It’s New York. Margot Robbie, star of The Wolf of Wall Street, the newest star in the Hollywood galaxy, is being chauffeured around in a black SUV, buffered by bodyguards, taking her form one important engagement to the next.
It’s a life fit for a Hollywood princess, and the 23 year old actor has taken to the role like a natural, turning heads wherever she goes. Two days later, she’s standing by the side of the road on the Gold Coast highway and walking to her friends house in the sweltering heat because her little brother wouldn’t let her borrow the car, or drop her off on his way to work. Margot laughs at the memory. “He literally dropped me on the side of the Gold Coast Highway. I had to walk to my friends house in a pair of his thongs, so they were three times too big and I was thinking just a couple of days ago, I was in New York being escorted around by security with a private driver, and now I can’t even borrow my old Excel, this is so funny.
It’s a scenario that tickles her funny bone and one of the reasons the world has fallen in love with the down-to-earth star.
In Hollywood, she is swiftly becoming a big name. Already she has three major films to her credit, British rom-com About Time, the upcoming Focus with Will Smith and Martin Scorsese’s, The Wolf of Wall Street opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. She has impressed audiences with her grace and style on the red carpet, and has become on of the most talked about names of the award season, presenting at the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards with effortless charm. It’s as if she was born to it. No wonder people are comparing her with the likes of Grace Kelly. But at home at her mums house on the Gold Coast, she still gets asked to take the rubbish out.
“It’s a huge contrast. It’s really nice to come home and it really does keep my feet on the ground”
Home of course means everything to Robbie. The places she holds dear are the Currumbin valley on the Gold Coast where she and her sister and two brothers grew up, and Dalby, the small community three hours west, where she spent many happy days on the family farm with her Grandparents. She even put Dalby on the world Map talking about it on popular US talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live. “It’s hard for me to talk about home and not bring up Dalby. I’ve got a lot of love for that place,” she says.
She was home for Christmas and his week returned to Queensland again, to attend the Brisbane premier of The Wolf of Wall Street. The first thing she did when she got home was jump in the pool. She took her mum, who works as a physiotherapist for special needs children, and best friend and cousin, model Julia Koenig, to the red carpet event. She also held a private screening for her family and friends on the Gold coast, and Robbie has plenty of those. The Somerset college, Mudgeeraba, student has had the same group of friends since childhood.
“There’s 16 of us – were all so tight-knit. They are still my best friends today,” she says warmly. “We’ve known each other since preschool and we’re still the best of friends, so thats an incredibly special thing. Everyone always says we’ve never met a group like you. It’s crazy.
“I loved school. I love being on the Gold Coast. Even through I lived way out in the mountains, out in the sticks, I could still be out there surfing in 20 minutes. It’s such a cool landscape and so easy to get everywhere.”
In the Currumbin valley, the family also had two of their own cows, Angie and Murray, who were supposed to keep the grass down, but seemed to enjoy eating everywhere else but at home.
Robbie’s next destination is New Zealand, to shoot the post-apocalyptic Z for Zachariah. “It’s really funny because my character has a cow that runs away. I thought that’s pretty much a coincidence, so iI’m going to ask the director if we can change the cow’s name to Angie.”
At school she participated in everything from rowing to softball to dance but it’s hokey, both field and ice she developed a particular love for She is a huge New York Rangers fan, which has surprised and delighted may of her stateside followers. Drama was something she developed an early love for too. As a kid, she was font to play-acting. She used to recite lines of film endlessly to her bemused and impressed mum.
“We had three channels that worked and one TV between five of us, so getting a chance at picking what you wanted to watch was impossible, so I never really watched TV, but I watched the videos tat we had and I watched them on repeat and then re-enacted them. And my mum used to stand there in the kitchen and say “how are you remembering all that? You’ve done that for 20 minutes now, how do you know all the lines of it?”
Her younger brother Cameron has followed in her footsteps and is currently working on Angelina Jolie’s film, Unbroken. “He’s a core extra now, he’s doing some stand-in work. No one in my family had ever done anything acting wise or entertainment industry-wise, so the family blames me. But it’s great, he’s loving it”
Robbie’s first opportunity to act came in high school, when she starred in indie thriller flicks I.C.U and Vigilante, directed by Gold Coast actor Aasha Aaron. With a few more roles under he belt she flew to Melbourne for a guest spot on the TV show The Elephant Princess. It was there that determined young actor got herself in front of long-time Neighbours casting agent Jan Russ, who cast her to play the part of Donna Freedman. For the next three years, Neighbours was her family and her home.
Robbie’s co-star Jackie Woodbyrne, who plays Susan Kennedy, remembers her fondly. “She was clearly talented and such a joy to be around. With Margot, it wasn’t a matter of if she would become successful, but when,” Woodburne says.
“When she left Neighours she stayed up all night at made hand painted mugs for each and every one of the cast and crew. That’s just the kind of person she is.”
The move to Melbourne was daunting at first. Robbie was only 17 and didn’t know anyone. But she soon bonded with her co-stars, sharing a house with fellow Queenslander and good pal Ashleigh Brewer. It was fantastic training ground for the budding star.
But she did not stop there. Five days after she quit Neighbours in 2011, Robbie was on a plane to Los Angeles.
“That move wasn’t scary for some reason,” she says, “I think that was because I was financially set up by then. If anything went wrong I could always pay for a cab to the airport and take the ticket home.”
