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Birds of Prey director reveals what sold her on the DC team-up movie

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She’ll be the first Asian woman to direct a super hero movie

2018 Sundance Film Festival - Awards Night Ceremony Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

The Birds of Prey movie will bring together the women of the DC universe, both on the screen and behind the camera. Notably, Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs) will direct the movie, making her the third female filmmaker attached to a DC project, after Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) and Ava DuVernay (the upcoming New Gods).

Yan spoke at the U.S.-China Entertainment Summit about landing this role — and about the influence she’ll be bringing to the DC Extended Universe as its first female Asian director, and the first Asian woman to ever direct a superhero movie in general.

The script, Yan says, is what drew her to the project.

“I could not put the script down, it had so much dark humor to it which a lot of my work does, and there are themes of female empowerment which are so strong and relatable,” she said at the panel. “So I went in with, not with confidence, but at least a sense that I belonged in the room, that somehow magically in terms of timing and luck that this opportunity was open to me and I was definitely going to make the best of it.”

Yan comes from an indie movie background, so pitching to a big studio was a new experience. But she wasn’t deterred.

“I have never done any of these things and I asked my agents for examples to get a better sense: I put together a pitch deck and also assembled a sizzle reel,” said Yan. “But I would say it wasn’t like a lot of other sizzle reels which reference other films that remotely feel like your film. I find those to be rather pointless. But I created my own version that thematically and tonally conveyed what you would feel (in my movie).”

As for whether she would bring her own cultural background to Birds of Prey, Yan had a mixed answer: “Yes and no. The tone of the film is similar to that in my films. There is a half-Asian character and our screenwriter (Christina Hodson) is half Chinese and she’s sneaking little bits in.”

Cassandra Cain/Batgirl in Batgirl #3, DC Comics (2000).
Cassandra Cain as Batgirl.
Scott Peterson, Kelley Puckett, Damion Scott/DC Comics

If you’ve been following the movie’s production news, you’ll recognize the half-Asian character as Cassandra Cain, an ally of Barbara Gordon’s who eventually took up the mantle of Batgirl herself. She’s the daughter of assassins Lady Shiva and David Cain, who experimentally deprived his daughter of contact with any verbal language. As a result, her brain repurposed its language centers to interpret body language (look, it’s comics) making her one of the greatest fighters in the world — but nearly unable to speak.

The movie is set to follow Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn as she joins forces with Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollet-Bell) and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) to save the life of young Cassandra Cain from an evil crime lord. Yan confirmed that the movie will be rated R.

Production for Birds of Prey is set to start in January 2019, with tentative release date of Feb. 7, 2020.