Margot Robbie: Not just a Barbie girl, in her Barbie world

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Together meets Margot Robbie to learn more about the actor, who is also a producer.

Margot Robbie, at just 33, worries she may be on a downward career trajectory. The evidence, of course, suggests otherwise, with the Barbie the Aussie actress has been propelled back into the box office elite.

“Robbie is most famous for her performances in blockbuster movies, but she has also starred in a number of highly rated independent films”

Robbie is most famous for her performances in blockbuster movies, but she has also starred in a number of highly rated independent films. In fact, the latter have seen her most critically recognised roles.

For 2018 biopic-mockumentary I, Tonya – she played the role of the film’s central character, American figure skater Tonya Harding – Robbie received nominations from the Academy Awards, BAFTA, Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild.

 The same four also nominated her for their Best Actress in a Supporting Role category for Bombshell, two years later. Performances in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and Babylon were further recognised for nominations by BAFTA, the Golden Globes and SAG.

 Robbie has been married to Tom Ackersley since 2016, and along with Josey McNamara and Sophie Kerr, they co-founded the production company LuckyChap Entertainment, which produced I, Tonya, Promising Young Woman (2020), the Hulu series Dollface (2019-2022) and Netflix’s mini-series Maid (2021), and this year’s highlights Barbie and Boston Strangler. 

What’s it like to be in a film you star in, where you are also one of the producers – especially one that has enjoyed such huge success?

I think it’s every girl’s dream to be Barbie, and every adult’s dream to make a girl’s dream come true, so this does feel like a very special project.

“Barbie has been with so many girls growing up all over the globe and we know just how vital it was that we got this just right”

Barbie has been with so many girls growing up all over the globe and we know just how vital it was that we got this just right. We’re all thrilled with the outcome and hope that the audiences are too. 

It’s something I’ve been busy working on for some time now – I think about five years, to be honest. It was originally planned for release before the Covid outbreak.

 Was it difficult to put such a ‘young’ story into an adult context?

Yes and no. It’s a playful take on Barbie – it has to be. The film is about detaching expectations and transporting yourself into a different world, and that’s what we did with this film. I’m very proud of it. 

I am so thankful and relieved that Greta agreed to direct. It was quite a stressful period when we were discussing who we wanted and it’s never a certainty that you’re going to get the one you want. 

When Greta said yes, it was genuinely one of the happiest days of my life. You can’t believe the amount of work which has gone into it and I’m confident that many dreams will be realized. 

You were also in Asteroid City, what was it like working with Tom Hanks, amongst others?

There are no words. It’s strange how actors exist for a long while and then, almost unnoticed, ascend into icon territory, and Tom Hanks is definitely at that level. 

He has such a calmness, such a presence. So much kindness, but huge professionalism. I was in awe of him before we did the film, and I am even more in awe of him now. 

Your movie Babylon was the ultimate tale of Hollywood excess, in an era when the brakes were off as far as how people lived and partied…

It was a golden era, that’s for sure. It was that post-war period when people were getting back their energy and ambition. 

It was a race to the top and it didn’t come packaged with any notion of guilt or shame. People could just go out there and pursue the dreams they wanted. 

It is about effort and reward. Of course, not everything works that way, and I think we’re more aware of that in this generation. 

Do you reward yourself?

Yes and no. In the current era it seems we all have to hold back our pursuit of anything that means self-reward. 

I admire the societal view that we need to look after each other – I just worry how genuine it is; and I say that as someone who sees a lot of the things I talk about, from both sides.

I think it’s okay to give ourselves a pat on the back and not feel bad, or that we’re taking something away from someone else. 

Were you disappointed that Amsterdam didn’t do well in the box office? 

It’s interesting – financiers will take a different view of a movie to everyone else, and understandably so.

Amsterdam was a really interesting break for me. It had humour, irreverence and a quirkiness”

They are looking at the bottom line and a return on investment. For an actor, a director, a producer, and everyone else working on a movie, we gauge it on whether the potential of the project, from the basic material of a script, has been fulfilled artistically.

 Amsterdam was a really interesting break for me. It had humour, irreverence and a quirkiness that few of my movies have had; so speaking personally, I count it as one of my best successes. 

And a nice filming location too?!

It had its perks! 

Did you always want to be an actor?

I did, but my parents were trying to steer me towards being a lawyer. I think I would have been good in the courtroom, but law wasn’t where I saw myself.

 For a long time, they thought film was just a hobby of mine. They were surprised when they saw a huge poster of me on a building in Times Square.

When I came to America that was the dream – to be in Times Square. I did it the hard way – I had to move across the other side of the world and did all those menial jobs before getting a break. I know I have been lucky in many ways, but I do believe as well that you make your own luck.

 You have resisted the option to revisit Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, when opportunities have come along to do so. Why is that?

I’ve actually found it very therapeutic to step away from Harley, but it’s also terrifying. It’s like having all the security you ever need or crave sat right in front of you, yet you find yourself tossing that out the window, then needing to replace it. 

So why do it?

For me it’s about fear – it’s about never accepting that you need to take the easy option.

“Most actors need constant proof or reassurance that they’ve still got it – whatever ‘it’ is. I am no different on that front”

 Most actors need constant proof or reassurance that they’ve still got it – whatever ‘it’ is. I am no different on that front. I need to keep taking chances, because standing still with the same project or the same concept is, in fact, going backwards, and I have already felt in certain moments that my career is at risk of a downward trajectory. 

It’s fair to say I will do absolutely anything to avoid that from happening. 

Does this pursuit of always moving forward come from growing up around a number of siblings?

You mean, can I blame it on them?! I think the way we grew up was reflective of most other families – the general bickering and snapping, fighting over the front seat, fighting over clothes, fighting over toys… just fighting as all good families do! 

But we were always loving each other. I loved it – I look back at my upbringing and it just makes me smile. We’ve all grown up so close. We’re really tight. 

What were you like as a kid?

I was really dramatic. Not in throwing tantrums, pulling my hair… well not much, but I loved putting on shows – there was always a show in my house. 

I was obsessed with movies with anything on TV; and whatever I saw, I would re-enact it for my mum who had enough on her plate running a house, looking after four kids and all that. 

I’ve read you used to put on shows and charge family members to watch them. It sounds like you were a very shrewd kid who was cut out for this industry?!

Yeah, I like to think I was quite savvy. I remember stealing my older brother’s stuff and then setting up a stall down the road and selling it all… just terrible! 

Do you sense your first Oscar win is just around the corner, after two nominations?

Who knows? For a long time, the nomination was the dream. I kind of worry that if I did win an Academy Award, I would tick off that childhood dream and wonder where I was going to go next. 

I mean, I’m sure I’d find somewhere, but when you dream of something, then you achieve that, and you can’t top it… well, it can be difficult to then think up a new target. 

That sounds like a scary personal conundrum…

It is scary, but fear has played a role in where I’ve got to today. I know that sounds strange, because I always play quite loud, confident, bombastic characters, but the fragility of the industry and of being an actor is there all the time. 

And the reality is it goes so far beyond past success, or bank balance. Actors are exhibitionists, and for as long as the exhibition is running, everything is fine. But once people stop coming to watch the show, the exhibit is useless, and rejection – ultimate rejection – is a familiar but horrible feeling for any actor.