“Birds of Prey” isn’t simply about the emancipation of a woman: It stars five women. It was directed by a woman, written by a woman, produced by two women, and for a studio led by a woman.
The film, directed by Cathy Yan (“Dead Pigs”), has been described as “a punk rock feminist superheroine movie,” which shouldn’t even be something one needs to point out. In fact, “Birds of Prey” star Mary Elizabeth Winstead told TheWrap that she never even considered the comic book film wouldn’t appeal to a wider audience, which has recently been a concern for films with all-female casts.
“I never really thought about that, to be honest. I just read it and thought it was a great script and a great group of characters,” Winstead said. “I like to be optimistic and think that if we make a good movie, people will want to come see it regardless of whether it’s a bunch of women or a bunch of men.”
Written by Christina Hodson (“Bumblebee”), “Birds of Prey” is expecting to pull in upwards of $60 million for Warner Bros. in its opening weekend. It was produced by the film’s star, Margot Robbie, Sue Kroll (“A Star is Born”) and Bryan Unkeless (“I, Tonya”).
The film is entering the zeitgeist during a period in which female-centric, targeted and otherwise focused films are too often overlooked or written off as niche fare. Most recently there were concerns about whether male audiences and award voters would make an effort to go see Sony’s “Little Women.” And films in the superhero and fanboy community are often derided when female characters are put at the center of the story.
There are signs, however, that the narrative is changing. Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman” was the highest-grossing film in the DC universe when it came out. That film, along with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” — which also features Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman — still rank among the studio’s top three grossing DC films.
Marvel released it’s first female-led film in “Captain Marvel” last year and has “Black Widow” coming out later this year.
“Birds of Prey” features Margot Robbie’s return as Harley Quinn, arguably one of the better parts of 2016’s “Suicide Squad.” The film follows Robbie’s Quinn as the Joker’s (not Joaquin) ex-girlfriend joins forces with other badass women, including Winstead’s Huntress, to challenge a clutch of villains led by Roman Sionis, or Black Mask as he’s better known, played by Ewan McGregor.
“My personal viewpoint is that I’m attracted to films with a lot of strong female characters in them and with a female voice at the helm, and a female screenwriter, female producer,” Winstead said. “I’m just personally attracted to that. I hadn’t really thought about whether or not that’s going to appeal to audiences at large. I mean, I certainly hope so.”
Winstead is no stranger to big-screen comic book adaptations, having played Ramona Flowers in Edgar Wright’s 2010 cult hit “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” And she added to her repertoire of ass-kicking female characters with last year’s “Gemini Man,” in which she played a hitwoman opposite Will Smith. After “Birds of Prey,” she’ll play another assassin in “Kate,” who has 24 hours to avenge her own murder before she dies.
But Huntress and the world of “Birds of Prey” is different.
“The world of ‘Birds of Prey’ is a bit more extravagant; you can kind of go a little bit outside the realm of total reality,” Winstead said. “[Huntress] is kind of an odd character … She’s weird and funny and awkward. You sort of get to tell this story of this girl who grew up training to be an assassin and didn’t ever have friends, and doesn’t know how to fit in socially, and doesn’t really know anything other than how to kill.
“We got to sort of play around with that in ways that are in ways that were both sort of sometimes disturbing and sometimes really funny,” she continued. “To get to play with that kind of a character was a really great opportunity.”