How Cathy Yan Landed The ‘Birds Of Prey’ Directing Gig: U.S.-China Entertainment Summit

This evening at the U.S.-China Entertainment Summit at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, attendees for the first time, had the opportunity to hear Cathy Yan talk a bit about her upcoming big studio directorial, Warner Bros./DC’s Birds of Prey

Upon landing the gig, Yan became the first female Asian director to ever direct a superhero film, and the third female filmmaker to join the DC club after Wonder Woman‘s Patty Jenkins and Ava DuVernay for the upcoming The New Gods as Deadline exclusively reported back in April.

Asked by moderator/producer Janet Yang how she scored the job and beat out several other directors, Yan explained, “I did my homework.”

“I wouldn’t say it was easy, but it was relatively painless and straightforward. I immediately loved the script and it felt like something I could really do, and it felt very much like my own voice,” said Yan.

“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 relateable. 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.”

Watch on Deadline

“It came out of me,” said Yan about her pitch meeting to Warner Bros., “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. 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).”

Asked whether there would be Eastern elements in the Birds of Prey, Yan answered, “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.”

DC Comics

Outside of today’s conference, Deadline confirmed that the half-Asian character in Birds of Prey is Cassandra Cain, who in the comics is a mute martial artist aka Orphan. She becomes a ward of Barbara Gordon and ultimately Cassandra Cain inherits the Batgirl costumes in the comics.

Yan also told the crowd that after working on a scrappy indie like her feature Dead Pigs in Shanghai, China, which won her the World Cinema Special Jury Prize at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, she is looking forward to working with the production departments and producers that a studio like Warner Bros. provides on a big film like Birds of Prey.

Yan also confirmed onstage today what has already been out there and that is Birds of Prey will be rated R. Margot Robbie reprises her role as Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey, and as exclusively reported by Deadline, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is playing Huntress while Jurnee Smollett-Bell will play Black Canary.  Separately, it was reported elsehwhere that Rosie Perez is playing Renee Montoya.

Birds of Prey opens on Feb. 7, 2020.