IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Margot Robbie Talks 'The Wolf of Wall Street'

Wednesday, 08 January 2014 20:29 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Margot Robbie Talks 'The Wolf of Wall Street'

A star is born!

When you think of “star making” performances in movies, you think of Eddie Murphy in 48 Hours, Tom Cruise in Risky Business, Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, Hugh Jackman in X-Men, Christian Bale in American Psycho, and more recently Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids, and Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone. Well, you can now add Margot Robbie in The Wolf of Wall Street to that illustrious list. 

Robbie, who up to this point was best known for her role on the short-lived TV series Pan Am and in the recent film About Time, gives a stunning Oscar-worthy performance opposite Academy Award-nominee Leonardo DiCaprio in legendary director Martin Scorsese’s latest film The Wolf of Wall Street. The movie tells the true story of the rise and fall of Wall Street stockbroker Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio). During the late ‘80s and early ‘90s Belfort makes a name for himself selling penny stocks and creating the firm Stratton Oakmont with his associate Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill). Living a lavish lifestyle of parties, sex, and drugs, Belfort becomes addicted to cocaine and Quaaludes, and illegally accumulates a fortune while being investigated by the FBI. Robbie plays Belfort’s second wife, the drop dead gorgeous Naomi Lapaglia who quickly becomes another one of Jordan’s obsessions. 

I recently had a chance to sit down with Margot Robbie to talk about her “star making” performance in The Wolf of Wall Street. The Australian actress discussed her new movie, her “star making” performance, how it’s changed her career, what it’s like working on a Martin Scorsese set, Leonardo DiCaprio’s process as an actor and crafting her character’s specific New York accent.

Here is what Margot Robbie had to say about The Wolf of Wall Street:

IAR: To begin with, did you realize that your character in The Wolf of Wall Street would be a “star making” role when you got the part?

Margot Robbie: It’s really hard to look at it that way. When my team and I first looked at the project they said, “This is a career making role and it will change your career.” I said, yes, absolutely. I can see how a role like this would change my career. But now in hindsight, now that I’ve done it, I see it more as a time in my life as opposed to a career choice just because I was there and there were so many experiences and stories that went with it. It really feels like a chapter in my life now as opposed to a career choice if that makes sense. But from a business stand point I see how it’s a career changer.

Since the movie was released and people have had a chance to see it, are you still auditioning for projects or are you being directly offered roles now?

Robbie: It’s funny because a lot of people have said, “Oh, I bet things are so much easier now that you’ve done a Scorsese film.” But no, things are actually harder than they were before. Before all I could do was impress people because they had no idea who I was. When I walked into a room all people could see was a pretty little blond girl. They could say, “she’s probably an idiot and here we go. She’s probably an ex-model who thought she’d give modeling a go.” Then I could sit there and say, you just wait. I’m going to absolutely blow your minds. Then bam, I could do a scene and they’d say, “Oh, she’s kinda scary.” But now I walk in the room and they say, “Oh that’s the actress who just did a Scorsese film so she must be brilliant.” I’m not that good actually. I’m just okay so I don’t want people to get their hope ups. Don’t put the bar up too high. It’s also harder because the standard of projects that we’re aiming for is the very top now. It’s very hard to continue to move forward after a Scorsese film.

What’s it like working on a Martin Scorsese film? Can you describe the mood and the tone on set?

Robbie: There’s a significant difference about a set that is under control of a director that has complete confidence in his work. It’s really nice to know that no matter what you’re going to do, at the end of the day you’re going to get a good product. No one is second-guessing his decisions. Everyone is second-guesses themselves to a certain extent, but you kind of know you’re protected. You know that even if you do a take that wasn’t that good you kind of have this knowledge in the back of your mind that the end product is still going to be good. So it’s really nice to know that and having that inherent confidence in the finished product gives you an inherent confidence of what you do day by day. The hierarchy totally trickles down and everyone then has this confidence and conviction in what they’re doing. Also, when he says, “I want to do a scene like this,” people say, “Okay, fine he has the budget to do the scene like that.” Where as another director might have to fight for it or the studio might be like, “No, we don’t have the budget for that.” He gets a lot of liberties that others might not have. The thing that took my by surprise is that he doesn’t micromanage. My favorite kinds of films are particularly stylized films. I love (Quentin) Tarantino films, Guy Ritchie films, Wes Anderson films, and all those directors that have really significant signature looks about them. They’re my favorite kind of films, but I thought in order to have a signature look about them they would have to be closely monitored and closely crafted by the person in charge … the director. But he doesn’t micromanage at all. Every department is left to their own devices and everyone does their job. He really lets everyone do what he or she is best at. He’s so smart.

