DEADLINE – EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros and DC Entertainment have chosen Cathy Yan to be the director of an untitled girl gang movie, likely the next superhero film to be graced by Suicide Squad scene-stealer Harley Quinn, in the form of Margot Robbie. A deal has to be completed, but it is expected that Yan will become the second female filmmaker to join the DC club after Wonder Woman‘s Patty Jenkins, and the first female Asian director ever tapped to direct a superhero film.
This is a bold bet for Warner Bros’ Geoff Johns and Walter Hamada, who oversee DC under Toby Emmerich. Yan got the job over numerous well established male directors, and because she is taking this giant leap with just one small-budget indie movie under her belt. That would be Dead Pigs, a film that won the World Cinema Dramatic Award For Ensemble Acting at Sundance last January. Despite being a new talent, Yan’s presentation for Birds of Prey was exceptional, and Robbie held firm to her desire for this film to be directed by a woman.
Robbie’s LuckyChap is producing with Sue Kroll and her Kroll & Co Entertainment and Bryan Unkeless of Clubhouse Pictures. Robbie and Unkeless produced I, Tonya.
The project is based on Birds of Prey, which in the DC universe teams Quinn with several other crime fighters, namely Black Canary, Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) and Huntress. It is not confirmed if all of them will be characters in the film. What is clear is that both the main characters and most of the creative braintrust are female, remarkable for a studio-sized superhero film. The script was written by Christina Hodson, who wrote the Transformers spinoff Bumblebee, and just got hired to write the Batgirl movie.
This film looks cleared to start production by year’s end or early next year, after Robbie completes Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. She is negotiating to star alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in the Quentin Tarantino-directed film for Sony Pictures. The other Harley Quinn films are still under construction. That includes the Suicide Squad sequel to be directed by Gavin O’Connor. Two others, Harley Quinn Vs The Joker and Gotham City Sirens with Suicide Squad helmer David Ayer, seem further in the distance.
Back to Yan. She was a Wall Street Journal reporter who worked from New York, Hong Kong and Beijing, and one of the paper’s youngest reporters to land multiple stories on the front page. She wrote and directed numerous short films before stepping up to features with Dead Pigs.
In that film, a mysterious stream of pig carcasses floats silently toward China’s populous economic hub, Shanghai. As authorities struggle to explain the phenomenon, characters intersect. They include a down-and-out pig farmer with a youthful heart struggles to make ends meet, an upwardly mobile landowner fighting gentrification against an American expat seeking a piece of the Chinese dream, a romantic busboy hides his job from his father, and a rich young woman struggling to find her independence.