Suicide Squad presents a somewhat radical revision of several B and C-list DC Comics supervillains, tweaked to fit the sensibilities of the DC Extended Universe movie continuity and director David Ayer’s (End of Watch, Fury) established aggressive macho aesthetic. However, one character in particular is an A-lister making their big screen debut: Harley Quinn.
Fans have been watching the development of Quinn’s first cinematic incarnation intently, curious about every aspect of the popular character’s translation. Now, the actor behind Suicide Squad‘s version of the character, Margot Robbie, has revealed the process by which she arrived at the unique voice for this iteration of Harley Quinn.
Originating on Batman: The Animated Series in 1992, Harley Quinn’s unique speaking style was created by voice actress Arleen Sorkin – whose performance in a court jester’s costume during a dream sequence on the television soap opera Days of Our Lives was the initial inspiration for the character. While other actresses have taken up the role since – including voiceover mainstay Tara Strong and Mia Sara as a non-costumed Quinn in the short-lived TV series Birds of Prey – the high-pitched vocals and Brooklyn-inflected accent that Sorkin used have largely been incorporated into each successive interpretation.
The tradition largely carries over into Robbie’s version, though less extreme in pitch than some of the animated performances. Robbie (who in reality has an Australian accent) explained to USA Today that part of the goal was to give proper gravity to her scenes and to also distinguish Quinn from her well-known turn as “The Duchess of Bay Ridge” in The Wolf of Wall Street – where she also had to affect a working-class Brooklyn lilt:
“[Quinn’s] got a very high-pitched voice, which for the lighthearted stuff, the crazy stuff, works really well. But when it’s a pretty raw emotional scene, you lose the gravity when you’re speaking in such a high voice.”
In the end, Robbie says that her choice of accent and speaking style for the film came from a combination of the original animated Harley Quinn and Lorraine Bracco’s famous performance on The Sopranos, achieved in part by re-watching sequences from the landmark HBO series on an iPad prior to shooting individual scenes:
“[Lorraine Bracco is] nuts in some scenes, completely crazy, but it’s never a high-pitched crazy doll voice. It comes from a very real deep primal place. My spectrum goes from Lorraine Bracco to animated Harley, and it’s just a roller coaster between those two throughout the film.”
Suicide Squad is scheduled to arrive in theaters on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017; Justice League on November 17, 2017; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League 2 on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020. The Flash and Batman solo movie are currently without release dates.
Source: USA Today