A Fun Ride
By: Angy Essam
Sun, Apr. 5, 2020
CAIRO - 5 April 2020: American actress Rosie Perez stunned us as usual with a brilliant performance in the newly released superhero movie Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). She speaks to Egypt Today about her experience with the movie from the stunt trainings to the great bonding that went on behind the scenes, and especially how she found herself in Renee Montoya.
1- What drew you to this project?
Outside of the badass-ness of it all, the women kicking ass, and it being on a level of a real action-packed project, it was the message of emancipation. I thought that was really strong; so that’s why I really wanted to be part of it.
2- Are you a fan of comic books?
I was a fan of comic books from day one, all the way back to Archie. But I was specifically a big, big fan of Batman and Wonder Woman. In regard to the Birds of Prey, I really didn’t know as much [about it], but I did know about Detective Renee Montoya, specifically because of Batman.
3-Tell us about Renee. What drew you to her specifically?
Well, the thing that I always connected with —even prior to this project— was that what’s right is right, and that she was always fighting for justice. In my personal life, I’m always
fighting for justice. And the difference between Renee Montoya and myself, the big difference, I would say, is that there’s not a lot of grey area with her. What’s fascinating about this project is that she allows the grey area to come into play when she decides to team up with anti-heroes, specifically Harley Quinn.
4-Because, as a cop, she is very familiar with who Harley is?
Yes, she is, so it’s a big surprise, even to Renee. And for comedic effect it was, you know, “Who’s in?” and Renee Montoya goes, “With you?”. But she understands how fierce and strong and fearless Harley Quinn is as well. And I think that even though
originally Renee Montoya was intended to be much younger than I am, my delivery of that line, at my age, actually worked even better because when you get older you understand there are grey areas in life; and that you have to work with it.
5-And she’s no rookie, she has fought for a long time within the ranks!
Yes. And that’s what I love about her. I remember, even when I first thought of getting into the entertainment business, I said initially, ‘How come there aren’t enough roles for people of colour? Why is it so seemingly racist and sexist?’ And I remember way back when, in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, everyone was telling me to shut up. And I said no, I will not. ‘Well, it’s going to hurt your career,’ [I was often told]. I would say ‘So what? What’s right is right’. And it’s funny. Then, 30+ years later, they’ve all come around. Now everybody says it. So I immediately connected with Renee Montoya. She’s in a job where she’s so easily dismissed and laughed at because of her high moral code and discredited and discounted for her ability to do her job well; and she’s probably one of the most intelligent people on the force. But because of her gender, that is not acknowledged, appreciated or rewarded.
6-You see from the early scenes with her that she views a crime scene differently from the others, that she’s got a certain wayof taking it all in, but that none of the cops around her want to acknowledge her gift. Is that true?
Exactly. Yes, because what I played underneath it was, “Shut up! Let me do my job!”. And I know a lot of people will relate to that. Just shut up, move out of my way and let me do my job. I know what I’m doing. A lot of people want to say it indeed, but they can’t. Perhaps through her they can have that moment. They can have that. They can live vicariously through her, through her boldness and through her tenacity and also through her hurt and pain when she is dismissed. And I know as a woman it drives you crazy when you know you’re right, and no one will listen to you. It’s insanity!
7-Being a cop is a hard enough job and it’s only made harder by all of those other things. On top of that, isn’t she sort of alone on an island there, trying hard just to get through a day?
Yes. And to do well. And she finally finds the courage, being inspired much to her surprise by Harley Quinn and the other women to say, ‘You know what? It’s fine. Okay. Gotham PD doesn’t want me anymore. Fine. I’m going vigilante. I’m still going to fight for justice. I’m still going to go after the bad guys, and I’m still going to do what is right for the citizens of Gotham.’ I think that’s so admirable.
8-There’s so much action in the film. What kind of physical training, weapons training, stunt training and so forth did you do and how was it for you? Was it exciting, was it exhausting, empowering?
It was all the above. It was very very hard for me. Prior to going into production I really tried to get back in shape. As a former dancer/choreographer and also a martial arts student, my body has been through the wringer. I’ve had so many fractures, broken
bones, pulled muscles, torn ligaments, meniscus disc tear on a knee, a broken neck, so when I got this job I said ‘Oh my gosh, what am I going to do?’ And I said ‘you know what? I’m just going to do it,’ and I was so excited about working with 87 eleven; and their expertise got me through, they really know what they’re doing. I never thought I could be as strong as I am today, and it was so empowering. I remember one time in training I just started crying, and everyone was like, ‘Are you okay? What’s wrong? You’re tired? You got hurt?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m kicking ass!’ I never thought I could do this again, you know. I haven’t studied Kung Fu in 20 years because of all of my injuries, and I thought oh well, I’m middle-aged, that’s it.
9- Who would have thought stunt training for a superhero-type movie would be so physically healing?
Physically healing because we were in the hands of experts. I always admired them and their past work, but I had no idea that they were such a well-rounded, fully encompassing fight coordination company, because it’s not just learning the choreography, it’s being in good health; and they assure you of that. And they did it, and my stunt double, too, she was also extremely capable and very, very kind. But I told my husband after filming, I said, ‘If anything, I know this film is going to entertain, I know people are going to have a good time. But I never saw it as me, being a woman of a certain age, who would also be given a gift in doing this movie, given the chance to tell every woman of my age range and older: Don’t give up! Your body can still do it. Get back into the gym or go swimming or go for a walk or do this or do that. Push your body forward. I am proof that it can happen.’ And he looked at me and said, ‘Are you gonna cry?’ And I just started laughing. And I just said, ‘They are tears of joy and appreciation.’
Who would have ever thought that a movie project would have done this for me?
10-You really have great chemistry together, all of you, on-screen.
Oh, thank you. And it was off-screen too. Though they blamed me a lot for the partying aspect! But I remember telling them, I said, ‘You know, if you don’t know it already, I’m going to tell you something. You have to enjoy the process while the process is ongoing. You have to find the fun because moments like this,m all of us hanging out in my trailer and having drinks after work is going to stick with you, and you’re going to appreciate the project even more.’
11-The friendship, the bonding?
The bonding, yes. Because I told them, I said, ‘Not all actors do this. Not all projects offer this camaraderie. Usually after takes we go back into our trailers or say goodnight, hug and kiss and say, ‘Oh, this was great, we bonded. No! This is what bonding is.’ And even on our time off, Jurnee and Mary Elizabeth, we hung out a lot. Margot couldn’t always join us because she was so busy as a producer, but every single time she goes, ‘I’m going to try to be there,’ so she was pretty fantastic in that sense.
12- Since you mention it, how was working with Margot Robbie as a producer as well as cast-mate?
Margot as a boss was beyond impressive. Beyond impressive, how she never made you feel less than [her], she never made you feel like, ‘I’m the boss and that’s it.’ She was always accessible. She always had an answer, even if it was ‘I don’t know yet, I will find that out for you.’ And she would come back with the answer that you needed. And she was very, very clear in regard to where we needed to be within the script, and also just being able to pick up the phone after work and talk to her. It was fantastic.
13-A boss who’s literally going through the trenches with you in every respect?
Yes, and still being a leader. You know, being one of the foot soldiers and yet still being the general in charge. It was impressive.
14-What do you want audiences to experience when they see the film?
Fun. Fun, fun, fun. Get in your seats, buckle up, and enjoy the
ride. That’s what I’m hoping for them.