MARIE CLAIRE: You were circling this part for a while. What kept you so interested?
MARGOT ROBBIE: I was hoping to play a role really different to the roles I d been playing before that, and I was also hoping to film on a much smaller scale than the ones I d been doing. I’d just wrapped on Focus when we did Z for Zachariah and a lot of the films I d done before that had big plot points and huge locations. When you do an indie film you have a much smaller budget so you have less time to shoot it in and I think the time pressure can get the best out of you. I was so hoping that they would give me a chance!
MC: The shoot schedule came right in the middle of the Wolf Of Wall Street awards season craziness. Did you feel a sense of relief to escape to New Zealand to film the movie?
MR: Absolutely. It was so nice. Everything had been completely crazy up until that point and I literally jumped on a plane straight after the Critics’ Choice Awards and went straight to New Zealand and had no phone reception and no contact with the outside world. I couldn’t read reviews about how Wolf was going, or my performance, or what was happening with Awards Season, or how some outfit had fared. It was just so nice to have that all completely muted and just focus on the job at hand. Perfect shooting conditions, really.
MC: And you dyed your hair! Or was it a wig?
MR: We dyed my hair! Our director Craig [Zobel] suggested it. I remember I was on the phone to him in the car on the way to some awards season thing and I was begging him to give me the role and he kind of hinted, he said, how would you feel about maybe dyeing your hair. And I was like, “Dyeing… you can shave it off! I’ll do anything, please!” And he said, “Great!” So as soon as I got to New Zealand we put a semi-permanent rinse through it. We wanted it to be a really dull, murky brown colour.
MC: And you didn’t have an identity crisis changing your famous blonde hair?
MR: Actually I used to dye my hair dark brown when I was in high school. I actually preferred it because I needed to feel much younger. With the brown hair again I felt like I was back in high school and it actually felt more like me than with my blonde hair.
MC: How else did you identify with Anne?
MR: It’s funny – out of all the characters I’ve played I’ve felt closer to Anne than anyone else. A lot of her personality traits felt more familiar to me than some of the other characters I’ve played.
MC: Like the fact you grew up on a farm, and Anne lives on her own on her family’s farm?
MR: Yeah, definitely. [And] coming from a religious family – probably not as religious as Anne’s , but pretty religious. I got the role five days before we started shooting, and I think they were all really worried that they’d have to teach me a bunch of stuff. But I said, “No, it’s OK; I know how to do the farm stuff, we’re all good on that front.” The guns, the cows, the tractors, all of that was fine.
MC: There’s a scene in the film where you make a move on Chiwetel Ejiofor’s character, and he rebuffs you pretty brutally. It seems like something all girls have in their adolescence, a moment of misreading the signs. Did you have one of those when you were a teenager?
MR: There wasn’t one moment that I could pinpoint. When I was 19 I felt a lot older than Anne did, so I was trying to think back to when I was 13 and had a crush on someone’s older brother, or a family friend and I would say something silly and someone would pay me out. It was just so humiliating and even the small things would really crush you. I was trying to remember that feeling, of how the small mistakes felt like the biggest things in the world and how painfully self-conscious I was.
MC: In this film you tackle another notoriously tricky American accent… How did you approach it?
MR: Fortunately my dialect coach who first taught me how to do an American accent is based in Melbourne so I called her up immediately and I was like, “New Zealand isn’t that far from Melbourne – tell me you can come to New Zealand please!” And she came over and actually stayed with me and we worked on it. Whenever I do an accent, I try to find a person from that area and put their voice recordings from Youtube on my iPod and I listen to them constantly. It’s so funny – Youtube ends up being the source of most of my research! I found a young girl from South West Virginia, which is where we were saying Anne was from, and she had just posted a couple of Youtube videos where she was talking about nothing in particular and I just listened to her everyday all day, and this girl probably has no idea! And I’ve still got her on my iPod… which is probably a bit weird.
MC: And you learned to play the organ in the film…
MR: That wasn’t a hidden talent at all. That was an after-thought, like, “Oh yeah, you should play the organ.” And I was like, “Shit, I’ve got my hands full trying to get everything else organised!” It was a lunch break kind of job.
MC: Did filming in New Zealand give you pangs of homesickness?
MR: Definitely. I hadn’t actually been to New Zealand before doing Z for Zachariah, which is ridiculous. It’s just the best country ever and I know as Aussies we pretend to hate the Kiwis but I love that country so much. The people are awesome, it’s the most stunning landscape I’ve ever seen in my life, and the crews are just epic because a lot of them have worked on the Lord of The Rings and Hobbit trilogies, so they’ve got a really good infrastructure already in place. It’s the perfect place to shoot. It was so close to home that my mum could come visit on weekends and stuff like that. If anything it made me want to make more films in New Zealand.
MC: Is coming back to Australia on the cards for you?
MR: We’re always on the lookout to do something back home and hoping something comes up soon.
MC: What do you miss about Australia when you’re away?
MR: I miss my friends and family obviously. I really miss the lifestyle. I miss walking around and doing outdoorsy things and going to the rockpools and going to the beach. And I miss so many of the Aussie brands. It’s so annoying you can’t find them overseas. I have to wait until I go home and do all my shopping when I’m back once a year. The Aussie brands are still by far the best clothes than anything else I’ve found.
MC: What are some of your favourite brands?
MR: Oh my god, I can’t even limit myself… Alice McCall, Shakuhachi, Zimmermann. And there are so many of the other ones that you can’t find anywhere else and they are by far the best.
MC: 2016 is going to be a huge year for you. What are you most looking forward to?
MR: I’ve just started producing so I’m actually doing a bit more producing than acting right now. I’m looking forward to exploring that side of filmmaking for the time being.
Z for Zachariah is out on DVD now