With her manic energy, biting wit and livewire fighting style – Harley favours baseball bats and mallets over traditional weaponry – she stole every scene she stomped into in 2016’s Suicide Squad.
This month, Robbie’s Harley returns in Birds Of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn, a raucous, female-led ensemble film that unites Harley with a trio of Gotham City dames seeking vengeance, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez and Jurnee Smollett-Bell.
Reeling from the aftermath of a bad breakup with the Joker, Harley finds herself caring for foster kid Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), a pickpocket who steals a diamond from the wrong man.
That man is Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), a nightclub owner with a nasty penchant for peeling his enemies’ faces off. No wonder, then, that Birds Of Prey has received an R rating in the US, or MA15+ in Australia.
“I love the character of Harley Quinn,” Robbie tells news.com.au. “I love her in the comics, I love getting to play her as an actor and I just knew after the first Suicide Squad film I was not done by any means with Harley and I felt there was so much more of her to see.
“But more importantly, I wanted to see her without Mr J, because her behaviour is so dictated by her absolute devotion and obsession with him.”
Directed by Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs) and written by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee), the movie has less of that dour Batman Vs Superman energy and more of the Deadpool or Guardians Of The Galaxy secret sauce.
Birds Of Prey is a movie in which Harley sniffs cocaine, plays Lady And The Tramp with her pet hyena Bruce and puts a man in a wheelchair for calling her a “dumb sl*t.” (“Don’t call me dumb!” Harley retaliates. “I have a PhD, motherf****r!”)
It also features a naughty, X-rated easter egg, which wound its way into the film courtesy of star Smollett-Bell. The True Blood actor plays Black Canary in the film, a singer at one of Roman’s nightclubs, blessed with a powerful voice and an even more powerful high kick.
“I wonder if people are going to catch how many drawings of penises there are in the movie,” Smollett-Bell muses to news.com.au.
“No one has said anything,” she clarifies. “I don’t think people have caught onto it yet. It’s subtle, and I don’t know if they will catch onto how many.”
She adds: “I drew one. I won’t say where. There’s quite a few.”
It’s all in keeping with the humour of the film, which is unashamedly mischievous.
“Harley is so cheeky and subversive and she’s got such a strong attitude and I think it really did just free us to make all these jokes as well,” explains director Cathy Yan. “It’s very unabashed and I really enjoyed that.”
To that end, Yan and Hodson worked on a script that was “vibrant, fun and fast-paced,” the filmmaker explains.
“This story, since we first started bouncing around ideas, it’s always been bonkers,” Hodson admits. “There is a whole plot line about an egg sandwich, half the movie is taken up by a girl who has swallowed a diamond and they’re waiting for her to take a s**t, at one point we had her doing a suppository to try and get it out. We went bananas on this thing and it was so fun!”
“It’s very much through Harley’s perspective, so it was a lot about the way she would tell a story too,” adds Yan. “Sometimes when you tell a story to a girlfriend, or a friend, you think wait, hold on, I have to back up, and tell it this way. It was meant to have that almost erratic, wild, unpredictable element to it… It’s not perfect, it’s not slick. That was by design.”
Will there be more films in the Birds Of Prey universe? “I hope so,” enthuses Robbie. “I mean really this is the formation of the Birds Of Prey, they’re starting to come together… I would hope that this could be a good platform moving forward, because there are so many wicked female DC characters that we haven’t met and it would just be so cool if this could launch the universe.”
Winstead, who plays Huntress, an assassin and one of Harley’s compatriots in Birds Of Prey, agrees. “Anytime I can be with these ladies and play this character and play in this world, I’m happy,” she says.
“We’re living the dream, are you kidding me?” Smollett-Bell adds. “I’m in love with Black Canary, we all love our characters, and the opportunity to continue would be a dream for us.”
Birds Of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn is in cinemas now