Birds of Prey Movie Pitch

Birds of Prey was pitched as an “R-rated girl gang film” led by Harley Quinn, which is still an accurate description of the upcoming comic book movie. In Birds of Prey, directed by Cathy Yan and written by Christina HodsonMargot Robbie‘s Harley Quinn teams up with several other crime-fighting women to take down Black Mask, a crime lord who controls Gotham City.

But there’s more to Birds of Prey than simply empowered girl gangs. With women in front of the screen and behind the screen, Birds of Prey takes on a deeper approach to female-led stories, including the most prominent issue today: the Me Too movement. In an interview with /Film’s Peter Sciretta during a visit to the set of Birds of Prey, Cathy Yan reveals how her pitch evolved to become a Me Too superhero movie.

When Cathy Yan first pitched Birds of Prey to Warner Bros., “I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.” Her initial pitch consisted of a “sizzle reel” that included visual references to craft the “aesthetics of the film.” That visual document “made it feel relevant, made it feel fresh, and stood on its own,” producer Bryan Unkeless said. The document alone is what made Unkeless and co-producer Sue Kroll instantly decide to choose Yan as director. But it was more than the sleek and stylish imagery that drew Unkeless and Kroll to Yan’s vision. It’s was her story’s focus on “emancipation,” Yan said:

“To me the story’s super compelling and personal to me because it is about emancipation, about women sort of like almost being competitive with one another and bringing each other down, but also because of our own inabilities I think to feel so powerless and like the stranglehold that is the patriarchy.And so I feel like I very much have gone through that arc myself, so and I’ve seen it with especially I think set against the backdrop of like Me Too and what has been happening in our industry in the last few years.So that definitely infiltrated its way into my pitch as well.So that for me this film was so much more than a superhero film about like and the first girl gang film or any of that.But it really has like a compelling narrative and theme to it that like is very, very personal to me.”

The Me Too movement has taken Hollywood by storm since the downfall of Harvey Weinstein, who was revealed to have harassed and assaulted more than a dozen women over his career. Since then, powerful men have been taken to task for abusing that power against women. With Birds of Prey pitting a group of empowered women against a man in power, Black Mask, it appears that Me Too will form the very basis for the film’s storyline. Kroll praised in particular that focus on the “women finding themselves” apart from their male counterparts — particularly with Harley Quinn finally breaking up with her longtime lover and abuser, the Joker:

“If you imagine all these women finding themselves, discovering who they are without their male counterparts, we talk about female empowerment. It’s obviously not intended to be on the nose and it’s still entertaining, but that’s what’s going on here. Cathy really brings that sensibility to the movie. “

[The movie is] very grounded in the world, but yet a very unique take on sort of what you’ve already probably experienced from the canon,” Kroll added. 

Birds of Prey opens in theaters on February 7, 2020.

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