It all began with an impromptu slap almost four years ago. One that had Leonardo DiCaprio on the receiving
end with Martin Scorsese in the room. The reaction? Resounding laughter and a breakthrough role in the
Hollywood film industry as Jordan Belfort’s second wife, Naomi Lapaglia. At 26, Margot Robbie has stormed onto the silver screen and stolen hearts with her blonde bombshell look, quick wit and laidback attitude.
Sharon Carvalho delves into the life of this woman on the go.
Margot’s journey with acting began 10 years ago when she was asked to act in an independent student film. A few weeks on location and she knew what she was going to do for the rest of her life. With an agent by her side and auditions lined up she made a quick shift from the Gold Coast to Melbourne and landed a spot on the children’s show ‘The Elephant Princess’ with Liam Hemsworth before either of them became the household names they are now. Following the stint, she chased after the production team for popular Australian daytime soap opera ‘Neighbours’ and what began as a guest role turned into three years as Donna Freedman. But when it came time to renew her contract, Margot knew she had to make moves. So, she took off to Los Angeles and auditioned for a role in ABC’s television reboot of ‘Charlie’s Angels’. And while the executives didn’t like her for that show, they cast her as Laura Cameron in ‘Pan Am’. But after shooting a few episodes of the show, she knew that the show was not going to get picked up for a second season. “As soon as it went on-air, they were like, ‘No, we didn’t get the ratings we want—let’s get a whole new crew of writers and make it more like ‘Housewives’.’ And you’re like, ‘What? That’s so not what the show was going to be.’ After the fifth episode, you see this abrupt change in content. If they’re rehiring writers, it’s obviously not doing well. If they don’t pick up the back nine, it’s pretty certain that you won’t go for a Season Two,” she said.
Through all of this, Margot would sneak out for auditions and that’s when she got the call to read with Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio. On the 3rd of June 2012, after getting home at 6am from what turned into an all night picnic for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend in London, she realised that she had many messages from her team. “I had all these missed phone calls and my team is saying, ‘You are on a plane in a couple of hours to New York to read with Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio’. So: race to the airport, get to New York, go straight to see Ellen Lewis, she takes one look at me, I’m wearing jeans, flat boots, and she says, ‘No. Here’s what you’re going to do: SoHo’s right there. Lots of stores. You’re going to get a really tight, short dress and the highest pair of heels you can find’.” Cut to the audition, just her Martin and Leonardo in the room, “We get three lines into it and he says something and, subconsciously, I roll my eyes. And Leo’s like, ‘What was that look for?’ And I’m thinking, in my head: ‘That’s not a line! Is he really asking me that? Should I explain?’ And then I realise he’s ad-libbing. I’m like, ‘Oh, shit. He’s improvising! I need to improvise now! So I’m failing miserably. And Leo’s phenomenal. He’s powerful. He can do his part and he can do your part at the same time with his eyes closed. I’m barely getting a word in. When I do it’s not anything interesting – I just look pathetic.”
On to the next scene and things were not getting any better for her. “In my head I was like, ‘You have literally 30 seconds left in this room and if you don’t do something impressive nothing will ever come of it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance, just take it’. And so I start screaming at him and he’s yelling back at me. And he’s really scary. I can barely keep up. And he ends it saying, ‘You should be happy to have a husband like me. Now get over here and kiss me’. So I walk up really close to his face and then I’m like, ‘Maybe I should kiss him. When else am I ever going to get a chance to kiss Leo DiCaprio, ever?’ But another part of my brain clicks and I just go, Whack! I hit him in the face. And then I scream at him. And that’s not in the script at all. The room just went dead silent and I froze. I’m thinking, ‘You just hit Leonardo DiCaprio in the face. They’re going to arrest you because that’s assault. You’re definitely never going to work again, that’s for sure. They’ll probably sue you as well in case there’s a bruise on his face and he needs to film something else’. And then all of a sudden Marty and Leo just burst out laughing. Marty says, ‘That was great!’ Leo’s like, ‘Hit me again!’”
And even after receiving the call that she had bagged the role, she wasn’t sure she wanted to play it. “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,” she once commented.
Following the resounding success of ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, in 2015, she starred opposite Will Smith in a romantic comedy-drama ‘Focus’ and while the movie received mixed reviews, her performance was praised as the one who dealt a winning hand when the film fumbled.
But 2016 has been Margot’s year. She began it with ‘Whiskey Tango Foxtrot’ with Tina Fey, then starred in ‘The Legend of Tarzan’ opposite Alexander Skarsgard and ended it with the DC Comics blockbuster ‘Suicide Squad’ with a star cast that included Will Smith, Jared Leto, Viola Davis and Cara Delevigne.
When Warner Bros. first approached her about playing Jane, while she was still shooting ‘Focus’, her first thought was, “Not for me.” Especially since playing a damsel in distress was just not her cup of tea. But after having read the script, she realized how magical and epic it felt and she wanted to be a part of something like that. And when Tarzan finally met Jane, he was blown away by how cool and down-to-earth she was, “We were supposed to just have coffee and talk about the project, but we spent the entire day together,” said Alexander.
And when it came time for ‘Suicide Squad’, Margot dove into online forums to find out what the Harley Quinn appeal was. “I just didn’t understand how she could be such a badass and then fall to pieces over some guy. I found that really frustrating,” Margot said. “Fans seem to really love that about her, that she has this complete devotion to a guy that treats her badly.” But her acting coach recommended she read a play called ‘Fool for Love’, about a couple in an extremely dysfunctional relationship. She then found herself researching co-dependence heavily. “Once I could view it in those terms, it suddenly made sense, and I suddenly had so much empathy for Harley and after that it was all very straightforward,” she said. “It was fun after all that.”
The past year has catapulted Margot to super stardom. And following a wave of persistent paparazzi and below the belt comments, she realised that while the experiences were extreme and unwelcome, it was part of the package. “I’ve seen what people like Leo and Will’s lives are like. It’s weird, though. Once you have this momentum, it’s kind of too late to turn it around. I don’t really have an answer to it. I haven’t played out the scenario in my head where I can’t go to get ice-cream because there’s a mob of people. I haven’t had enough time to dwell on it, I suppose, which is probably a good thing. Just keep moving and figure it out as you go.” And while she agrees it may not be a great plan, she shrugs it off with a laugh claiming that it is hers.