Internet bros, how did “Birds of Prey” hurt you?
The new Warner Bros. movie features Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) — sans the “Suicide Squad” male gaze — forming a wacky girl gang and taking on the patriarchy in the form of villain Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). It’s fun, it’s wild and it’s getting solid reviews from fans and critics, and that makes trolls very unhappy.
One particular criticism that got a lot of attention was a viral tweet saying the movie would flop because “Birds of Prey” had removed “any sex appeal” from the characters. Well, that doesn’t sit right with producer Sue Kroll.
“I read that and I thought, ‘Oh my God. That’s so asinine,’” Kroll told HuffPost. “It just goes to show you ― it’s obviously a very subjective thing ― but I think the world is used to, when you look at the comics, you see these women in there, it’s always very tight clothing, short shorts, boobs pushed up. It’s always very graphic in that way. And we were having none of that. But I think they all look beautiful and sexy, and if you look at [Black Canary Jurnee Smollett-Bell] and her costumes, she’s wearing a bustier but of a different kind. That’s not sexy? She’s not sexy in the club? You bet she is. She’s gorgeous. That’s nuts.”
The producer explained that the old stereotype of scantily clad comic book women is exactly what the movie wanted to avoid.
“These women are unapologetically badass, audacious, crazy and every one of them is sexy in their own way. I think that just goes to show you what kind of bias there is,” Kroll said. “It’s just a silly comment. But I think our women are beautiful. And it looks like you can actually kick somebody’s ass in those pants.”
She continued: “The other thing about it is it feels real. It’s like, ‘Oh yeah, she’s wearing a leather jumpsuit, she can break this guy’s face.’ It feels very deliberate, purposeful, tactical, but beautiful.”
From breaking faces to breaking down details, Kroll gave us the inside scoop on everything from the importance of a subtle hair tie moment to questions about Harley’s sexuality and the reason her hyena got the name Bruce.
Warning! “Birds of Prey” spoilers below.
I agree about it being more practical to break faces in pants. In what world does it make sense to go out and fight crime in a bikini top?
It just seems ridiculous, you know? Of course people like to watch that, but it’s the grounded quality in a very vibrant heightened world. We just want to have fun with it, but I’m happy that we took that approach. I think even Harley Quinn in “Suicide Squad,” she definitely had a lot of sex appeal, but I think that the mythology around these women, they’re depicted in a different way. We talked to a lot of women about their reactions to the costumes. The costumes consistently come up as a favorite in this movie.
From the writer to the director, this movie is very female-driven. What’s something about “Birds of Prey” that is there specifically because of that?
I was having a conversation the other night about the scene in the funhouse where Harley Quinn hands Black Canary a hair tie. It’s an interesting little moment, them fighting and beating up all these men. Yet, there’s this kind of very simple, sweet moment like, “Get your hair out of your face. Use a hair tie,” and it’s seemingly innocuous, but it’s actually something that women thought of because your hair falls in your face. I think that there are a lot of little touches in the movie, whether it’s thinking about how they deal with their own reality ― I mean, each of them is dealing with a very unique set of circumstances and emotions as they sort of go on this journey of self-discovery and being emancipated from whatever it is that constrains them. I think having all these women involved just influences how they talk about it, how they feel, how that is represented on the screen, how they look, all of these things.
What are some other things that stood out to you?
Yeah, I think Harley, even as crazy as she is, she’s got a sweet lovable side to even her interaction with [Ella Jay Basco’s Cassandra Cain] in the supermarket or in her apartment when she’s pouring her a bowl of cereal or doing her nails. I think those are the kind of moments in the movie that help to serve a female narrative and give a lot of context and nuance to the character development. They do feel very female. I’m not sure a male writer would’ve thought of those things. They might have, but it’s just kind of in the fabric of what you’re doing.
There is some LGBTQ representation in this movie, including possibly Harley Quinn. There is a mention that she’s had an ex-girlfriend, correct?
It’s handled in a much simpler way, that she had love, relationships that failed. It could be friendships. It could be relationships. It’s in that animated open. Again, it’s not specifically pointed out, but there’s lots of ways to break your heart.
Harley Quinn is bisexual in the comics, though, so how important was it to bring details from her comic history into this?
That’s the wonderful fun thing I think about this movie because you really get to dig deep into Harley and see different aspects of her. We all know she’s crazy, right? We all know that she is flawed and chaotic, but I think that a lot of people haven’t really experienced the tender lovable side of Harley, and she’s such a paradox in so many ways. I love that we were able to show sort of her history, her motivation, where she comes from and then to have her, her journey here and experience, probably for the first time, a desire to kind of help somebody and bring people together. And even so right at the end of the movie, she still couldn’t help but be Harley. She had to take the car and leave everybody. But you forgive her for it. She’s so nuts and flawed in the most wonderful endearing way. But it was important like all those little details. I don’t know if you noticed it ― in her apartment you see a photo of young Harley with nuns?
And her pet beaver and [Bruce the hyena]. Yeah. I think there’s a lot of very interesting dimensions to Harley.
Speaking of Bruce, what’s it like having a hyena in the movie?
We didn’t work with an actual hyena, right? But we initially thought we might, and we went to visit a very famous hyena that’s used in commercials that’s here in Southern California. ... So we all went on a field trip and everybody’s like peering into the fence and the hyena’s trainer is like, ‘You guys back off a little.’ I’m, of course, standing by the van because I’m afraid of everything. But as we’re learning more about hyenas, their behavior and how they can’t be trained and how they can turn on you and how the bite is deadly, I remember thinking, ‘Why are we doing this?’ [Laugh] We can just have a well-behaved hyena in our movie. Harley’s character gets very close to the hyena.
Right, like sharing the Twizzlers.
Why would we even take a chance on something like that? So happily, because hyenas are so tough to train, we really wanted Bruce our hyena to be a character in the movie, and interactive with Harley Quinn as a pet. It was ultimately decided that we would have a big, very big German Shepherd work with us and then modified to look like a hyena. So that’s the best of both worlds because we got all the humor that comes with having a pet hyena, but also that kind of wonderful, warm intimacy that you can only have with a lovable dog.
So was the German Shepherd’s name Bruce.
No, Bruce springs directly from the mind and imagination of [writer Christina Hodson]. It’s designed to be a nod to Bruce Wayne.
A lot of the cast has said they’d like to see Poison Ivy in a future movie. Rihanna has said she’d love to play Poison Ivy. What do you think about that possibility?
I think that’s very interesting. That’s fun that she wants to do it. I think all these characters in the DC world are wildly desirable to play, and they’re all so interesting and such a deep canon, and now I think one of the really wonderful things about making “Birds of Prey” is we were introducing all these new characters into the cinematic world that people hadn’t seen. They’ve enjoyed them in the comics, and I think it’s going to pave the way to start to explore some of these other wonderful characters that people haven’t seen or maybe they’ve seen very briefly. I love that everybody’s interested, somebody like Rihanna’s interested.
Lastly, there is a post-credit moment where Harley’s voice comes back on screen and she’s about to reveal a secret about Batman before it cuts off. Was she ever going to complete that sentence?
Nope. Nope. Nope.
So where’d that post-credit moment come from?
This is a movie that’s completely a standalone film. It’s not designed to point to anything else that may be coming out in the future. But it is a nod and a tribute to the world we inhabit, the DC world. And it’s fun. We just want our movie to be fun.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.