HOLLYWOOD – “Margot” seems too stuffy for Margot Robbie.
No offense to the fancy French Margots of the world, but Aussie actress Robbie, 27, is more exuberant than her name. Hours before the premiere of her new movie Terminal, she’s approachable in jeans and a T-shirt, and lights up when talking about her love of hockey, haunted houses and “any high-adrenaline activity,” as she says.
“I have such a weird, formal name,” the Oscar-nominated actress concedes. “It’s kind of like an old-lady name.”
Maybe she’s more of an Annie?
That’s the name of her mysterious protagonist in Terminal, a twisted neo-noir film that arrives Friday in theaters and on digital platforms such as iTunes and Amazon. The Vaughn Stein-directed movie was the first Robbie produced through her company, LuckyChap Entertainment. It was shot in 2016, back “when we had no idea what we were doing, to be honest,” she says, and before Robbie starred in and produced her acclaimed I, Tonya.
A lot has happened since: In 2017 alone, Robbie worked on five films.
So there was plenty to discuss when she sat down to chat with USA TODAY, including what made the star love her name and why she pushed for a female director on the forthcoming Harley Quinn film.
Question: Your Terminal character is given pet names “Bottled Blond” and “Sugarplum,” which she clearly doesn’t appreciate. Do you like nicknames?
Robbie: At school, I was called “Maggot,” which was horrible and so traumatic and a reason I despised my name. But now I love (my name because) my mom named me after a girl she grew up with.
Some of my close friends call me Maggie, Margs, Mags, Maggles, any iteration of that. And you know how with friends (some nicknames) are totally random: One friend and I call each other Curtis. How do you even explain it?
Q: You starred in and produced I, Tonya, which allowed Tonya Harding to come back into the public eye, now as a Dancing With the Stars contestant. Did you anticipate that?
Robbie: It’s not what we set out to do, but it’s, I guess, a lovely byproduct. We set out to tell a story in the most authentic way possible, and that meant showing the good side and the bad side. In her case, everyone’s only been focused on the bad side. I’m happy that people are seeing a different side of her, because she’s a really sweet lady.
Q: You’ve also shot Mary Queen of Scots, where you play Elizabeth I. Last summer, photos of you in white makeup and a red wig got plenty of attention online. Was that a receding hairline?
Robbie: It wasn’t really about going for the shock factor or “How can we look as crazy as possible?” It was really born out of the fact that Elizabeth I had smallpox really badly, and that left 60% of people permanently disfigured. So we see her pale makeup, her receding hairline. It plays into the whole emotional journey and how she, in our story, ended up looking and behaving the way she did and why she closed herself off to the world of Mary.
Q: Did the hair and makeup team have a ball modifying your face?
Robbie: It’s fun to play with this canvas. And I’ve got great hair for wigs because I’ve got very fine hair. And I have quite a small head, actually, so I can wear wigs really easily, which is great for acting. Thankfully, it turns out I’m in the right profession.
Q: And you clearly have a gift for accents, which bodes well for an actor. That was a pretty wild cockney accent in Terminal.
Robbie: That does not come naturally to me at all. (Mastering accents) is lots of work.
I speak my own (Australian) accent between takes. Some people stay in it all day. I only act as my character between “action” and “cut,” and in between I’m just myself. (Which is good for this Terminal character), who is kind of psychotic. Same with Harley Quinn: I couldn’t be Harley all day — A, because it would be absolutely exhausting, and B, it would be just unbearable to be around me.
Q: Speaking of Harley Quinn, you’re producing and starring in a spinoff movie about her based on the Birds of Prey comics. Did you want to revisit her after shooting 2016’s Suicide Squad?
Robbie: I pitched the idea of doing an R-rated girl gang film when we were still doing Suicide Squad. It was a hard pitch back then, because it was pre-Deadpool, so it was a crazy idea.
Q: How did you find the director, Cathy Yan?
Robbie: She did a film called Dead Pigs, which I loved. At LuckyChap, we always strive to have female storytellers or a female protagonist or female point of view. (For Birds), I said, “Best director wins, male or female.” But I think it’s our obligation to speak to more female directors than male ones, because they’ve historically had less of a chance.
Q: You’re working with a famous male director in the near future: You’re playing Sharon Tate in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Robbie: It’s always been a bucket list thing for me to work on a Tarantino film, so I’m obviously ridiculously excited and grateful.
Q: Tarantino has been in the news for apologizing for defending convicted rapist Roman Polanski and mistreating Uma Thurman on the Kill Bill set. Does that impact your relationship with him?
Robbie: I’ve spoken to him at length about his filmmaking process, how he sees this one and the journey we’ll be going on in this film.
Q: Did you talk to him about the Thurman allegations?
Robbie: I think you need to talk about it. There’s the saying “ignorance is bliss,” but ignorance is also complicity. So you need to be aware. I don’t want to enter any situation without my eyes wide open.