Last week, the official trailer for the upcoming Harley Quinn fan film, The Killing Grin, hit the web. I had the great opportunity to speak with the writer and director of this film, Jason Onorad, and talk about his love for the character, his inspirations while making this film, and what fans should expect.
DC Comics News: What drew you to this project?
Jason Onorad: Being a filmmaker for over 10 years, I am always looking for new and challenging projects. That, combined with striving to constantly get my name out there, pushed me towards this project. Over the past few years, fan films have exploded exponentially and I knew I wanted to do one of my own with my own style. Right after The Dark Knight Rises released, I wanted to do a film that continued the end of that movie with the idea that Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character, Robin, would evolve to become Nightwing and replace Batman. I also wanted to incorporate Harley’s origin story as she falls in love with Heath Ledger’s interpretation of Joker. Over the years, that concept evolved into The Killing Grin which is my original take on Harley Quinn and my attempt at bringing her to life unlike ever before.
DCN: Have you always been a Harley Quinn fan?
JO: I have been a fan for as long as I can remember. Ever since the Mad Love episode of the animated series, I was hooked. Her rendition in the Arkham series had me damn near fall in love with her.
DCN: How have you taken this character and made it stand out amongst the other iterations out there?
JO: Harley is a complex character. She is crazy and absolutely twisted to Joker’s will. In most iterations, she is a bit weak and takes a lot of un-deserved punishment for Joker. She basically devolves into his slave, held back by her love for him. My take on the character is a stronger, more sinister Harley. She has been through a lot in her life and we see her without the Joker, operating on her own. I wanted to show the intelligent, ruthless side of her and really flesh her out to be this strong female villain that I know she would be if Joker wasn’t tugging on her strings.
DCN: You mentioned how this Harley is more independent and doesn’t rely on the Joker. We see hints of him in the trailer, so will we see the joker in this film?
JO: While there are hints and references to the Joker throughout the film, he is not directly in this first part. We do touch on our version of Harley’s origin story and you can’t talk about that without talking about the Joker. That and Joker ties directly into the overall plot, without revealing too much.
DCN: Did you take inspiration from previous versions, and if so, which ones?
JO: My version of Harley is the love-child of a few different versions. Mainly, she is a healthy mix between the animated series and Arkham City versions. I love the innocence of the animated series and then the sadisticness of the Arkham-verse Harley. I thought, what if I could bring those two together in a darkly comical way? So I did.
DCN: What can fans of this character expect to see?
JO: First and foremost, they can expect to see a Harley they have never seen before. This film is more of a thriller that has twists and turns, some shocking moments, and a terrifyingly strong Harley Quinn unlike anything that has been brought to life before. She is crazy, psychotic, energetic, and wants to see her plan through at any cost. This is a dark, realistic film that has a lot of fun easter eggs for those Batman fans out there while introducing newcomers to this beloved character. Our actress, Chelsea, brings her to life perfectly and I think fans are going to go absolutely crazy. She fits the look and the feel as if the character stepped off of the page or out of the game.
DCN: Will we see more Harley in the future?
JO: That’s the plan! The goal is to do a 3 part series, each about 30 minutes in length, that would come together to become a feature length Harley Quinn film starting with The Killing Grin. I have already begun writing part 2 but that seeing the light of day really depends on the reception of this film.
DCN: Will future sequels continue to focus primarily on Harley or will they bring in other well known DC characters?
JO: Harley is our star. She will be the main character of all 3 parts. However, part 2, should there be enough interest from fans, would more deeply explore Harley’s origins and focus heavily on the therapy sessions between Harley and Joker and reveal her descent into madness. As seen in the trailer for part 1, we have Harley and Jeremiah Arkham and we also do have one more Batman character that gets revealed later in the film. I plan to bring in more characters, especially two other ladies that…compliment Harley. That is still under wraps for now!
DCN: What was the most difficult part of the production of this film?
JO: Budget. The entire film was shot on about $600 total and it was entirely out of our pockets. We didn’t crowdfund or fundraise, all of the sets were in cast members’ houses or public areas, and the entire cast and crew donated their time and effort. It was increasingly hard working with whatever I had in front of me but guerilla filmmaking like this is my style and I have become incredibly proficient in bringing my vision to life with minimal resources.
DCN: What were some of your best and worst experiences during the production of this film?
JO: The entire film was a dream come true. After 3 years of attempting to launch this film, seeing it finally come to life was a blessing. The entire thing was an amazing experience but some of the best experiences were just working with the cast. I got so lucky with casting Chelsea as Harley and David and Hannah as Henry and Tina, who are the main victims in the film. They really brought my script to life in a way I could not have even dreamt of. Worst experiece? That’s hard to say, every film has it’s ups and downs during production. I would have to say the worst was really just the budget and I had to change the ending due to the budget. We had to shoot in locations that were available to us which ultimately worked but if we had an actual budget, we would have been able to bring sets and scenes to life much better. However, I do have plans for 3 short films for this series and we are hoping enough people like part 1 to give us money when we launch crowdfunding for part 2.
DCN: In a few words, how would you describe this film for fans?
JO: Unlike anything they have seen yet. This is a film made for fans, by fans. The love that I have for this character is insane and I just cannot wait for everyone to see our take on this character!
Check out the trailer below:
THE KILLING GRIN is set in a completely new universe while taking inspiration from the entire Batman history. With a new, fresh take on the beloved character Harley Quinn, this is a way that the character has never been seen before. She is brutal, ruthless, and peppy and fun the way we all know and love. She has her own motives and her own drive and nobody knows what she is going to do next!
Be sure to head over to the film’s FACEBOOK page and give it a like. The Killing Grin: A Harley Quinn Fan Film hits the web on April 16, 2016. Keep an eye out for the release and review right here on DC Comics News.