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Interview: Margot Robbie

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After making a name for herself opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, BAFTA-nominated Australian actress Margot Robbie is about to hit our screens once more – and she’s hardly dialling down with the prestige of her leading men.

In new heist rom-com Focus, Margot stars alongside Will Smith. Clearly, big things are happening fast for the former Neighbours actress – although she isn’t taking anything for granted: “I was pinching myself when I was on Neighbours and yeah I’m definitely still pinching myself now,” she says. “Each is equally as exciting at the time.”

Rather than letting nerves get the better of her at the beginning of her career, though, leaving her native Australia for Hollywood with hopes of making it big on the silver screen seemed a natural progression for Margot. She says: “It didn’t feel like a gamble at the time, it kind of felt like the only way to keep moving forwards. I did a lot of pre-planning and saved all my money preparing for three years of unemployment which didn’t turn out to be, so I was lucky.” Her success has soared so far due to her brilliant on-screen presence, but she confesses she still doesn’t “know why it’s all happening.”

In Focus Margot plays Jess, is an amateur, eventually professional, con-artist and pick-pocket, who is also the love-interest of Will Smith’s character, Nicky. Focus is written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, whom Margot appreciates write great female characters, one of which she was privileged to play: “They [the directors] said that the heart of it was a love story, so there was a lot to do for Jess in that sense because halfway through she’s a woman scorned and kind of transforms after that, they develop it really well.”

She also appreciated playing a character whose personality was developed and adapted throughout the film: “It was really nice to have a character that has one starting point and is a totally different person by the end of the film. It’s kind of nice to play with that, so I was lucky.”

Will and Margot work exceptionally well together on-screen, with electrifying chemistry between them – something that was apparently unexpected.

“It was something neither of us were really expecting,” Margot says, “but for some reason when we walked into the room we just really got along and that continued throughout the shoot and it made every scene exciting and fun.

“It’s not really something you can manufacture so it wasn’t forced or planned, it just existed already, which was handy.”

Despite this chemistry, Nicky and Jess (Will and Margots’ characters) have a bumpy ride in terms of their relationship in the film (*spoiler alert*).

“I think it took her [Jess] a little while to forgive him, and she kind of punished him for a while,” Margot says. “I think eventually she just realised that that sort of game didn’t matter, and that if he was willing to give it his all, then she would too.”

For their roles in Focus, both Margot and Will had to learn pick-pocketing and sleight-of-hand skills (you can read more about this in my interview with “theatrical thieves” Ava Do and Apollo Robbins here.) Margot says: “It’s a lot harder than it looks, the more you look into the psychological side of it the more the physical side makes sense. To begin with, you can’t believe that you could steal something in plain sight, you’re just like ‘they will catch me, there’s no way I’m going to try that’. Apollo, when he explains distraction and things like that, makes the physical side of stealing a lot easier.”

Having also starred as the female lead in The Wolf of Wall Street opposite Hollywood legend Leonardo DiCaprio, we asked her a question she is now very familiar with having to dodge answering: “Leo or Will?” - to which she laughed. “I can’t win with this,” she says.”Either way I’m going to get in trouble.”

She adds: “They actually have a few things in common; they have extremely huge profiles, but despite that, when they walk onto set they’re both extremely professional, they are so courteous to everyone on set and it just goes to show that if someone in their position can behave that way and be so decent then no one can be a dick on set, there’s no need for it, so it was good.”

Margot believes that con and heist films, and their lead ‘con-man’ protagonists are popular with audiences because “there is something a little dangerous about it, and perhaps it’s our way of living vicariously through someone else.”

Her near-future schedule is jam-packed: she’s involved in several big up-coming projects, including a political comedy produced by Tina Fey: “We’re currently filming that, the writer/directors of Focus are directing the ‘Untitled Tina Fey Project’ as it’s now called, so it’s really nice to be working with them again and a lot of the same crew members.”

She’s also starring as Harley Quinn in DC Comic’s Suicide Squad, in which she’ll be reunited with her Focus co-star. She unfortunately didn’t have much information to disclose about the details of this film or of her and Wills’ character’s connection: “we don’t know what our characters’ relationship is really going to be… I think we’re going to be allies for sure. We’re not being secretive, we actually just don’t know.”

If that isn’t enough to look forward to, she’s also starring opposite Academy Award nominated Chiwetel Ejiofor in sci-fi film Z For Zachariah… and she’s bagged the lead female role, as Jane Porter, in David Yates’ Tarzan.

As well as landing all these massive roles, Margot hinted at the possibility of her one day being a director. After acknowledging the shortage of female directors in the business, she admitted that “it’s definitely something I plan on doing down the track.”

Watch this space...

Focus is released in UK cinemas on 27th February.




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