's a bit of that in Birds of Prey -- the film never directly states the true nature of Sionis and Zsaz's relationship -- there are definitely some strong indications that there is something more there than just a business partnership.
The result of that complex, layered approach becomes evident in one of the film's most disturbing scenes in which Sionis, encouraged by Zsaz, torments a patron of female patron of his nightclub by making her dance on a tabletop after he has her clothing cut from her body. The horrifying scene is one that McGregor says that he hasn't been able to watch for himself, but Messina had nothing but praise for his co-star in that moment that, in many ways, encapsulated the two villains' relationship.
"You were amazing in it because you were so charming and beautiful and wonderful and everyone wanted to follow you like the pied piper and then you would turn and have that moment with that woman on the table and it was like you could hear a pin drop and it was ferocious and terrifying and it was great," Messina said. "You were wonderful."
Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey is in theaters now. Other upcoming DC movies include Wonder Woman 1984 on June 5th, The Batman on June 25, 2021, The Suicide Squad on August 6, 2021, Black Adam on December 22, 2021, Shazam! 2 on April 1, 2022, The Flash on July 1, 2022, and Aquaman 2 on December 16, 2022.