From Ramsay Street to the Oscars red carpet, Robbie’s star is burning brighter than ever before.
With her sci-fi thriller, Z For Zachariah, releasing on DVD this January, we caught up with Aussie soap star-come-good Margot Robbie.
You play a woman who survives in solitude and has quite a challenging existence on the land. Did you feel like this was a role you could easily step into considering where you grew up [in the Gold Coast, and on her grandparent’s farm]?
Yeah there were definitely parts of the character that resonated with me more than any other of the characters I’ve played before, definitely the landscape and just being out on property and stuff felt more like home than shooting in New York, for example. But the solitude part was something kind of foreign to me. I grew up in a very big bustling family and these days I’m always on sets which are with lots of people; and I live with a bunch of people and I’m not really ever on my own. So it was very… it was a bit of a shock to the system to go straight from doing a whole bunch of filming and press to be suddenly in the middle of nowhere in New Zealand. It was a really isolated location which worked perfectly for the film but it was definitely a shock to the system. I think that if I was ever in Ann’s position I think that’s the thing I would definitely struggle with the most is just being on your own, it’s something I’m really not used to.
But maybe in a way it was a nice way to escape the craziness of your filming schedule?
Oh yeah, very therapeutic!
So the film is also in ways a bit of a departure from some of the bigger budget films that you’ve worked on, like The Wolf of Wall Street and Focus. Was it a different vibe on set?
It was a totally different experience, it was a much smaller budget and therefore it means we had to shoot a lot quicker, and there were a lot smaller crews. So you know on Suicide Squad, for example, there might be about two hundred crew members, and on Z for Zachariah there was about sixty. Which still sounds a lot, but it’s not really. It’s a very, very intimate crew and that just creates a totally different vibe – everyone’s kind of just helping each other out because there aren’t enough positions to fill all of them sometimes. And everyone works together and it’s got a real sense of community. It’s a really cohesive sort of work environment, which I prefer. So it’s my ideal working [environment], like the production scale for me was ideal. But it was definitely still one of the funnest, like The Wolf of Wall Street was obviously a fun set to work on (actually all of them have been). But Z was so fun as well, everyone was young. You know, we’re in the middle of nowhere, so every weekend everyone would party together and we would just all hang out. Everyone would build a fire and sit around and it was just a really fun group of people, it was great.
How long were you filming?
I think it was about six weeks… and Wolf, for example, was 6 months.
This is the first sci-fi film you’ve worked on. What was the appeal of that genre?
It’s funny because I don’t really think of it as being a sci-fi film. I guess because it is post-apocalyptic it is definitely categorised as sci-fi. But it didn’t feel sci-fi to me. There were no futuristic inventions or aliens or anything like that, it still very much looks like the world we live in just in different circumstances. So it wasn’t that I was attracted to doing a sci-fi film; I was just kind of more intrigued about the acting exercises it created – having no people coming in and out, there were three cast members and that’s all it was ever going to be. It was a very contained work space and a very finite amount of people. In some ways it makes it far tenser to have those parameters than having a large scale thing, you know? There’s films where the world is ending and anything could happen and anything’s possible but for some reason I think it’s more engaging and the stakes are actually higher when you’ve got these strict parameters, it’s like no… you’ve got no other options. You either get along with these people or you die, it’s really as simple as that.
It was a critical success at Sundance, of course, and I believe it was your first time at the festival. How did you find that experience?
It was really inspiring to be there actually. It made me really hopeful about creating more films and it made want to break the mould a little more and do less formulated Hollywood films – try things and work with up-and-coming film makers, and just do something a little different because otherwise we’re just going to keep making the same films over and over again. Sundance is the perfect environment for encouraging people to do that, people are just genuinely interested in films and people are lining up for hours to go see Z for Zachariah which I didn’t think anyone…. You know when you’re making it you’re kind of like, is anyone going to go see this movie? And to get to Sundance and find that not only have people seen it, they have waited 3 hours in the cold to go see it. And I’m so grateful to get any sort of feedback at all, that it’s like a pretty inspiring sort of weekend and you just want to keep making movies.
Speaking of feedback your work has received pretty positive reviews. Is that something your particularly conscious of? Do you read reviews or do you try not to take too much notice of them?
Well I definitely read them. Not all of them, obviously, because at a certain point it stops being beneficial I think. But definitely I try to get an overview of what the general feedback is, you know it’s good to know how you are being perceived. I try to take it with a grain of salt, because I think if you let it get to you too much it can kind of start infringing on your work the next time. And it stops being helpful and becomes more of a hindrance. I don’t ever want to become too self-conscious on set otherwise I think that’s when you stop taking risks, and when you stop taking risks you will be doing really boring performances.
You pull off a very convincing American accent in this film, and all the American films you’ve worked on. But how much practice goes into getting that right?
Ah, a lot… like, probably more than anything else I end up working on. The accent probably takes up the most time; it’s really hard. Some people I think it comes naturally to, but for me I literally have to sit down and work at it and work it. Listening to the accents all the time, always working with dialogue coaches and stuff. It’s definitely not a show up to set and wing it sort of thing, it’s like hours and hours and hours of preparation. They’re tricky, really tricky, if you want to get it right, you have to put a lot of time into it.
Do you still feel like an Australian Actor in Hollywood? And what’s that like?
Yeah, I still feel very Australian, and I live in London so I don’t really feel like I’m in Hollywood at all. You only get a taste of Hollywood twice a year when you go to the Oscars or you go to do a press junket or a premiere or something. But I don’t know I think because they’re the pictures everyone sees, they presume that’s what your life is like all the time, but really it’s like 3 times a year. And for the other three hundred and something odd days you are really living a pretty normal life, where you are just going to work all the time and hanging out with friends and then going back to work again. It’s good; I prefer that, I like that I feel I live a pretty similar life to all my friends.
Are you looking at escaping a London Winter by coming here for Christmas? Or are you pretty much staying put for the moment?
Staying put! I was just actually home two weeks ago. I saw everyone for Christmas, put up the tree, did all the Christmas shopping and all that kind of stuff; I had an early one this year. But I’m having a white Christmas this year it will be very strange with the snow. Well maybe not in London, probably just really cold rain, but cold none the less. The fire will be on!
So in regards to choosing roles and making decisions, is it hard finding roles as a young woman that varies away from the cliché of the dumb girlfriend or the hot young blonde? All those stereotypes that are still so often in movies for woman…
I think woman have become very aware that actresses these days don’t want to play those roles anymore and they’re really making a change to shift that stigma. There are a lot of good female roles out there now and I read a lot of them. It’s not so much the dumb blonde anymore, but there is still a lot of ‘the male is a protagonist and the female character, even though she is not a dumb blonde is still very much supporting his role in his story line’. And if you took her out the film probably could still go on, and that is kind of frustrating to see. But it’s good and it’s encouraging to see that there are more cool female roles out there. And aside from that, it is a big shift to see more female protagonist and female-driven films.