Without a doubt, she’s one of Hollywood’s most wanted.
With this in mind, it’s difficult to believe that Margot Robbie was still living in relative obscurity at the start of the last decade.
Having started acting professionally as a teenager, Robbie’s first taste of life as a household name came in 2008. She was 17 and had just landed a role on Australia’s favourite soap opera, Neighbours – a role that she had landed after simply writing to one of the producers to ask for it.
“If I want something,” she told Vogue, “I can never just sit there. I have to make it happen!”
It seems as though this attitude has served her well. Robbie continued within her regular role as Neighbour’s Donna Freedman until 2011, when she decided that it was time to move onto bigger and better things. In search of acting jobs that were going to truly propel her into the mainstream, she moved to the United States. It wasn’t long before her infectious energy and vibrant look caught the attention of the team behind glamorous 1960s airline drama Pan Am, who cast Robbie as plucky flight attendant Laura Cameron. From there, she was able to begin auditioning for roles on the big screen – and what a role she finally landed.
‘The hottest blonde ever’ was the official pre-production description given to the character that would later become Robbie’s true break-out role, The Wolf Of Wall Street’s Naomi Lapaglia. Having wildly impressed viewers in her performance as the feisty, long-suffering wife of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort in the modern Scorcese classic, the actress quickly found herself in an unfamiliar situation. She was still asking for exactly what she wanted – but she didn’t need to ask nearly as many times. She was an overnight star and everyone wanted in on the action.
“After that, when I realised I could get things green-lit by being attached to projects? That was a big turning point for me,” she says.
Robbie, keen to diversify and branch out into new territory, decided to exercise her newfound stardom by beginning to produce her own projects. After making yet another move, this time to London, she launched the production company LuckyChap with three of her friends, one of whom, Tom Ackerley, she would later marry.
The idea behind LuckyChap, established a year on from the release of The Wolf Of Wall Street, was to support the work of female creatives within the movie industry, with a focus on producing films that told female-driven stories. However, the stories that Margot and her team sought out were a little more alternative, with many of the characters varying wildly from the delicate supporting roles that many female actors had found themselves being typecast as in the past.
The team looked more towards stories which had an uglier, grittier side to them.
“We were really excited about the scripts that surprised us, and those are generally things that are a little left of centre,” she explained. “A little bit sticky.”
It’s unsurprising, then, that the first major production released by the company was I, Tonya, a deliciously dark part-comedy-part-modern-tragedy charting the rise and fall of shamed figure skater Tonya Harding. Starring Robbie as the titular anti-hero, the story was beautifully adapted for the screen – and bagged the actress her first Best Actress nomination at the Academy Awards.
I, Tonya was a hit – the same unfortunately couldn’t be said for the project that Margot had starred in immediately before. In 2016, she had starred as The Joker’s maniacal former lover Harley Quinn in DC Entertainment’s Suicide Squad, which – despite an all-star cast – had received some less than favourable reviews.
However, the underwhelming critical reception didn’t appear to dampen Margot Robbie’s enthusiasm for reprising her role as Harley Quinn in her own spin-off, Birds Of Prey, in 2020. She’ll revisit the character for a third time later this month in The Suicide Squad, which sees director James Gunn take the reigns of the franchise from David Ayer, who directed the 2016 installment.
It’s quite clear that, critiques aside, Margot Robbie simply loves playing the character.
“Those scenes,” she says, referring to some of Suicide Squad’s most bombastic scenes, “Where everything’s exploding around you and you just make it in time, those massive epic war hero runs? Those movie moments? Girls never get those. Girls never get those!”
“There are explosions and guns firing. And even though they’re blanks, your body starts reacting as if it’s real, your adrenaline’s through the roof.”
So many hours she’s spent inside the mind of the ‘loveable psychopath’, in fact, that she feels a little Harley Quinn has made its way into her own personality.
“Harley sticks around,” she says.
“Even on a weekend when I’m out with friends, sometimes she pops up and I’ll be like, ‘Right then, I’m gonna put a lid on that’!”
It’s strange that a character so far removed from Robbie’s real-life self could take such a hold of her – especially considering that so many of her other roles are as equally far removed from her true self. However, the actress feels that playing any character allows for a little of their own experience or personality to seep into hers’.
“There’s something physiological that happens to you when you’re acting,” she says, “even though your brain knows this is all make-believe.”
In-between her first and second outing as Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie was able to secure yet another highly-coveted role after a meeting with multi-award-winning director Quentin Tarantino, which led to her being cast as late actress Sharon Tate in his 2019 release Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood. Like many of Tarantino’s previous projects, the film parallelled real-life events, this time exploring the 1969 Manson Family murders.
There was immense pressure on Robbie to pull off the role, especially with Sharon Tate’s own sister watching her performance on set – nevertheless, it’s a role that she pulled off effortlessly. She’s inarguably something of a chameleon, able to adapt quickly and adeptly to an exceptionally wide range of different roles.
“I have a real aversion to being put in a box. The minute someone sums me up in two words,” she explains, “I want to show them I’m the exact opposite.”
“As soon as you have some success in one type of role, people want you to keep doing that thing. Which I think would just be… boring.”
So, what’s next? The actress has worked so hard over the last few years that you’d imagine that the COVID-19 lockdown brought with it a welcome break – it certainly appears to have invoked thoughts of slowing down in the near future.
“I don’t know if it’s because I’m in my thirties now, or because life took… a very strange turn,” she explains.
“Over Covid, I was home for longer than I’ve ever stayed anywhere. I’ve been moving at a million miles an hour for as long as I can remember.”
“I finally feel like it’s OK to… sit still? Or even sit this one out,” she continues, “That’s a feeling I haven’t had before.”
Before she begins to sit anything out, however, she has plenty more in the pipeline. She’ll be working on a number of films first, including one with La La Land director Damien Chazelle and several with LuckyChap productions. She’ll star in their biggest production to date, Barbie, an action-comedy written and directed by Greta Gerwig in which Margot takes on the role of the iconic titular doll.
“It comes with a lot of baggage!” she says. “And a lot of nostalgic connections. But with that comes a lot of exciting ways to attack it.”
However the team chooses to approach the storyline, we can more than likely rest assured that Margot Robbie will steal the show. She’s developed something of a reputation for doing just that.