With two major blockbusters on the horizon, her own production company, and a take-no-prisoners approach to the world at large, Margot Robbie is summer’s brightest-burning Hollywood star.
When Margot Robbie popped up in The Big Short last year for a 60-second cameo—by definition, playing herself—to explain what “shorting” a bond means while drinking Dom Pérignon in the bathtub of a billionaire’s Malibu condo, I subconsciously shorted her. Here, it seemed, was that girl who invites you to stare and then tells you to fuck off if you stare for too long. The fact that just two years prior she so ferociously inhabited the role of the hottest gold digger in the history of cinema in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, permanently lodging herself in the collective male libido, served only to reinforce my concern that she might be some new breed of high-maintenance superpredator. Thankfully, the cameo turned out to be a clever little lie in a movie all about big fat ones. This was Margot Robbie playing her caricature—the retrograde Playboy fantasy in permanent soft-focus.
It comes as a surprise, then—a relief, even—to meet Robbie in April on the Santa Monica Pier and discover that she’s not remotely like the manipulative sex kittens she’s been so eerily good at portraying on the screen. It’s Robbie’s idea that we take a trapeze class together, and so here we are, smack dab in the middle of an amusement park over the water. Robbie, in yoga pants and a white tank top, her hair pulled up into a messy ponytail, goes entirely unrecognized, which has something to do with the fact that, dressed for a workout with no makeup, she looks like every third person you pass in Southern California—but prettier. She is smaller and more compact than I had imagined, and has the athletic mien of someone who played sports in high school, along with the graceful gait and natural poise of a woman who’s used to moving through the world on the balls of her feet like a dancer.
One of our instructors, Kenna, a daffy redhead wearing comically large yellow sunglasses, remembers Robbie from her last visit. As Kenna is buckling us into our safety harnesses, she asks Robbie what part of Australia she’s from. “Gold Coast in Queensland,” says Robbie, her accent thickening at the mere mention of her homeland. “I watch a lot of really trashy TV,” says Kenna, “including Australia’s Next Top Model, and the girls from Gold Coast are definitely not respected by girls from Sydney and Melbourne.” Robbie laughs knowingly and says no, but because she has just slipped into full-on Australian-accent mode, it comes out asneeerrroh! “I had no idea I was living in a state that gets laughed at until I moved to Melbourne,” says Robbie, “and then someone was like, ‘Ohrrr, yar from Queensland, eh? You put “Eh?” on the end of your sentences because you’re all a bit slow.’ And I was like, ‘Is this a thing? That Queensland is the dumb state?’ It’s so embarrassing.”
At that, another instructor, CR, appears to teach us the finer points of trapeze. There are moments of weightlessness at the peak of each swing from the bar, which is when you want to change positions, or “throw the trick.” “As long as you make the change at the right time,” he says, “you hardly have to break a sweat. It’s all about timing.”
Robbie (precisely, elegantly) throws one trick after another—the set split, the set straddle, the penny roll—with what looks like little effort. “She’s disgustingly good at it,” says Kenna as we stand on the pier watching her above us, and I cannot help thinking that these exact skills apply to Robbie’s life down here on the ground: She has consistently displayed a knack for making her moves at exactly the right moment, no sweat. At seventeen, with very little acting experience to speak of—a few school plays, some commercials, a low-budget flick she describes as “barely even a student film”—she moved to Melbourne and landed a part on the Australian soap opera Neighbours, the longest-running drama in the country’s history, a gig she had for three years. In 2011—after working very hard with a dialect coach to perfect an American accent—she moved to Los Angeles and immediately got a part on the short-lived TV series Pan Am. A supporting role in Richard Curtis’s coming-of-age rom-com About Time followed, and then she was cast as Naomi—that minx from Bay Ridge—in The Wolf of Wall Street. It was a career-defining performance, one that left people agape: Who’s that?
As Jared Leto, her costar in Suicide Squad, puts it, “She took a role that other people would have had a very difficult time with and elevated it to something spectacular. To be able to stand alongside Leo [DiCaprio], one of the titans of the industry, and be there face-to-face, blow for blow, and not only hold her ground but really shine, was kind of a rare, explosive discovery. It reminded me of Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface.”
At first, Robbie wasn’t even sure she wanted to play such a shrewd ballbuster. “When I first read it, I thought, I have nothing in common with her. I hate her. It was a really tricky one to get my head around. But her motivation was ‘You guys are doing it—why shouldn’t I? It’s this man’s world, and I’m going to get mine.’ And I understand that.” The things she was doing herself as far as stunts, you wouldn’t believe. There’s only a handful of actors who do that sort of work
Now, two years later, at 25, she’s the girl of the moment, on the cusp of a very big summer. The Legend of Tarzan, as directed by Yates, who brought us the best of the Harry Potter movies, is an A-movie reboot of a B-movie franchise, one that the filmmakers hope will lift the character up out of the swamp of kitsch and into the twenty-first century. When Warner Bros.—having kept a close eye on the dailies while Robbie was shooting Focus with Will Smith in late 2013—approached her about playing Jane, her first reaction was: Not for me. “There’s no way I was going to play the damsel in distress,” she says. But then she read the script. “It just felt very epic and big and magical in some way. I haven’t done a movie like that. The Harry Potter films could have been really cheesy, but David Yates made them into something dark and cool and real—plus it was shooting in London, and I, on a whim, had just signed a lease on a house there.” For Yates, “an unpretentiousness, a real pragmatism, was evident from the moment I met her. There’s something very true about her, and those qualities were very important for Jane—someone who’s open to experience the beauty of the world.”
Naturally, sooner or later, Tarzan meets Jane. “I met her in L.A. about a year before we shot the movie,” says Skarsgård, “just before The Wolf of Wall Streetcame out. She lived in this tiny studio apartment in Hollywood. We were supposed to just have coffee and talk about the project, but we spent the entire day together. I remember being blown away by how cool and down-to-earth she was. And then Wolf came out, and she went from relative obscurity to being the hottest actress in Hollywood.” When Tarzan finally started shooting in London, “she was living in a house with six other people,” says Skarsgård, “kind of a frat-house vibe, and on weekends she would go to Amsterdam and sleep in bunk beds in a youth hostel with Canadian backpackers, or to some music festival in Northern England and sleep in a tent. She’s not precious at all.”
The story of Suicide Squad, meanwhile, is that all of the bad guys in the superhero world who are locked up in prison are offered a chance to do some good—a suicide mission, if you will—to get their sentences reduced. Harley Quinn is both the shrink and the girlfriend of the Joker, played by Leto. “She doesn’t even have superpowers,” says Robbie. “She’s just a psychopath who runs around gleefully killing people—she finds joy in causing mayhem, which makes her weirdly endearing and fun to watch.”
The role, says Ayer, demands “a lot of heavy lifting for an actor. But she’s a tough girl, and she’s incredibly smart and mature beyond her years. She has ridiculous depth, and she’s never been coddled, so she’s very physically courageous. The things she was doing herself as far as stunts, you wouldn’t believe. There’s only a handful of actors who do that sort of work themselves.”
Reprinted via Vogue – www.vogue.com
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