Margot Robbie had just two small television show arcs under her belt before she was slapping Leonardo DiCaprio across the face during an audition for The Wolf of Wall Street, securing her brash and kittenish breakout role as the Duchess of Bay Ridge. It would have been easy, even logical, for the 25-year-old Gold Coast native to keep going along the bombshell-in-short-skirts path. But Robbie opted out. “I was very aware that once Wolf came out, people were going to have a very specific idea of me,” Robbie told us by phone. “I kind of wanted to show them that I was capable of doing something else and that I was keen to do something else.”
Which brings us to her latest project, Z for Zachariah. Adapted from a dystopian novel of the same name, the film tells the story of Ann Burden, a preacher’s daughter who was the sole survivor of a nuclear attack—until a man in a makeshift space suit (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) enters her solitary, pastoral world. The film is one part Swiss Family Robinson, one part apocalyptic love triangle (later, Chris Pine appears, and you can guess what happens then). Despite its sci-fi bent, the film is overwhelmingly naturalistic, a strange and captivating examination of, as Robbie explains, “the common courtesies that plague us in everyday life.” We caught Robbie on a break from shooting the hyped-up superhero film Suicide Squad to chat about her big departure role and her slow-but-sure adjustment to celebrity.
The casting process had a lot of ups and downs, and it was drawn out for more than a year. What kept your interest?
I was just really keen to do something a little more character-driven and something different to what I had been doing already, and it kind of ticked all the boxes in that regard. It was just written in a very interesting way, and Craig Zobel has a very interesting way—almost seems like he kind of can manipulate his character onscreen, that’s how I felt at least about Compliance—so I was kind of intrigued to work with him and see how he would develop it. And it was so different than anything I had been doing; I wanted to prove myself in a different way than people were about to see in Wolf of Wall Street.
Both in Wolf and Z, you take on accents—one Brooklyn, one Southern—that are very different than your native Australian. What was the inspiration here?
Actually, Ann Burden’s accent in Z for Zachariah was by far the most difficult I had done—mainly because I had such little time to prepare for it. I found out I got the role five days before we started shooting, and it’s a very specific accent. It’s not an accent that you hear often. There was no TV character I could associate with having an Appalachian accent. We decided that she was from Southwest Virginia, so that’s an incredibly specific place, and that’s an incredibly unique sound. I just usually go on YouTube and find someone who’s from that area who posts video of themselves, and they just talk for ten minutes about rubbish. But with Z for Zachariah, there was a particular girl from Southwest Virginia on YouTube that I would listen to all day.
Wow. Does she know?
No, she’s got no idea! I’ve listened to like everything she’s ever put on YouTube, and I know it all by heart.
Was there much improvising on set?
Yeah, there was actually quite a lot of improv. I mean, not as much as Wolf of Wall Street, for example, which was like all improv. We had a lot of freedom and Craig’s always keen to try new things. He’s got a really interesting way of directing. He would whisper in Chiwetel’s ear and tell him to do something in a certain way, and then he would whisper in my ear the complete opposite sort of vibe. And then we would come at the scene in totally different ways and both be caught off guard by the other person’s reaction. And it was perfect because [our characters] were never really in-step. They were almost on the same page, but just on totally different wavelengths.
Last year you said that your sudden rise to fame after Wolf took you by surprise. Are you more adjusted to this world now?
I don’t know if everyone else adjusts to it, or if there are just no other options and you just get on with it. I haven’t really wrapped my head around it. I guess I’m slowly getting more adapted, and slowly learning the tricks, like how to handle paparazzi. A lot of things change and every time you do another movie, it changes all over again. Suicide Squad is going to take things to another level again. I don’t know, it’s weird—when you take these jobs, and when you’re filming them, you don’t really consider the repercussions. And then a year later or more, when the film comes out and the wave hits, you’re kind of taken by surprise. So I’m slowly getting my head around it.
The post Margot Robbie on Z for Zachariah, Suicide Squad, and Adjusting to Celebrity appeared first on Vogue.
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