Her first break came with the role on TV series Pan Am, about a group of 1960s flight attendants, co-starring Christina Ricci. The show was eventually caned, but it got her noticed. She caught the eye of Richard Curtis, the man behind Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually. He cast her in time-travelling romantic comedy About Time, starring Rachel McAdams. Curtis could see her charms, even on a small screen with bad lighting. Her first audition for him was via Skype.
“She was so delightful, so natural and pretty, so even though with Skype she still shone,” he says. “We cast her believing she is going to be a big star one day. She is extraordinary and reminds me of Grace Kelly. She has wonderful personality.”
Curtis’s predictions are coming true. Robbie’s star continues to rise. She recently wrapped filming Focus, a romantic comedy crime caper with Will Smith. But it’s The Wolf of Wall Street that has shot her into the stratosphere. The Martin Scorsese film, a roller-coaster ride of dirty deals and debauchery has had everyone in Hollywood talking – and everyone is asking about the striking blue-eyes blonde playing Leonardo DiCaprio’s love interest in the film.
Robbie plays Belfort’s sexy and sophisticated second wife Naomi Lapaglia, the ‘Duchess of Bay Ridge”, and the actor has been impressing everyone with her flawless Brooklyn accent. She remembers her first day on set. She was “nervous, excited and intimidated.”
“My first day on set was the first time you see my character, so it‘s up at the pool party at the Hamptons house. It’s when Jonah and I have an ‘interesting’ interaction. It was terribly intimidating but also hilarious.
“The guys were improvising those lines for 10 minutes and I was just trying to hold a straight face.”
Working opposite a talented like DiCaprio is, of course, a dream and Robbie and the 39-year old Hollywood veteran quickly became good friends.
“He’s such a cool guy, so normal, so down to earth. You kind of forget very quickly that he’s this high profile actor.
“He’s actually very funny. Everyone was like ‘wow, he’s doing this comedic role, who would have thought he could pull it off?’, and when you get to know him, you’re like no, that’s him. He’s so animated when he tells stories, he’s so emphatic and his physical comedy is genius.”
DiCaprio showed off his funny side on and off the set. The pair would share a laugh between takes and it was DiCaprio who first introduced Robbie to the K-pop song Gangnam Style by Psy. “We became obsessed with it,” she says. “In between takes we’d always pull out our phones and on youTube watch Gangnam Style and then it became a massive hit a few weeks later and everyone was watching it, and we were like, no way, that’s our personal joke.”
But DiCaprio can do one better than most, and ended up introducing Robbie to Psy at a party. She has met a lot of famous names in her short time in Hollywood, but the K-pop king turned her into a “giggling mess”.
“Psy was up there with the most exciting I’ve ever met,” she says.
DiCaprio, of course, has only had good things to say about his co-star.”First off, Margot was amazing,” he said in a recent interview. “After people saw the movie they thought she was an Italian girl from New York. They couldn’t believe she was Australian. There was this immediate chemistry with us on-screen. She just did an unbelievable job.”
And their chemistry on set is palpable. Another thing that has jaws dropping and heads turning in the Wolf of Wall Street is the nude scenes. Robbie admits she initially didn’t tell her family she would be bearing all. On talk show Jimmy Kimmel liveLive she joked that she had told them the scenes would be done using a body double and CGI. But the truth couldn’t be hidden for long. “They’re aware,” says Robbie with a smile. “They took it pretty well. The only somewhat awkward interaction I had was with my older brother Lachlan. We finished the movie and all my friends were hugging me and… Then Lachlan and I kind of had this awkward hug, kind of like patting me on the back and going, ‘yep, errrr….’ and I said, ‘it’s OK, we don’t have to speak for a couple of weeks’. And he’s like, ‘cool’. And that was it,” she laughs.
But her family and friends couldn’t be prouder. And being able to celebrate with them on her home turf has meant a lot. She also got to share her experiences overseas with her family. She took her mum to the New York premiere of The Wolf of Wall Street and to the set of Focus in Argentina.
“We’d be shooting a scene and it would be dinner time and she’d be like, OK, are we going home after this? And I was like, Mum, it’s only none o’clock at hight. We’ll be here till six in the morning. You go home and sleep.”
Mum and daughter also got to go to the set of Good Morning America and to a game of the New York rangers. Other than acting and ice hockey, her obsessions, she admits, is zombies. She is currently reading the Zombie Survival Guide, which her sister Anya got her for Christmas. And, she says, when she was filming focus with Will Smith, she sat him down and grilled the I Am Legend star on everything he knew.
“I said, ‘Will, tell me everything’. He said, ‘Margot, you do know it’s made up?’,” She laughs.
It’s an opportunity few of us get.
But Robbie is taking none of it for granted. She may seem a natural- walking up the red carpet, posing effortlessly or the cameras in designs by Gucci or Elie Saab, and talking to the podium at awards events (even ad-libbing at the Golden Globes when the teleprompter malfunctioned), she my seem cool and calm on the outside – but inside beats the heart of a Gold Coast girl who is thanking her lucky stars every day.
“I get so excited, “ she grins. “At the Globes I was practically bouncing up and down. I was jumping with excitement. And when I do Jimmy Kilmmel or Jimmy Fallon or any of those shows I’m like a giggling mess I can barely contain myself. “I don’t know when the novelty’s going to wear off, I hope it never does.”
Words by Sally Browne Originally published in Gold Coast magazine, U on Sunday. Sunday, January 26, 2014.
Revisions by The Margot Robbie Team