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Cathy Yan ThisClose to Being DC’s Second Female/First Asian Female Director on Upcoming Harley Quinn Film

PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 27: (L-R) Producer Jane Zheng, director Cathy Yan, and producer Clarissa Zhang backatage after accepting the Special Jury Award for Ensemble Acting for their film "Dead Pigs" at Basin Recreation Field House on January 27, 2018 in Park City, Utah.

“Dead Pigs” producer Jane Zheng, director Cathy Yan, and producer Clarissa Zhang.

While their deal has yet to be signed, director Cathy Yan is Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment’s top pick to helm their upcoming female ensemble film featuring Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. This would make Yan the second female director DC has hired, after Patty Jenkins, and it would also make her the first Asian female director to take on a superhero film. It’s an exciting day in movies!

Yan caught Warner Bros./DC’s attention with her first feature film, Dead Pigs, which won the World Cinema Dramatic Award For Ensemble Acting at Sundance.

According to Deadline Hollywood, Dead Pigs tells the story of what happens when “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 [who] 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 [who] hides his job from his father, and a rich young woman struggling to find her independence.”

Though she only has one feature film, and several shorts, under her belt, the pitch Yan gave for a Birds of Prey film was apparently so good that WB/DC needed to snatch her up. This film she’s being hired to do is described as an “untitled girl gang” movie that is based on Birds of Prey, but there’s no word as to whether or not all the characters we’d expect from that will be in this film. All we know is that it will prominently feature Robbie as the Clown Princess of Crime.

This is as female-driven a project as DC has ever put out. The screenplay will be written by Christina Hodson, who’s having a lot of luck with DC heroines, as she also recently got hired to write the Batgirl solo movie.

Robbie will also be co-producing this film through her production company, LuckyChap, along with Sue Kroll and her Kroll & Co Entertainment, and Bryan Unkeless of Clubhouse Pictures, with whom Robbie co-produced I, Tonya. Robbie was greatly responsible for Yan being hired, as she made her involvement contingent on the fact that this film would have a female director.

Meanwhile, Yan has a pretty interesting background. Before pursuing directing, she was a journalist reporting for the Wall Street Journal from New York, Hong Kong and Beijing, becoming one of the youngest reporters to have multiple stories on its first page. After writing and directing several short films, she took a chance on a first feature with Dead Pigs … and here we are!

I’ve gotta say, what’s interesting about this Deadline Hollywood exclusive is the way that writer, Mike Fleming Jr., talks about Yan’s selection. He says, “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.”

Hey, isn’t that how a bunch of male directors got to direct blockbusters? By doing a smaller budget movie (or a TV show, in the case of J.J. Abrams) first, but having very little actual feature film experience otherwise? Did those smaller-budget films they made first win awards at Sundance?

Here’s the thing: Yan’s hiring isn’t a particularly bold bet. It’s the same bet that studios and producers make on male directors all the time. They’re just finally starting to do the same thing for women. Which, you know, yay.

Also, finally.

(image: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

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Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former Mary Sue assistant editor from 2015-18. Teresa's returned to play in the TMS sandbox as a freelancer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.