The Queen of the Big Screen

28th December 2018

From girl next door, to Hollywood bombshell, to Oscar nominee and revered producer, Australian actress Margot Robbie has exceeded all expectations... and she isn’t done yet, with a royal role under her belt now, too. Violet Wilder catches up with…

Despite assumptions, it isn’t always easy being the beautiful girl in Hollywood… particularly when you’re Margot Robbie kind of beautiful. Having made her breakthrough as the tough but sexually manipulative wife of Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Wolf of Wall Street, she instantly became the kind of screen-friendly leading lady every blockbuster covets. But that kind of a reputation comes at a price, and when a popular women’s magazine printed a profile on her to promote her role as Jane in The Legend of Tarzan that was labelled by some as being sexist, it was clear that despite her evident talent, determination and intelligence, Robbie would still have to fight to prove she was more than just eye candy.

“I’m not very thrilled with being labelled that way,” she demurs. “It kind of minimises your work in a film like that where you’re working with Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio. I don’t want to be reduced to the clichés that come with being called sexy or a blonde bombshell.”

In recent years however, all that has changed. Having tired of playing second fiddle to well-developed male leads, the feisty 28-year-old set up her own production company in 2014 with her now-husband, Assistant Director Tom Ackerley. Through LuckyChap Entertainment they hope to find and fund interesting, female-driven projects which wouldn’t ordinarily get made within the traditional Hollywood studio system. Said Robbie of her leap into the field of producing: “It’s not just my husband and I — we have 30 films in development and a TV department. The company is growing quickly.”

Having put her money where her mouth is, it is fortunate that the company’s first major production, 2017’s I, Tonya, was such an out-and-out smash, earning not just kudos for LuckyChap, but an Oscar nomination for Robbie, who portrayed real-life disgraced skating star Tonya Harding with bruising honesty. Though she eventually lost out to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri star Francis McDormand, Robbie revealed that the nomination alone ‘felt like winning’.

As well as giving a huge boost to her career as an actress, the chance to explore another side of her craft as a producer has been an invaluable and confidence-boosting experience. “It’s been a very exciting and tiring process. I learnt so much about what goes into developing and bringing a film to life. There are so many details you have to look after and be aware of when you’re a producer. I also find it very empowering to be responsible for putting together a film as opposed to just acting and not having much control over the process,” says the irrepressible Aussie.

Making such a swift ascent to the top of the Hollywood food chain does have its drawbacks. The Suicide Squad star admits that she has taken very little time off over the past five years, and even her honeymoon to Ackerley, whom she met on the set of Suite Française in 2014, was postponed in the name of art.

Robbie also has a wild, tomboyish side, thanks to a childhood spent as one of four siblings (she has two brothers and a sister) on a farm in Queensland where she was raised by her single mother. Her tough exterior has served her well. In fact, it was pure tenacity that won Robbie her break-out role, when she landed a spontaneous slap across DiCaprio’s face during an audition for The Wolf of Wall Street. A move that was so bold and unexpected it convinced Martin Scorsese and his hard-to-please team that they would bestow on this relative newcomer the most coveted female role in town. “I do wonder sometimes what would have happened had I not slapped him. I still remember that stunned silence when I did it,” recalls Robbie.

Whip smart, feisty and resilient, there is evidence to suggest that Robbie is just a few key roles away from reaching icon status, all of which could easily be achieved in the next few years. She is now appearing in Mary Queen of Scots playing Elizabeth I, opposite Saoirse Ronan as Mary Stuart, along with acting both as a producer and star on Terminal, a futuristic, dystopian thriller co-starring Simon Pegg.

“To undertake such a regal role is a whole new challenge but one I am thrilled with,” she continues. “But this was one of those movies where you have to put yourself in a difficult situation to get the best result. Certainly in terms of the physical demands, it was tough. I could barely move my face because there was so much prosthetics. It was glued-down plastic on my face. And the clothes were very restrictive too. It actually all added up to something that helped the realism of the character I was playing – I felt claustrophobic, I felt trapped. It was very alienating. And I felt very lonely.”

She pauses, for a moment’s reflection, and then continues: “that all sounds like a bad thing, but it was my dream to get to be part of these incredible film roles and so you can’t complain when you’re doing what you love, even if the process is tough.”

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