Tuesday, February 20, 2018
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Margot Robbie talks about the work behind the fairy tale

There's more to Margot Robbie than meets the eye, which is already plenty enough.

Easily among Hollywood's most beautiful women, Robbie is also one of its spunkiest, a hockey-playing surfer from Australia who will hunt wild hogs now and then. Someone more likely to attend a New York Rangers game than a runway show. One of the guys, who doesn't at all look like one.

In short, Margot Robbie is a keeper.

Robbie, 25, laughed off the compliment. Above all else, she is not a woman to be kept. "I've got a really bizarre set of hobbies, I suppose," she said by telephone from New York.

A zooming career cuts into Robbie's pastimes. Since her full frontal introduction to moviegoers in The Wolf of Wall Street, Robbie's celebrity is such that she played herself explaining economics, in a bubble bath, in the Oscar-winning satire The Big Short.

2016 brings Robbie's widest platform yet, in a trio of high-profile releases that begins Friday with Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, an Afghanistan war correspondent comedy co-starring Tina Fey.

This summer Robbie plays Jane to Alexander Skarsgard's Tarzan, and psychotic Harley Quinn in the DC Comics supervillian yarn Suicide Squad. Success appears so easy for her, which isn't the case at all.

"There's a bit of effort put in to make this whole thing look like a happy accident," Robbie said, modest yet proud.

"It's like, oh, I just happen to be at the Oscars doing this or that. Or, I just happen to get a chance to work with this brilliant actor. People on the outside want to think that's how it happened. It seems kind of like a fairy tale that way.

"The truth is, it isn't like that at all. It's very strategic, very calculated, a lot of careful planning and a really, really good team surrounding me. ... It's nice to let people see it as a happy accident."

It was no accident that Robbie sat front row at Calvin Klein's runway show during New York Fashion Week, a day before our interview. She's "not too heavily immersed" in modeling but "kind of researching" the culture for a project she'll produce. Another celebrity perk that Robbie lends a professional purpose.

At the same time, Robbie is surprisingly not yet the face of some cosmetics or fashion empire. Not that companies haven't tried. It's just another example of the actor's discerning strategies.

"No, we've been very careful about selecting which direction we'll go," Robbie said. "I've just been waiting for the right brand, that I genuinely like. There have been some opportunities but I'm holding out for the right one."

Robbie even used her time on Whiskey Tango Foxtrot to quiz Fey about balancing production duties for a movie while acting in it. Robbie recently announced her debut as an actor-producer in Terminal, a noir thriller.

"Tina gave me a funny analogy, saying it was a lot like planning your wedding day," Robbie said. "If you do all of the preparation in advance, you can enjoy the day.

"There will be hiccups in the ride but you deal with it. Tina made it seem very manageable and effortless. That's obviously a tribute to her being prepared."

One thing Robbie can't fully plan for until it happens is Suicide Squad, which hits theaters Aug. 5. Raucous fans at Comic-Con, where the first trailer dropped, were just the beginning. Robbie's grinning, sinning Harley Quinn, girlfriend of Jared Leto's Joker, is a pop culture pipe bomb waiting to explode.

"I'm obviously going to be a little overwhelmed," Robbie said. "I'm just hoping I do the character justice because ... I don't want to disappoint anyone.

"It's a little intimidating, and awaiting that reaction is kind of daunting at this stage. ... It has already been a crazy ride. I think it's just going to get crazier.

"It's so awesome that (writer-director) David (Ayer) wrote the chick character to be the coolest one. Maybe I'm biased, but I think mine is the best. A girl got to be the best character for once."

Robbie's starring roles aside, her cameo in The Big Short may have been the most noted scene in reviews of any 2015 film. "I don't think anyone saw it coming. I didn't," she said.

"When I read the script I wondered, why am I getting this sent to me? There's no female role in here. Then I got to Page 13 and suddenly Ryan Gosling's character is saying: 'Now, we're going to go to Margot Robbie ...' and I'm, like, what? Why did he say my name? You never see your name in a script, just your character."

Just another sign of stardom, pulling Robbie farther from the surf and rink as projects pile up.

"I haven't played hockey in ages," Robbie said. "Went ice skating over Christmas, which was fun. I couldn't put on my pads and take a stick on the ice at (London's) Somerset House because I would've injured people, I suppose.

"As soon as I can I'd like to get back into it. I'm still carting around a giant hockey bag full of my equipment. Takes up so much space."

She's a keeper.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

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