That’s what I’ve heard from other actors who have worked with Scorsese. That he has everything story boarded, and that he knows exactly what he wants, but then within those parameters the actors have the freedom to do whatever they want to do in the scene. Is that true?

Robbie: Yes. Which is why you hire someone that is good at doing hair because it doesn’t make sense for a director who has never touched a woman’s hair before to come up and start touching a woman’s hair. That’s not your forte. Stick to what you’re good at and just have the overall story in mind. So he will sit back and be like, “What do you think?” Then someone will say, “I like such and such,” or “I prefer such and such.” Then he will kind of mold the shape of it and with that let everyone kind of expand off of that and build it within. It was really great to see that and I wish more people would do it like that. Not that I’ve seen many people not do it like that, but he really does it like that. It’s fascinating to see someone can still have such a specific style without micromanaging and I guess that comes into play in the editing suite. Him and (editor) Thelma (Schoonmaker) have worked together since they were in college and I can’t even image how many hours they’ve spent in the editing suite. He really does keep the camera rolling for such a long time that there must be so many options in the editing suite. Then when you see certain takes, sometimes it’s quick cuts and it’s kind of like this frantic pace, this diciato sort of pace of scenes. But then there will be a scene where it’s played out in real time like the Quaaludes sequence where Leo is at the top of the stairs and then goes right into the car. There was no cut in between there and that was comic gold when most people would have definitely cut because it’s like three minutes. That’s like it’s own film right there, but he doesn’t cut. It’s a ballsy choice, but it’s one of the most talked about scenes in the film.

What was it like working with Leonardo DiCaprio, especially knowing that he has such a special working relationship with Scorsese?

Robbie: I’ve said this before, but I kind of felt like the third wheel working with them because they have such a close working relationship that they almost communicate telepathically by this stage. It’s incredibly intimidating to try to keep up with them because they are both so good at what they do. They can communicate with each other in such a way that you’re almost trying to keep up. I really enjoyed watching them work and I really enjoyed working with them as well.

As a fellow actor, what is your take on DiCaprio’s unique acting process?

Robbie: My take it was that he does whatever it takes to do the best performance he can do and he doesn’t care if it looks stupid. He doesn’t care if it means pacing around or muttering to under his breath. I get self-conscious and maybe it’s because I’m younger and I haven’t been doing it long enough, or maybe I don’t have the conviction in myself. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s just him, but he doesn’t seem to give a shit if someone thinks he looks stupid if it means he’s going to get the best performance possible. I think that’s a really good thing to take away … that you should just do whatever it takes to get the performance that you need to get. If you need to ask for another minute, ask for another minute. If you need to walk in circles, walk in circles. Having said that, he is so professional and lovely to work with on the set. He would never make it uncomfortable for anyone. It was fantastic to watch him work. He was professional, he was courteous and everyone loves working with him. But at the same time he will do whatever it takes to get the best performance possible. He’s in the moment, he’s in the scene, and he’s fascinating!

Finally, as an Australian actress, can you talk about crafting your character’s specific New York accent?

Robbie: Yeah, I listened to audio recordings that my dialect coach provided me with of women from the Bay Ridge area where my character is from. I would repeat them on my iPod on set and on my stereo at home. I would just mimic them constantly. After a while that became second nature. I have also done so much technical training on my own to get a standard American accent that it was easy to adapt that to a different dialect.  

The Wolf of Wall Street is currently playing in theaters now!

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