If she hadn’t been an actress, Margot Robbie would have loved to be a stuntwoman or trapeze artist. Well, it is fair to say that her career already looks like a tour de force, a feat of emotional gymnastics. With her Barbie looks – a creature she will embody in the next Greta Gerwig’s feature due in 2023 – the 32-year- old Australian could have been reduced to the rank of mere “object”, only playing the roles of trophy wife, sex bomb, or hero’s girlfriend. It is common knowledge that Hollywood easily tends to pigeonhole women and to lack imagination when it comes to actresses with phenomenal, even overwhelming beauty. For instance, it took years for Marilyn Monroe to get dramatic or comedy roles that matched her raw talent, after being trapped for a long time in the role of the ravishing scatterbrain.
But Margot Robbie is a far more unusual actress than her perfect body would suggest. On top of that, she is not the type to be labelled by others. Born in the town of Dalby in Queensland, Australia, she didn’t grow up around people coming from the film or the entertainment industries. As a child, the young Australian lived with her single mother, a physiotherapist, her two brothers, and her sister, without any real contact with her father. As a teenager, she became rebellious, accumulated hours of detention, and spent most of her time at her grandparents’ farm. Something clicked in her at the age of 15. As she saw a girl of her age on television performing a scene that she judged mediocre, she was convinced to be able to do a much better job than her if she would have the chance. This observation made the ambitious young girl want to become an actress. At the same time, she also dreamt of becoming rich, just like all her friends at school.
Yet, it would take her many eclectic experiences before she became one of the most profitable stars in the City of Angels. After graduating from high school in the coastal city Gold Coast known for its long sandy beaches and idyllic surfing spots – a sport that the actress loves as much as ice hockey and Pilates – Margot Robbie began studying law, but quickly dropped out of college. This was followed by a series of odd jobs, which proved that the future artist was not afraid to roll up her sleeves. The Australian used to work in a surf shop, in a grocery shop, in a pharmacy, at Subway, as a babysitter and as a cleaning lady. At the age of 17, she finally decided to take a step towards the career of her dreams and moved to Melbourne to have a better chance at castings. With her spectacular figure, Margot Robbie landed several roles in 2008, both in films and in shows, such as the soap opera Neighbours, the show that marked Kylie Minogue’s debut. She owes much of this Hollywood foray to her guts. The aspiring actress had written to the soap’s producers asking them to hire her. An attitude that would become her trademark – later, she would write to Quentin Tarantino... Her philosophy? If she wants something, she does everything she can to get it as quickly as possible. Because Margot Robbie hates to wait...
The trailer of "Amsterdam" (2022) by David O. Russell
However, it was only in 2013 that the blonde bombshell became really successful. Still unknown to the public eye at the time, she starred as the sexy, girly wife of a wealthy stockbroker played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. A movie that drew more than three million tickets in France. If his candy-pink-clad character, who often appears naked, is the epitome of the bimbo at first glance, the ending of the movie reveals a less smooth and much more manipulative personality. To land this coveted role, Margot Robbie took a huge risk. She slapped Leonardo DiCaprio during the audition process, thus making an impression on both the actor and the director thanks to her boldness. Scorsese described her as a blend of three great actresses – Ida Lupino for her “emotional audacity”, Carole Lombard for her comic talent, and Joan Crawford for her tenacity. That convincing performance became her free pass to the most sought-after roles. Margot Robbie has made one appearance after another, always sharing her magnetic, intense, fiery aura, filled with fury, humor, and madness. She is 120% committed to her roles and often returns home shaking and having trouble sleeping after her performances.
Margot Robbie plays with the same intensity a glamorous con artist in Diversion (2015), alongside Will Smith, the dangerous, zany, punk, Harlequin-suited anti-heroine Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad (2016), and the deranged figure skater Tonya Harding in the dark comedy I, Tonya (2017). This last tortured and grandiose performance remains the best of her career so far and earned her her first Best Actress Oscar nomination. As a Fight Club (1999) and action movies fan, Margot Robbie feels drawn to provocative films and to roles of strong women, such as Queen Elizabeth I in Mary Queen of Scots (2018), the ill-fated actress Sharon Tate in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), or the vengeful journalist in the thriller Bombshell (2019), alongside Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman. Every time she appears on the big screen, the same feeling arises – Margot Robbie impresses with her accuracy, elegance, and commitment in every shot. She can be sensual, dark, and hilarious, in one single scene. Her ultimate strength? Her mysterious blue eyes, coupled with her ability to “get ugly” for a role, and to be willing to play the villain or the psychopath, thus breaking the image of the Australian surfer with the ultra-bright smile that could have stuck to her skin.
This fall, the actress uncovers another side of herself. In the movie Amsterdam (2022), directed by David O. Russell (American Bluff, Happiness Therapy), starring Christian Bale, Rami Malek, and Robert De Niro, she plays a whimsical brunette nurse named Valerie, who makes a pact of friendship with two veterans during the First World War – her lover, who is a lawyer, and a doctor. The three of them live the best years of their life in Amsterdam before a fascist rise threatens the US government. Valerie is a dreamy, funny young woman, who makes artistic objects with the metal of the bullets she collected from the bodies of the soldiers she treats. She also likes to take photos of her surroundings to create original pictures. “I had a lot of time to prep for the role of Valerie. Longer than I have ever had for any other role. Not only because David, the director, was so collaborative that he wanted to talk about Valerie and about the film years before we did it, but also because we had to stop everything at one point because of Covid. Perhaps, the preparation time was a bit too long, to be honest. I started doing a lot of art at home during lockdown. It was getting weird at some point.”
Known for throwing herself into her roles, Margot Robbie was taken in by Valerie’s creative and “crazy” personality right from the start, as the actress puts it. She explains: “I fell in love with Valerie. She follows her own rhythm. At one point, my husband came into the room I was in, and there were pieces of metal and fake blood everywhere. I had my Super 8 camera out, I was wearing a mask, and I had all this crazy stuff like X-rays around me. (Laughs) He then told me: ‘I think you’re pushing this character a little too far. You need to calm down.’ And I simply replied: ‘Okay.’” Part of the reason why the actress didn’t have any trouble doing a brilliant portray of her character was that, strangely enough, she had been through a similar journey herself. “The pact of friendship Valerie makes with Harold and Burt means everything to her. And it happens that I was also part of a very similar symbiotic trio to the one in the film. Ironically, we all met in Europe too, in Belgium to be exact. That’s where I met my two best friends. I have married one of them, while I’m working with the other one. I let parts of myself infuse this film and I think that this authenticity shows on screen.”
As a matter of fact, Margot Robbie met assistant directors Tom Ackerley (now her husband) and Josey McNamara (now her friend) in 2014 on the set of the French- British-Belgian film Suite Française (2015). The three founded a British production company LuckyCharp Entertainments, as Margot Robbie lives between London and Los Angeles. This production company aims to bring great women’s stories to the screen and support women creators behind the scenes. Suite Française featured actor Matthias Schoenaerts, who also stars in Amsterdam. Proof that happy coincidences and magic are never far away when Margot Robbie is part of a project.
However, it may only be the beginning of the actress’ consecration, who admits to continuously be afraid that the climax of her career might be behind her. The Australian will soon be starring alongside Brad Pitt in Damien Chazelle’s much-anticipated Babylon (2023), and alongside Tom Hanks, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, and Scarlett Johansson in Wes Anderson’s upcoming film Asteroid City (2023). Two exciting adventures with cosmic casts that should fly the intrepid Margot Robbie further up to the stars... and on the road to the Oscars.
Amsterdam (2022) by David O. Russell, came out on November 1st.