Margot Robbie & Carey Mulligan | Actors on Actors

In their Actors on Actors conversation Margot Robbie (‘Babylon’) and Carey Mulligan (‘She Said’) recount having worked with costar like Leonardo di Caprio and Ryan Gosling and major directors like Greta Gerwig and Emerald Fennell.

Variety Actors on Actors presented by Amazon Studios.

Margot Robbie Talks Acting, Producing & Rewriting ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ Scenes With Scorsese: “The Crazier You Are, The More Marty Will Like It”

Margot Robbie Talks Acting, Producing & Rewriting ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ Scenes With Scorsese: “The Crazier You Are, The More Marty Will Like It”

Margot Robbie dug into some of the biggest moments of her career in a rare onstage appearance as the latest subject of BAFTA’s popular A Life In Pictures series Tuesday.

The session was lengthy and wide-ranging, but off the bat, Robbie was asked about her experience shooting her breakout Hollywood role in Martin Scorsese’s 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street and she told the audience that she also partly served as a writer on the Oscar-nominated flick.

Robbie said the fraught scene near the middle of the film where her character Naomi Lapaglia chases down an intoxicated Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) only for him to crash a car with their daughter inside was not originally in the script.
“What happened previously in the script was that I walked into his office and said I want a divorce. And that was it,” Robbie said.

Robbie said the night before shooting the scene, she, Scorsese, and DiCaprio went over the script and felt that they were missing a moment that would tie the sequence together, so they returned to Belfort’s biography for inspiration.

“We started riffing, and we locked ourselves in a room until like three in the morning and came up with all of that. And the sex scene that comes before that,” she said. “Our brilliant 1st AD Adam Somner was probably tearing his hair out because out of nowhere we were like, so, we’re gonna need to break the garage door of someone’s house, break a car window, and destroy a couch.”

When asked whether she found it intimidating as a then-22-year-old actor to offer notes on a Scorsese script, Robbie said the Mean Streets director had created an environment where experimentation was encouraged.

“We were a couple of months into the shoot at that point. The tone had been set that it was a bit of a free for all,” she said. “It was like the crazier you are, the more Marty will like it. And the more screen time you’re going to get.”

Later Robbie said Scorsese only gave her one piece of direction throughout the entire six-month shoot. The rest of the time, she said, was spent chatting with the director and sharing stories.

“We spoke all the time. I’d sit at video village, and he would tell stories about the Mafia and old film stars, but he didn’t actually give direction,” she said.

However, Robbie said one thing Scorsese told her during the shoot has stuck with her ever since, and it surprisingly had very little to do with acting.

“We were shooting the shot where I’m running up the stairs, and he turns to me and goes, ‘Every great movie has a stair shot.’ I’ve told so many directors since that Martin Scorsese says every great movie has a stairwell shot, so get the stairs in there,” she said.

Elsewhere during the session, Robbie spoke about her shift into producing films. Her first producing credit was 2017’s I, Tonya, a film that she told the audience also gave her the confidence to write a letter to Quentin Tarantino in hopes of finding a project to collaborate on.

“I, Tonya was the first time I watched a movie and thought I’m a good actor. And I thought, ‘Okay, I’m ready to reach out to my idols.’ And that’s when I wrote the letter to Quentin,” she said.

Robbie, of course, went on to star in Tarantino’s 2019 flick Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. While discussing the film, Robbie pushed back against criticism the film garnered upon its release for the limited screen time given to her portrayal of Sharon Tate.

“It didn’t bother me. I watched it and thought we got across what we wanted to get across,” she said.

Robbie next returns to the world of golden age Hollywood in Damien Chazelle’s long-awaited Hollywood epic Babylon, and the audience at BAFTA was given a short preview of Robbie’s performance in the film.

Babylon is billed as an original epic set in 1920s Los Angeles as Tinseltown makes the transition from silent films to talkies. The scene projected at BAFTA features Robbie as an actress performing a sequence on a raucous set alongside Chazelle’s wife, Olivia Hamilton, who has a brief on-screen role.

Discussing working with Chazelle, Robbie said: “He’s brilliant. For someone as young as him to have the breadth of knowledge he has and to be such an insanely good director is just really exciting. I loved every single day on that set.”

Before wrapping up the session, Robbie was asked about the much-talked-about Barbie film she is producing and starring in alongside Ryan Gosling. Greta Gerwig is directing from a screenplay she wrote with Noah Baumbach.

“I didn’t know it would have quite the hype it seems to have already,” Robbie said of the film. “I remember when we were trying to set this up, I kept saying to these boards of people that this is the most recognizable word next to coca cola. Everyone knows Barbie. This will hit, so give us more money for our budget.”

Ending the discussion, Robbie, who is the youngest subject of BAFTA’s A Life In Pictures series, said the one director she still wants to work with is Licorice Pizza auteur Paul Thomas Anderson.

“PTA, I really love Paul Thomas Anderson,” she said.

