COVER STORY

Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ter Mar­got Rob­bie: From tooth­paste model to Os­car hot favourite!

Fairlady - - CONTENTS - BY GAVANNDRA HODGE

F‘No one thought I would be an ac­tress be­cause where I grew up it wasn’t a job you could do – I never met any­one who had so much as made a cup of cof­fee on a film set.’

or much of her life, Mar­got Rob­bie has been ad­dicted to fear: to the elecftric adren­a­line that surges through her when she’s sure she can’t do some­thing but forces her­self to try re­gard­less. ‘I love feel­ing ter­ri­fied; I love it when I think I can’t pull it off this time,’ she says. It’s this com­pul­sion that made her – then a 23-yearold un­known – un­ex­pect­edly slap Leonardo DiCaprio in the face dur­ing her screen test for Martin Scors­ese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (it got her the job!). It’s also this re­fusal to stay within the lim­its of what might be ex­pected from a ‘tooth­paste model’ (her words) that led her to set up a pro­duc­tion com­pany with her now-hus­band and two best friends when she was 24, and to pro­duce and star in I, Tonya. ‘Peo­ple said, “That will never get made,”’ she says of her film about the con­tro­ver­sial do­mes­ti­cally abused US Olympic fig­ure skater, Tonya Hard­ing. ‘It gets to me when peo­ple say that. So I was like, “Let’s give it a go.”’ I, Tonya was a crit­i­cal suc­cess. Al­li­son Jan­ney won an Os­car for her por­trayal of Hard­ing’s ruth­less, nico­tine-ad­dled mother and Mar­got was nom­i­nated for an Os­car (and a Golden Globe) for her in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the DIY dia­man­téed Hard­ing. The film was also a fi­nan­cial suc­cess, cost­ing around £8 mil­lion to make and gross­ing £35m.

Not bad for its pro­ducer and lead ac­tor…

I, Tonya was the se­cond film Mar­got pro­duced; the first was Ter­mi­nal, which has only just had its the­atre re­lease. And it is to dis­cuss Ter­mi­nal that we are here, in Lon­don's Soho Ho­tel, eat­ing choco­late bis­cuits and drink­ing Dar­jeel­ing tea.

‘I was drawn to how odd and dark the script was,' she says.

Ter­mi­nal is in­deed an odd film, a re­venge-noir gang­ster flick vis­ually in­spired by films such as Brazil and Blade Run­ner. Mar­got siz­zles as a pole-danc­ing, tea-serv­ing hit woman for hire. It was writ­ten and di­rected by first-timer Vaughn Stein, a for­mer as­sis­tant di­rec­tor and friend of Mar­got's hus­band, Tom Ack­er­ley, also a for­mer AD she first met on the set of 2013's Suite Française.

‘He [Vaughn] wanted to do it so badly, and no one would put the money be­hind him… So it was re­ally nice to give him the chance to get his vi­sion out there. At the same time we got the chance to learn how to pro­duce.'

The film, which also stars Si­mon Pegg, was made over 27 re­lent­less days and sleep­less nights in Bu­dapest. It cost £3m and Mar­got says it makes her ‘swell with pride'.

Mar­got grew up in the moun­tain­ous hin­ter­land of Aus­tralia's Gold Coast. Her days were spent on the beach, mak­ing rope swings and plung­ing into moun­tain rock pools. ‘No one thought I would be an ac­tress be­cause where I grew up it wasn't a job you could do – I never met any­one who had so much as made a cup of cof­fee on a film set.' Her par­ents di­vorced when she was young and her mother, a phys­io­ther­a­pist, raised Mar­got and her three sib­lings sin­gle-hand­edly.

‘She is such a saint, she is amaz­ing; I love her. She held it to­gether and al­ways put ev­ery­one else first.'

It was a chaotic, crowded and noisy child­hood. ‘We weren't easy kids; we didn't make it easy for Mum.' Not least Mar­got her­self, who was de­ter­mined to as­sert her in­de­pen­dence from a young age.

‘When I was five, I was watch­ing my mum put spread on my sand­wich for school and I was say­ing, “It's not go­ing to the edges”, and she was like, “If I am not do­ing it right, do it your­self.” So I started mak­ing my own lunch from five years old. If I wanted some­thing a cer­tain way, I just did it my­self. Mum says that sums me up.'

One of the first things Mar­got did once her ca­reer took off was to pay off her mother's mort­gage.

At 17 she moved to Mel­bourne, and when she wasn't work­ing in a Sub­way res­tau­rant she was bad­ger­ing the pro­duc­tion team on lo­cal soap Neigh­bours. Her per­sis­tence paid off, and in 2008 she won the part of Donna Freed­man, a role she played for two and a half years, but all the while she was see­ing a di­alect coach, per­fect­ing her Amer­i­can ac­cent so she could make the move to the US. Again, de­ter­mi­na­tion won out: Mar­got's se­cond Hol­ly­wood film role was in The Wolf of Wall Street. While she doesn't re­gret any of the parts she's played, she is be­com-

‘If I wanted some­thing a cer­tain way, I just did it my­self. Mum says that sums me up.’

ing more aware of the so­cial im­pact of the roles she chooses. ‘It’s a weird thing, hav­ing a pro­file,’ she says.

