“Birds of Prey Interview: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead & Jurnee Smollett-Bell”
Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) sees Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn return after first appearing in 2016’s Suicide Squad, and beyond that, uniting Jurnee Smollet-Bell’s Black Canary and Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress together to form the Birds of Prey superhero team for the first time on the big screen. Screen Rant recently caught up with Robbie, Winstead, and Smollet-Bell at a Birds of Prey event in Hollywood, CA. Taking part in a group interview, they discussed adapting their characters from the comics, diversity, and more.
In this movie, you’re kicking ass, doing kicks. Did you have to train for that?
Smollet-Bell: Yeah, man. You’ve gotta train, especially if you’re taking on Black Canary. You can’t phone that in. She’s one of the dopest street fighters in DC. I trained for around five months in total. We trained a few months before we started shooting and then during the shooting… worked out like five days a week, changed my diet to become as strong as I could. But 87eleven stunt team really kicked our butts. They really wanted us to be able to do everything ourselves and Cathy [Yan] had really ambitious ways of shooting it, like oners on a carousel.
Robbie: No, it wasn’t painful or difficult at all [laughs].
Your guys’ characters [Black Canary and Huntress] are in some ways different to their comic book versions – can you talk about that? And for you, your character [Harley] went from being based on the comics to being the version the comics and such are taking inspiration from. Can you talk about that as well?
Winstead: I mean the costume and stuff look maybe a little different, but I think the spirit of who Huntress is, is the same, to me, as what I’ve read in the comics. The history that she’s been through, the pain that she’s been through – all that born into creating this persona of Huntress, who’s this vigilante who is going to bring these people to justice, and how sort of laser-focused she is on that and how she sort of doesn’t really relate well to the outside world because of what she’s been through. I think all of that is very true to the comic book. I mean, there’s been lots of different iterations of her, obviously, so every detail isn’t seen in this film, but I think the spirit of who she is in the comics is definitely being carried through.
Smollet-Bell: Yep. Same, you know. No, Black Canary was written quite a long time ago, and there were so many versions of Black Canary – she’s been retconned a bunch of times – and so, my biggest influence was initially the video game Injustice 2. That’s how I was introduced to her before the movie even existed, or before I was in the cast. So then when I was cast, I went back to the comics and read all the Birds of Prey comics, and then started diving into trying to read as many of the Black Canary comics. At first it was overwhelming and a little confusing, because her origin story has like changed, and they toss it away, and then they change it again. But I think it was great.
We picked from quite a bit of them and chose the ones that fit the best within our story in making her this street fighter, this songstress, the daughter of a vigilante who has superpowers. And yet, in our film, it’s prior to her really owning her superpowers. She’s at this point in her life where she’s just kind of shutdown. So that was fun to explore – a powerful woman who’s completely in denial of her powers.
Robbie: For Harley, I mean it’s been so fascinating. I’ve played Harley twice now – two different filmmakers and two different versions of Gotham – and it’s so fun and interesting to see what characteristics of the character each filmmaker gravitates towards; what version of Gotham they’re trying to portray; and how you can kind of honor the source material and then put it into this filmmaker’s world and version of the characters. Obviously playing her both times, there are things I created in the character, I have a foundation, but in this film we’re seeing a very different Harley.
And it is so wild to see now the comics starting to reflect the version of Harley that I’ve played on screen before. But again, I think it just shows that the source material – I think the comic books, in general, are like that – you can pick it up, follow one storyline, you can put it down. The next one they might be somewhere else with totally different people. That’s what I love about the comic books; you can kind of like pick it up and put it down, and I might be reading the New 52s or I might be reading the old, original Harleys. Still, the essence of the character is there, and I think that’s what we always try to do in the films: bring the spirit and the essence of the character to the screen.
How does it feel to break the barriers of not only being the first movie with a female superhero team but also under the direction of a woman of color, along with revolutionizing the genre in the industry today?
Robbie: It’s amazing. I mean, we wanted to diversify the age-range as well. We’re an eclectic group; we’re a group that represents the world around us. Everyone, I think either is or should be making the effort to represent the world more honestly on screen.
Winstead: I’m so proud to be part of it. I can’t imagine being a part of any other superhero comic book franchise, but this one – this is the one that speaks to me the most because of everything that it’s doing in terms of pushing those boundaries, pushing things forward, and speaking to a broader audience. That’s something that’s really exciting to me. I want to see the way it progresses and the direction it keeps taking.
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