birds of prey black mask victor zsasz

Black Mask and Victor Zsasz are a dynamic duo — in more ways than one. Unlike many mob boss-henchman relationships, Ewan McGregor‘s Roman Sionus, aka Black Mask, and Chris Messina‘s Zsasz, a serial killer with a penchant for face-peeling, are utterly devoted to each other. The pair are rarely seen without each other in Birds of Prey, and seem to have a secret language between the two of them that only they understand. Zsasz becomes violently defensive of his boss whenever he perceives any kind of threat. But that closeness was something that didn’t come from the script, but from McGregor and Messina’s own development of their dynamic.

“We found a lot of stuff in rehearsals [because] he’s written as a henchman,” Messina told /Film at a Birds of Prey junket in London.

While the relationship between Black Mask and Victor Zsasz isn’t confirmed to be explicitly romantic (despite some teasing from the stars), there definitely is something there. And that something, according to Messina, is obsession:

“I made a choice of being obsessed with Roman and obsessed with his, you know, his clothes, his style, his words, his power, his money. These characters are Shakespearean in that you can, you know, we go see Hamlet, year after year to see a different interpretation. This was my interpretation. Maybe there’ll be other movies and somebody will do it completely different. Anthony Kerrigan did it in in Gotham and he was wonderful. So that’s what we see Batman, the Joker, you know, they’re vast.”

But that obsession doesn’t necessarily mean that Zsasz is fully and completely devoted to Black Mask. Messina imagined an ambitious motivation for his henchman, who dreams of “wanting to take over even maybe one day, you know, killing Roman and being the master of the universe.”

That dynamic between Black Mask and Zsasz was almost entirely crafted by McGregor and Messina, including the flamboyant and queer-coded imagery between the two of them. But that’s something that is up to interpretation by the audience, producer Sue Kroll said.

“Their sexuality, Roman’s sexuality, it’s never been story point in our movie ever,” Kroll said. “What they have, Roman and Zsasz have a very interesting dynamic with they feed off of one another, and they’re obviously having a lot of fun. But Roman’s motivation is about control and power. He’s narcissistic and nuts, he’s crazy. And Zsasz is his henchmen and these are decisions the to the made and how they want to play it. But I can tell you that it was never explicitly — their sexuality was never dealt with in our story.”

Birds of Prey hits theaters on February 7, 2020.

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