‘It’s hard be­cause I would never have got to this po­si­tion if I was try­ing to cen­sor ev­ery­thing I did. I’d never have an im­pact on any one if I played per­fect char­ac­ters.’ She has some com­pelling roles com­ing up: as a pox-rid­den El­iz­a­beth I in Josie Rourke’s Mary Queen of

Scots; and as Sharon Tate, the ac­tress who was mur­dered by Charles Man­son’s fol­low­ers, in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in

Hol­ly­wood, with Brad Pitt and DiCaprio. These are sub­stan­tial, high-pro­file roles that ex­plore the power and vul­ner­a­bil­ity of women – ‘that seems to be the con­tra­dic­tion I am most at­tracted to,’ she says.

The films she is de­vel­op­ing in­clude Mar­ion, a fem­i­nist retelling of the Robin Hood story; and Gotham

City Sirens, where she reprises her role as Har­ley Quinn, this time unit­ing a posse of DC Comics’ de­ranged hero­ines. ‘If I was go­ing to play Har­ley again, I wanted it to be in the kind of movie I wanted to see. So it’s about a girl gang.’

Mar­got has been vo­cal in the #MeToo move­ment. Last year she gave a speech at a Hol­ly­wood event cel­e­brat­ing women and film. She pre­pared by ask­ing fe­male crew mem­ber friends about their ex­pe­ri­ences in the in­dus­try, cre­at­ing a col­lec­tive nar­ra­tive more pow­er­ful than one per­son’s ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘Of course I knew the prob­lem ex­isted. I just hadn’t viewed it as a prob­lem we were al­lowed to be an­gry about. Be­cause no one spoke about it; no one said, “I am not putting up with this any more.” It wasn’t called a prob­lem, it was called a fact of life. That is such a ter­ri­ble mind­set. If we just ac­cept things like sex­ual harass­ment as a fact of life, it doesn’t get fixed.’

This col­lec­tive ap­proach seems to come nat­u­rally to Mar­got.

‘I never do any­thing on my own. I don’t see the pur­pose of do­ing any­thing if I don’t do it with my friends. I go men­tal when I am on my own; my thoughts are so loud it drives me in­sane.’ On set, she says, she is al­ways chat­ting to cast and crew. She made such good friends with the crew on the set of Suite Française that a group of them de­cided to rent to­gether in Clapham, Eng­land, squeez­ing seven peo­ple into a four-bed­room flat.

‘Those were the best days of my life,’ she says. One of those flat­mates was Tom Ack­er­ley, who she mar­ried in 2016 in Aus­tralia, wear­ing her mother’s old wed­ding dress. ‘It was lovely, just chilled – you didn’t have to wear shoes.’ Her hen night, though, was ‘ab­so­lute car­nage’. There were at least 45 women, in­clud­ing Mar­got’s gang of school friends, the ‘Heck­ers’.

‘There are 16 of us …we’ve been called that since we were at school.’ Her Neigh­bours friends were also in­vited, as was the Bri­tish gang from her Clapham days: ‘They are a rowdy bunch, too, and the com­bi­na­tion was ex­plo­sive.’

Mar­got is a big fan of fancy dress, so her friends dressed her up for the sur­prise fi­nale. ‘They hired a Harry Pot­ter-themed strip­per for me; he had all the Harry Pot­ter phrases and in­nu­en­does. I was so touched…They know me so well.’

Mar­got has been read­ing the Harry Pot­ter books on a loop since she was eight. ‘I know what’s com­ing next when I turn the page. I can’t med­i­tate and this is what I have to do to fall asleep. Vaughn told me if you have trou­ble sleep­ing, which I do, you should read some­thing that you’re very fa­mil­iar with to calm you. Read­ing Harry

Pot­ter makes me happy and calms me. I read for about an hour or two ev­ery night. My hus­band hates it.’

What’s get­ting her most fired up right now is her de­sire to do the­atre. ‘I didn’t go to drama school and I didn’t go to uni­ver­sity. I just re­ally want to do the­atre. The idea of do­ing it ab­so­lutely ter­ri­fies me, and I love that.’

De­ter­mi­na­tion has not tra­di­tion­ally been con­sid­ered an at­trac­tive fe­male trait. Women are told to be like the swan: grace­ful on the top, pad­dling like mad un­der the sur­face. Mar­got Rob­bie is ex­cit­ing be­cause she’s happy to own her de­ter­mi­na­tion, happy to let the world see both the beauty and the ef­fort. ‘You can’t wait for it; you have to make it hap­pen,’ she says, shak­ing my hand firmly. Ter­mi­nal is avail­able on dig­i­tal, DVD and Blu-ray.

Above Mar­got in vixen mode in Ter­mi­nal, which she co-pro­duced. Op­po­site With her Brit hus­band and co-pro­ducer on Ter­mi­nal, Tom Ack­er­ley, at the Golden Globes ear­lier this year.

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