MARGOT ROBBIE ALWAYS thought that once she was a good enough actor, she would write Quentin Tarantino a letter. Just to get on his radar. Or at least to let him know how much his movies meant to her. She was sure people must tell him that all the time. But still. “I’ve always been a huge—huge—Tarantino fan,” she tells me one afternoon in Los Angeles. “I love his movies. Love them.” After Robbie watched the first cut of I, Tonya, the 2017 biopic about figure skater Tonya Harding, which Robbie produced and starred in, she decided she was finally good enough. (The performance would earn her an Oscar nomination.) “So I wrote him and said, ‘I adore your films, and I would love to work with you in some capacity. Or any capacity.’ ”
When Tarantino received Robbie’s letter, he’d recently finished the script for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, a romp through the movie industry of the late 1960s, which opens this month. Friends who’d read the script had already asked if he’d be casting Robbie in the role of Sharon Tate, the actress, wife of Roman Polanski, and most famous victim of the Manson murders. Then Robbie’s letter arrived. The timing was spooky enough that Tarantino thought they should meet. Soon Robbie was sitting at the director’s kitchen table, reading the script. Robbie is a careful reader; it took her four hours. Tarantino would occasionally pop in to offer her food or a Victoria Bitter, an Australian beer. When I later ask Tarantino what made Robbie right for the role, he tells me, “Margot looks like Sharon Tate. . . . And she can convey Sharon’s innocence and purity—those qualities are integral to the story.”
Tarantino’s film is about the end of Hollywood’s Golden Age, but Robbie, who is 28, has come to represent so much of what’s new. As an Australian soap actress, she entered Hollywood being typecast. She played the bronzed, gold-digging beauty in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, the hot blonde explaining mortgage bonds from a bubble bath in 2015’s The Big Short, and Jane following Alexander Skarsgård’s Tarzan into the Congo. But it turned out Robbie wanted more than these roles. It turned out she wanted to put on a fat suit for I, Tonya and to cover her face in boils for Mary Queen of Scots and to produce female-driven projects via her production company, LuckyChap Entertainment. Part of the charm in Robbie’s Tarantino story is that it—like the film itself—sounds very old Hollywood: An aspiring actress writes a fan letter to an auteur director in hopes of getting cast in one of his nostalgia-loving films. But Hollywood is changing, and while Robbie may have arrived at the end of an era, she is now among the women ushering in a new one.
Today we’re on the set of Birds of Prey, a spin-off of 2016’s Suicide Squad that Robbie developed and pitched to Warner Bros. as an R-rated, female-led superhero action film—a commercialized product of new Hollywood if ever there was one. “I think there’s a perception that a PG female-led action film is kind of considered a chick flick,” says Robbie.
At $75 million, this is LuckyChap’s largest project to date, but Robbie seems unperturbed. “Well, we’re on schedule and on budget, which is a wonderful place to be.” In Birds, which is due out next year, Robbie will reprise her role as Harley Quinn, the Joker’s ex. But today she’s primarily a producer. Wandering the set in jeans and a smiley-face T-shirt with two hearts for eyes, her cell phone suspended from a rope in place of a purse, she introduces me to the women who work with her: Cathy (Yan), the director; Jody, the script supervisor; Sue, a producer. We run into Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who has spent the day performing stunts as Huntress, a crossbow wielding vigilante. Winstead pulls down her track pants to reveal a bruise on her hip. “Shit,” Robbie says. “That looks legit.”
The day’s shoot is at a medieval-style stone abbey in Highland Park. “Sorry I’m not taking you to paint mugs or something,” Robbie says. She’s referring to the tropes of celebrity profiles, the skydiving or skateboarding or whatever else actresses are supposed to do to charm writers. When I say that it is nearly impossible to find a story in which she’s not described as a “bombshell,” Robbie suppresses an eye roll. “I hate that word. I hate it—so much. I feel like a brat saying that because thereare worse things, but I’m not a bombshell. I’m not someone who walks in a room and the record stops and people turn like, ‘Look at that woman.’ That doesn’t happen. People who know me, if they had to sum me up in one word I don’t know what that word would be, but I’m certain it would not be bombshell.”
Full interview: vogue.com