IN AN AGE where Melissa McCarthy and Co. cop flak for simply busting ghosts while female and lady Avengers are M.I.A. from most of the merchandise, there’s an odd woman out: Margot Robbie.
The Australian actor’s take on comic book psycho Harley Quinn in the DC Extended Universe film Suicide Squad appears to be one of the most anticipated movie happenings of the year.
So, what’s the difference?
“Maybe the hot pants help,” laughs Robbie.
“I don’t know. It surprises me when people really aren’t on board ... I hope most people don’t share that (anti-female) view because I know I’m psyched any time I see a movie coming out where there’s cool female characters. I’m not intentionally thinking, ‘Oh, I must go see that to support women in film’ — I genuinely want to see those movies. Like, I can’t wait for Ghostbusters.
“But ... with comic book stuff there’s always gonna be a lot of anticipation and fortunately for me I got to play a character that already has a big fan following. And I think people appreciate that David (Ayer, Suicide Squad director) has taken a different approach, making it very real and very 2016.”
Suicide Squad gathers a rogues’ gallery from Batman’s orbit and coerces them into a mission for good. Along the way, they’re antagonised by the love of Harley’s insane life, the Joker (played by Jared Leto).
If Ayer was going for ‘2016’ with his streetwise Squad, he hit the nail on the head casting Robbie.
The young woman who rocketed into Hollywood’s upper echelons via The Wolf Of Wall Street in late 2013 could not be any hotter than she is right now.
Wolf rolled intoZ For Zachariah alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor, which rolled into crime caper Focus with Will Smith (Suicide Squad marks a reunion: “I love working with Will! We have such a good time,” Robbie says), into a bubble bath cameo in Oscar-nominated The Big Short, into Whisky Tango Foxtrot with Tina Fey, into Robbie’s other big release this blockbuster season, The Legend Of Tarzan.
Late last month, she wrapped thriller Terminal, the first fruits of a production company she’s formed with her British filmmaker boyfriend, Tom Ackerley.
Now, even before Suicide Squad is released, another Harley Quinn movie is in the works — a project Robbie initiated and will produce.
It will “not necessarily” be a stand alone Harley film. Rather, Robbie tells Hit, she has been “exploring all the other comic book stories and variations” and seems especially taken by Harley’s friendship with other DC females such as Poison Ivy and Catwoman.
“In the comic books there are all those girl power moments with Poison Ivy — she’s always telling Harley to break up with the Joker. I loved reading all that stuff,” she says.
“I’m kind of obsessed with the whole DC universe at the moment, so I’ve been looking into it ...”.
You heard it, folks: supercool A-lister discovers her inner geek.
“I know!” Robbie laughs.
“People are like, ‘Normally this happens 10 years ago …’ I’m 26 and I’ve become a comic book nerd.”
While Wolf Of Wall Street’s Naomi was hardly a wallflower, Harley Quinn is a character who could shock Robbie-watchers in all new ways.
“She shouldbe a little shocking,” says Robbie. “Otherwise we’re not doing our job right.”
Before falling for the nefarious charms of the Joker and thus falling off her rocker, Harleen Quinzel was a psychiatrist assigned to head-shrink the Clown Prince of Crime.
As Harley, she’s an unflappably cheerful maniac who takes great joy in doing bad things.
The weirdest thing about Robbie’s portrayal is that everyone says she took to Harley like a natural.
Fellow Aussie Jai Courtney, who keeps his accent as the Squad’s bogan baddie Captain Boomerang, says Robbie “totally owns it”.
Director Ayer says she wasHarley, to the point he didn’t recognise her out of make-up.
Does anyone really want to be a natural at being a nut case?
“Yes, I’m not actually a psychopathic killer,” Robbie laughs.
The costume helped: short shorts, studded belt, ripped baseball T, fishnets, sky-high boots and candy-coloured hair.
“Harley’s outfit is completely nuts, it reflects her personality: it’s fun, it’s bright, it’s messy, it’s torn, it’s broken down.”
But what came most naturally was the physical stuff — Harley’s gymnastic, baseball bat-swinging style.
Robbie has an inkling action might run in the family: one of her brothers just got certified as a stuntman in Australia.
“I didn’t know I would love doing stunts as much as I did. A lot of friends back home in Oz are stunties, so I used to hear about it all the time but I hadn’t had a chance to do it.
“We were more physically involved than actors normally would be. David fought to have us do everything we possibly could and he wanted us physically prepared for that. And it made such a difference — you took ownership over your role.”
Harley’s Achilles heel is her love for her puddin’, the Joker.
Comic book arcs have seen the Joker treating Harley as a domestic abuser might — manipulating her to do his dirty work then trying to kill her, for example.
Though the M-rated Suicide Squad won’t follow the very darkest storylines, the movie relationship remains “very dysfunctional” according to Robbie.
She likens Harley’s irrational devotion to watching a friend “always going back to a s---ty boyfriend”.
Cara Delevingne, who plays Enchantress, reckons we don’t see many relationships like Harley/Joker played out.
“To see that come alive on screen,” says the model and actor, “it’s like, holy s--t. There’s something transcendent about it.”
Finding that transcendence was a new experience for Robbie — she had never worked with anyone who went method the way Leto did, deep diving into the Joker’s darkness and rarely breaking character. (He famously sent Robbie a rat.)
“Don’t get me wrong,” Robbie says, “I loved getting to watch him work. It was like having front row tickets to the most incredible show on Earth and it was happening like a foot away from me. It was remarkable and you’ll see it on screen — you’ll be totally blown away by it.
“But it’s really interesting trying to connect with someone who has a totally different process.”
She can’t see herself ever getting so immersed.
“It would be so exhausting trying to be Harley 24 hours a day for six months straight,” she laughs.
Of course, Leto wasn’t so wrapped up in the Joker that he couldn’t see what was in front of him: “It’s pretty hard not to have chemistry with Margot,” he says.
“She’s a sweetheart and a real talent.”
Leto has called the Joker “the role of a lifetime”. Robbie feels that way about Harley, too ... for now.
“After Wolf Of Wall Street I remember thinking, ‘I don’t know how I could possibly enjoy a filming experience as much as this’. Then the next film, you end up falling in love with that as well. Something else will come along.”
Legend Of Tarzan’s Samuel L. Jackson lives by the rule that making movies should be fun.
In that regard, Robbie is a woman after his own heart.
“Maaahgo,” he says, mimicking the Aussie accent.
“Margot’s the bomb. She’s very accomplished. She knows how to come to work and enjoy herself. And she’s not taking herself all that seriously.”
Later this year, Robbie will start shooting Goodbye Christopher Robin, about the author who created Winnie the Pooh, in the UK.
Back when she was a Queensland teenager cold-calling Neighbours producers looking for a part — even when she was on Neighbours and using her downtime to prepare an assault on Hollywood — Robbie never thought it’d turn out like this.
“God no,” she laughs.
“It’s worked out far better than I ever could have dreamt of. There was definitely a plan in place, but it was more like a 10-year plan ... This all happened a lot quicker than any of us were anticipating. It’s quite mind-boggling.
“I need to draw up the plan all over again.”
SUICIDE SQUAD OPENS TODAY