As Terminal is hitting screens in Russia and across the globe, TASS’ Dmitry Medvedenko speaks to Academy Award nominee Margot Robbie, the film’s star and producer, about what it’s like to do two jobs at a time, how titles get lost in translation, and how she feels about bad reviews and low scores.
– Terminal is coming to theaters across the globe, you filmed two years ago, and the world has somewhat changed over these two years, hasn’t it?
– Yes, definitely. At LuckyChap, our company, all of our films have a large female element to them, whether it’s a female-driven story because there’s a female protagonist, or written or directed by a female. Obviously, in the last just 8 months, after the #metoo and #timesup movement suddenly we had to look at our projects differently, and some suddenly felt even more relevant, while some felt less relevant. It’s a very big shift in the culture and in the industry, and it has kind of brought other things to the forefront of our minds. To reply to your question, Terminal, which had already been shot, it sadly and ironically feels more relevant now, releasing it at this time. It is a classic female revenge story.
– Yet the protagonist in Terminal has a very strong sexual power and vibe that she uses to drive the narrative forward.
– Yes. Vaughn [Stein], the director, and I talked a lot about how Annie has a whole dress-up box and how she can be a chameleon and transform herself into whatever she knows men want to see her as, whether it’s a sexy stripper or a kooky waitress or whatever – she understands the male gaze and knows how it shifts, so she can fulfill her plans where they’re not looking. It was very much a play on the classic film noir or femme fatale trope. And we kind of wanted to lean into that and subvert the tropes in some way.
– How would you classify the genre of the movie? I watched the movie not more than two hours ago, and I couldn’t pinpoint it.
– Haha. We’ve been saying it’s a ‘neon noir thriller’.
– Is that something completely new?
– It’s a very small genre, haha, nobody makes neon noir thriller films, they’re not exactly marketable. So it’s kind of funny that was the kind of film we set out to make as our company two years ago, something that’s very hard to market. It has a lot of, you know, British humor in it, it’s very weird, obviously there’s a thriller element enticing, but it’s done in a very strange, kooky world. So yeah, it’s a weird little indie film, that’s why we kind of loved it. It was just very different and strange, and an opportunity to do some world building and create an aesthetic we’ve never seen before, and more than anything we wanted to just do something different. Everyone had a great time designing the film, with brilliant ideas on how to do things for no money, and we’re proud of the look they’ve created. The movie was made for $4,000,000 and I think it looks like it was made for a lot more than that.
– By the way, Margot, I don’t know if you’re aware of how the movie’s title was translated for the Russian release. Actually, for both I, Tonya and Terminal the titles were changed right before the release.
– I know they do change the titles for certain reasons. How was Terminal translated?
– Well, the initial translation for Terminal was ‘Konechnaya’, which means ‘terminus’ or ‘end of the line’. But the final translation was a different word, almost letter-to-letter identical – ‘Konchenaya’, Which is directly translated as “goner”, so coupled with the Femme Fatale on the posters, it’s kind of applied to your character…
– How do you feel about that?
– I did not know that. I would have preferred they kept the former title. The ‘end of the line’ makes more sense to the film. Unfortunately, we only have so much control over our international distributors, so when they do choose a name, we don’t necessarily get to pick it with them. But I do prefer the previous title you mentioned, that seems to make more sense to the film.
– You’re both the star of the movie and one of the producers, how does that feel – does it give more freedom, or maybe do you feel more responsibility for the movie?
– Both. There’s a lot more freedom and there’s a lot more responsibility. I really enjoy producing, and like I said this was the first film we were producers on. We were, you know, 25 years old I think when we did this, and we hadn’t produced a movie before so we learned everything on the job, though we worked on film sets for the last 10 years, just not in the producing capacity.
So it was obviously a very enlightening experience, but it was also lovely, and very creative-stimulating to have no boundaries. I mean we had financial boundaries, time boundaries, but we didn’t have to answer to anyone, the studio, or boss, or someone that was going to say ‘no’ to things. So it was a very liberating position to be in, to have the people we’re working with come up to us and say ‘hey, I’ve got an idea, it’s really crazy, but… what do you think?’ And we could always say ‘yeah, go for it!’ I mean there’s no one else to answer to. If you could do it for the small amount of money that was allocated to your department – please do, feel free! And everyone did, and it created this incredible collaborative and exciting atmosphere. And even though it was a small indie film, it felt like the possibilities were endless, because there’s no one saying ‘no’. On the flipside it’s also a huge responsibility, and having no one else to answer to means we shoulder the responsibility.
And there’s a huge different side to producing, when you’re using other people’s money – I feel obligated that we don’t lose money. Whether we make money or not I think is less important, I just never want to lose money they’ve invested in a film. But films aren’t a solid investment; anyone who has invested money in a film knows that. It’s kind of like gambling – you do it because you love it.
– Reviews have been coming in rather mixed, with IMDB so far rating it 5.2, and Rotten Tomatoes giving it 24%. How does that make you feel?
– Ooh, I haven’t heard the numbers yet… I think we weren’t expecting this movie to be a wide commercial success, like I said earlier, it’s such a bizarre, strange indie film, and it was never designed to please the masses. So I’m not necessarily surprised and I’m not necessarily hurt by that because a lot of movies I really adore I see with terrible Rotten Tomatoes scores, and a lot of movies I really didn’t enjoy I see get 90-something percent. That’s art, it’s subjective, everyone has a different opinion, and I think we need to take it with a grain of salt. At the same time, it’s important to know how people feel about the product you’re making, and there are always lessons to be learnt. For me this movie is strange and weird, and something that wasn’t designed to be so commercially appeasing, I’m not as upset about it.
– In the movie, you speak with a British accent, cockney – is that right? How hard was that to pull off?
– I was living in London at the time, I love the cockney accent. My producing partners are English, the director is English, quite a few crew members were English, but most were Hungarian, so I kind of had accents all around me. I love having an accent for every role because it helps me disappear into a role, and the cockney one is a really fun one. Because mixed with Vaughn’s dialogue which is that classic British banter with Simon Pegg I got to enjoy for like 10 pages straight at a time – it just flows better in that accent, it’s fun, it was really a joy to deliver those lines in that accent.
– What would be the hardest accents for you to attempt?
– For me, that would be Irish and South African. I haven’t done those accents before. I know that if I worked at it, I could do it, it would just take a lot of work, which I need to do for any accent anyway. Accents don’t actually come naturally to me, I just spend a lot of time working on them.