Tina Fey and Margot Robbie talk black comedy.
THE WAR-FILM GENRE has few lead roles for women and is seldom funny, but Whiskey Tango Foxtrot defies convention. Produced by the actor, performer and writer Tina Fey, the comedy-drama is based on The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a memoir by Kim Barker, of the Chicago Tribune, that reveals the deadly absurdity of reporting from those countries after 9/11.The film centres on Fey, playing a journalist who arrives in Kabul unprepared for the follies of war until she meets tanya vanderpoel (Margot Robbie), the seasoned reporter who takes her under her wing. BAZAAR brought Fey and Robbie together to chat about multitasking, funny women and the joy of being alone. MARGOT ROBBIE: I was excited for us to meet, but I was also really intimidated. when you meet someone who is so funny, you worry that you need to be ‘on’ all the time. TINA FEY: In my completely anecdotal experience, all my friends in comedy who are women are very chilled and quiet in real life. they don’t always do their loud bit … MR: ... stealing the limelight from the room. TF: I was blown away by your performance in The Wolf of Wall Street. when I heard that you weren’t American, I was like, “are you kidding me?” — even Americans can’t do that kind of New York-specific accent. When [the directors] John Requa and Glenn Ficarra first suggested you for this role, I was immediately very excited. MR: Of course, to me you were the comedy queen. I get nervous about comedy because it’s such a hard thing to pull off. It’s a lot easier yelling and screaming and crying in a scene than trying to be funny. I wanted to watch you work, and see if I could learn anything … TF: And then I wasn’t funny at all … MR: And then she turned out to be boring … No, I was intrigued because I’ve just started a production company, so I wanted to know how you were a mother, a wife, a producer, an actor, with about six billion projects up and running successfully. I wanted to know if any of those things suffered because there was so much on your plate. It was encouraging for me to see how well you juggle everything, and still hang with your kids and husband. I hope I don’t give my kids a messed-up childhood because I’m so busy with my career ambitions. TF: You won’t, because you’re a normal person. But I have that ongoing conversation with my other friends who are mums. It’s all about picking and choosing. this was the first time I had left home for a long time to make a movie, although my kids came for two weeks when they had a school break. I’m 45 and I’ve been doing this for a while, but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from this, it’s that it’s OK for me to admit that the several weeks that I was filming in New Mexico without them were a fantastic vacation. I definitely missed them, but when sitting alone in a quiet room learning my lines, I thought: ‘this is a very special time in my life.’ MR: It’s like that line in [2010 comedy] Date Night when your character says “I just want to be in a hotel room sipping lemonade and there’s no one anywhere.” TF: I wouldn’t agree to go away if it weren’t a project that felt special enough and something that I was producing. when roles are sent to you, do you think ‘no’ for most of them? MR: Maybe I’m being sent different scripts now because I’m at a point in my career when I can be the lead, whereas a few years ago my name on the billboard wasn’t going to get a film financed. I would be sent roles in good films but only as the girlfriend of the wife. But that’s different now. TF: Tanya and Kim are great roles. I have so much respect for female war reporters.as actors, we risk embarrassment, but they risk their lives, losing a limb or being kidnapped. what they do is so bold.to go to Afghanistan, to really understand what’s happening and convey it accurately is a hard job. I think the fastest solution to creating more female roles like these is for more women to produce.the best thing women can do if they want to see more women in film and in interesting roles is to get up and go see them in the theatre. MR: Talking of roles, I really enjoyed watching you play the more dramatic moments. There’s one scene ... when Kim explains her reason for coming to Afghanistan. She says that she felt as though she was going backwards in life. It wasn’t about finding a punchline. It was a genuine, emotive moment. TF: The thing I love about watching you is that there’s a clarity and a simplicity to the way you act. There’s this great scene in a hospital, where Tanya has just been in a harrowing explosion and a member of her crew has died. tanya is genuinely upset that someone she knows has died but she’s also giddy inside with the fact that she’s got the story.you played those feelings with such a light touch. So many people would overwork it. I think that’s real movie-star ability. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is out now.
“I have so much respect for female war reporters. As actors, we risk embarrassment, but they risk their lives.” – Tina Fey
Tina Fey in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and, right, with co-star Margot Robbie. Margot Robbie in the film and, below, on the red carpet.