Suicide Squad was a mess, but one of the bright spots was Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, and Robbie, who has rapidly turned into a power producer, has been pitching various Harley spin-offs ever since. One of those pitches is the “Untitled Girl Gang” movie, which has advanced to the “hiring a director” stage. Cathy Yan, whose film Dead Pigs took home a prize at Sundance this year, is in (early) talks to direct this Harley spin-off. Yan would be the first Asian woman to helm a superhero movie, and is the third woman hired to direct a DC film, following Patty Jenkins and Ava DuVernay. That’s great. It is also great that they are committed to saving Robbie and Harley from the wreckage of Suicide Squad.
Because this is DC Films and they are throwing ALL the spaghetti at the wall, there are (at least) three competing Harley Quinn projects in the pipeline and the “Untitled Girl Gang” movie is the Birds of Prey movie, not the Harley-and-Joker spin-off no one wants—Harley and the Joker are in a toxic abusive relationship and who wants to see that romanticized more than it already was in Suicide Squad?—nor the Gotham City Sirens spin-off Robbie also pitched. It looks like Birds of Prey is taking precedence over the other Harley projects, which is great because this one comes with a lady-led brain trust (and has no need of Jared Leto’s Third Best Joker).
Besides Robbie acting as a producer/star, and Yan coming on to direct, the script for this movie comes from Christina Hodson, who wrote the upcoming Transformers spin-off Bumblebee, and has also recently been hired by DC Films to write the Batgirl movie, following Joss Whedon’s exit. (I am unconvinced there ever really was a Joss Whedon Batgirl movie, and that wasn’t just a cover to get Whedon into the Justice League shop without setting off undue alarm, before that situation ended up extruding into the public sphere anyway.) Previously, DC was in the habit of hiring dudes to shape these female-centric movies, like Whedon for Batgirl, and Suicide Squad director David Ayer being assigned the Gotham City Sirens movie. But now DC is committing to a female brain trust beyond Patty Jenkins, which is solid progress.
And Cathy Yan has a great origin story herself. She used to be a reporter for the New York Times, and was one of their youngest front-page reporters, before switching to filmmaking. Dead Pigs is her first feature film, which means she is making the leap usually reserved for white men, going from a tiny indie to a huge feature project in one bound. We have seen this blow up before (see also: Josh Trank, who got his career after making a lightsaber fan film on Youtube, which really should have been our first warning sign), but it has also worked out (see also: James Gunn). Yan is apparently Robbie’s pick for the Birds of Prey gig, and the studio liked her pitch enough to back her over more experienced male directors, so hopefully this is the beginning of studios supporting women in film the same way they support men in film. Also hopefully Birds of Prey 1) actually gets made, and 2) turns into a huge hit that spawns endless sequels and we never ever have to see that Harley-and-Joker movie that absolutely no one is asking for, seriously, WE DO NOT WANT THAT.