Margot Robbie Didn’t Feel Like “a Good Actor” Until I, Tonya

Margot Robbie Didn’t Feel Like “a Good Actor” Until I, Tonya

While becoming the youngest-ever recipient of the “BAFTA: A Life in Pictures” tribute, The Babylon star revealed that she wasn’t fully confident in her skills as an actress until she played Tonya Harding.

It took Margot Robbie a while to recognize her own star power. The Babylon star made history on Tuesday when she became the youngest actor to ever be given the special “BAFTA: A Life in Pictures” tribute. Usually reserved for filmmakers with decades-long careers, “BAFTA: A Life in Pictures” recognized Robbie for her immense contributions to film in a relatively short time, spanning back to her breakthrough year in 2013 when she first burst onto the scene, starring in The Wolf of Wall Street and About Time and highlighting her work as a producer as well via her production company LuckyChap Productions.

At the ceremony held at BAFTAs headquarters in London, Robbie said that she didn’t feel confident in her work as an actress until 2017’s I, Tonya, where she played vengeful Olympic figure skating hopeful Tonya Harding and earned her first Oscar nomination. “I, Tonya was the first time I watched a movie and went, ‘OK, I’m a good actor’,” she said. It was that confidence that led her to reach out to her idol Quentin Tarantino, she told the audience, noting that working with the Pulp Fiction director was “a bucket list thing for me.” Her moxie was rewarded and ultimately led to Robbie starring in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as Sharon Tate.
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Margot Robbie Is Nobody’s Barbie: The Babylon Star on Navigating Hollywood

Margot Robbie Is Nobody’s Barbie: The Babylon Star on Navigating Hollywood

“The highs are really high and the lows are really, really low.”

Margot Robbie wants to take me to New York. We’re on the Paramount lot in Los Angeles, and she’s giving me a walking tour of some places they shot Babylon, her upcoming movie about the vertiginous swirl that was Hollywood in the late 1920s. We’re about to enter the New York back lot—faux neighborhoods used as stand-ins for various cities—when a security guard stops us with an “Excuse me, where are you heading?”

We try saying “that way” and walk like we own the place. The guard isn’t buying it. He asks what production we’re with. This is where I expect my tour guide to say, “I’m Margot Robbie.” Instead, she mumbles something about being with Babylon and “doing some post.” Then her voice trails off. The security guard clearly doesn’t recognize that standing in front of him is the Australian actor who brought Harley Quinn to life and was nominated for an Oscar for playing Tonya Harding. He tells us we have to get off the set because somebody’s shooting. Robbie politely agrees. She laughs as we round the corner. “I should have a better cover story,” she says. “You’d think I’d be better at that.”

“Margot is completely grounded and instantly commanding,” says Martin Scorsese. “She enters the frame and you pay attention to her.”
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Margot Robbie Is a Force of Change in Hollywood

Margot Robbie Is a Force of Change in Hollywood

As both an actor and producer, Robbie and her production company, LuckyChap Entertainment (whose projects range from ‘I,Tonya’ to ‘Barbie’), have put telling female stories first.

The hottest blonde ever.” This was the infamous script description given for Margot Robbie’s character in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), directed by Martin Scorsese. Widely credited as Robbie’s breakthrough, the role instantly helped establish her as one of the biggest movie stars.

Yet Robbie—Australian born and then still relatively new to Hollywood—says that she had little interest in further riffing on the blonde-bombshell theme: “I was going to have to show people that I could do something different. I didn’t want to get pigeonholed.” Accordingly, her next roles gave the middle finger to the hot-blonde paradigm.

On Suite Française’s set, in 2013, “I play a French peasant, and trust me, I looked revolting,” she says via Zoom. (Her screen name reads “Maggot,” her childhood nickname, rather than “Margot.”) “Then I did Z for Zachariah…and again, I looked revolting. By that time, I thought, I’ve shown people.” As the smallpox-riddled Queen Elizabeth in 2018’s Mary Queen of Scots, Robbie was adorned with oozing sores, scabs and scars.

While filming Suite Française, Robbie made friends with assistant directors Josey McNamara and Tom Ackerley. Both became her business partners, along with her childhood friend Sophia Kerr; she later married Ackerley. The four discussed their mutual producing aspirations, and about what they saw as a lack of desirable film roles for women. “I remember saying, ‘Every time I pick up a script, I want to play the guy,’ ” Robbie recalls. “ ‘Wouldn’t it be so cool if people pick up scripts that we’re making and always wanted to play the female role?’ ”
They decided to found their own production company, calling it LuckyChap Entertainment. Robbie had just turned 24. (The company name was conjured while they were drunk, says Robbie; it may refer to Charlie Chaplin, but no one can really remember.) The LuckyChap mandate, from day one, was to “make female stories.” Each of its projects had to involve a female story or female storyteller. They also, says Ackerley, “wanted to find the next generation of talent,” while being “on the right side of culture.”
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