Margot Robbie, at just 32, worries she may be on a downward career trajectory. The evidence, of course suggests otherwise, with the film Barbie propelling the Aussie actress back into the box office elite.
And yet career anxiety, and a sense of pessimism over her ability to continue to perform at the top of her game, is there and is present… yet as she explains, it’s perhaps the one thing that drives her forward harder and faster than anything else.
Q: YOU HAVE THE LIVE-ACTION VERSION OF BARBIE COMING UP – A FILM YOU STAR IN AND PRODUCE.
Margot Robbie: “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. 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.”
Q: WAS IT DIFFICULT TO PUT SUCH A ‘YOUNG’ STORY INTO AN ADULT CONTEXT?
Margot Robbie: “Yes and no. It’s a playful take on Barbie – it has to be. 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.”
Q: YOU’VE ALSO GOT ASTEROID CITY ON THE WAY – WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH TOM HANKS.
Margot Robbie: “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 am even more in awe of him now.”
Q: DID YOU ALWAYS WANT TO BE AN ACTOR?
Margot Robbie: “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 poster of me on a huge 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.”
Q: DO YOU REWARD YOURSELF ENOUGH?
Margot Robbie: “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 about it or that we’re taking something away from someone else.”
Q: YOU HAVE RESISTED THE OPTION TO REVISIT HARLEY QUINN, WHEN OPPORTUNITIES HAVE COME ALONG TO DO SO. WHY IS THAT?
Margot Robbie: “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.”
Q: SO WHY DO IT?
Margot Robbie: “For me it’s about fear – it’s about never accepting 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. 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.”
Q: DOES THIS PURSUIT OF ALWAYS MOVING FORWARD COME FROM GROWING UP AROUND A NUMBER OF SIBLINGS?
Margot Robbie: “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.”
Q: WHAT WERE YOU LIKE AS A KID?
Margot Robbie: “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.”
Q: I’VE READ YOU USED TO PUT ON SHOWS BUT CHARGE FAMILY MEMBERS TO WATCH THEM. IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU WERE A VERY SHREWD KID WHO WAS CUT OUT FOR THIS INDUSTRY?!
Margot Robbie: “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!”
Q: DO YOU SENSE YOUR FIRST OSCAR WIN IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER, AFTER TWO NOMINATIONS?
Margot Robbie: “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.”
Q: THAT SOUNDS LIKE A SCARY PERSONAL CONUNDRUM…
Margot Robbie: “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.”
Q: BUT YOU REALLY SECRETLY WANT TO WIN THOUGH? C’MON, BE HONEST.
Margot Robbie: “Being nominated has always felt like winning for me, it means more people go to see it –It keeps the conversation going; but yes I guess I would like to win at some point!”