The Gold Coast native talked co-star Will Smith into including an Aussie joke but says rumours of an off-screen relationship are just rubbish
OUR GOLDEN GIRL'S JOURNEY FROM NEIGHBOURS STAR TO HOLLYWOOD A-LISTER
Margot Robbie sweeps into a Los Angeles hotel room looking – shockingly – for something to eat. “I’m starving,” she says, just as an assistant magically appears and hands her a, um, paleo bar.
“I don’t think I’ll eat it,” says the 24-year-old actress, frowning. “It looks like it’s actually made out of rubber. God, I’d kill for some chips.”
Thankfully, the Gold Coast native hasn’t gone all LA on us (these days, she’s actually London-based), but she’s been in town promoting her latest film, Focus (opposite Will Smith), and attending the Oscars, where she was adjudged one of the night’s best dressed. (“It’s nice to get dolled up!”)
From the outside, Robbie’s meteoric Hollywood rise has been swift (it’s amazing to think she only left Neighbours in 2011), but from the inside, it’s all been highly strategic.
“It’s way more fun to write ‘overnight sensation’ and then make it sound like, ‘Well, she won the lottery!’,” says Robbie. “In a way, I totally did, because it’s still insane, no matter how much planning you do. It might not necessarily go your way, but there were a lot of plans in place. It’s not as much as a fluke as it may seem.”
Indeed, Robbie, who did her time inside the Neighbours acting factory from 2009-11 says she was making plans for a US assault only a few months into her stint on the show.
“I had a pretty clear game plan. I started speaking to people who had worked on Neighbours and who had made the transition [to the US]. I realised that people either stayed on the show for a really long time, or they completed their contract and went on to do something else. So I sussed out the people who’d made that move, and then started asking them how they did it.” She also saved her money. “I knew I’d need a good amount to move, so I didn’t spend any at all. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily get paid a lot on Neighbours,” she smiles.
These days, of course, Robbie’s a long way from counting her dollars. Still, she says her new financial status hasn’t changed her spending habits.
“I still haven’t really spent any on myself. I think there’s always that thing in the back of your mind that it could all be taken away.”
Not that she really has to worry. After her breakout performance in last year’s The Wolf Of Wall Street, Robbie is in high demand. (Next up she’ll be seen as Jane opposite Alexander Skarsgard in Tarzan, and then as supervillain Harley Quinn in the latest from the DC Comics stable, Suicide Squad).
She says she’s approached her career with an all or nothing mentality. “I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. I’d rather do it full on or not at all.”
Robbie took that same attitude into Focus, where she plays Jess, a con-artist-intraining. After she crosses paths with Will Smith’s experienced master manipulator, Nicky, the two try to out-con each other.
Robbie was attracted to the role for its originality.
“I hadn’t seen a story like this on screen. I liked the way it moved between genres,” she says. “Also, I’m a sucker for a love story. But at the same time I love heist films and I love action films, and this combines all of that.”
In hindsight, Robbie reckons she was lucky to get the job. When she got the call to audition, she was on a beach in Croatia, and had 48 hours to get to New York. En route, her luggage went missing.
“I was wearing the clothes I’d been backpacking in and I was filthy,” she says. “I had been swimming, right before knowing that I had to quickly rush to New York, and so my clothes were actually still damp, and I had a pyjama top on and ripped shorts.”
Smith, however, just thought she wasn’t interested. “My first thing was, oh, she doesn’t want this job,” he says. “She comes in, hair everywhere, no make-up and just a bit of a mess. Then she started performing, and blew us all away.”
The two had such a palpable chemistry on screen (Robbie calls rumours of an off-screen dalliance “rubbish”) that they even started improvising during takes. She even convinced Smith to add in an Aussie joke. (She likes to do that on all of her projects so her “friends can have a laugh at home”. “It might not make sense to the masses, but they love it.”)
Focus opens today.
Margot Robbie in a scene from the movie