Margot Robbie gets utterly unhinged with the comic world’s baddest supervillain
After her star-making role in The Wolf of Wall Street in 2013, Margot Robbie was convinced she’d never work again. Then best known for stints on the Australian soap opera Neighbours and the short-lived ABC drama Pan-Am, she’d been handpicked by Martin Scorsese to star opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. She feared the bar had been set too high. “I was worried people would expect too much of me. Like, ‘If Scorsese cast her in a film, she must be brilliant!’” she says. “Instead of having the chance to surprise people, I’d disappoint them.”
Robbie’s fears never came to fruition—quite the opposite. Following Scorsese’s consecration, the Australian actor, 25, scored roles in films including Focus and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. But this summer marks her official coming-out as one of Hollywood’s bankable leading ladies, as she steps into two major roles: first as a refreshingly revised Jane in The Legend of Tarzan and then, in her buzziest part to date, as the bonkers baddie Harley Quinn in DC Comics’ supervillain convention Suicide Squad.
Harley Quinn first appeared as a peripheral character in the animated Batman TV series in 1992 and proved so popular that she was quickly incorporated into the comics. An accomplice to the Joker, her alter ego is a psychiatrist named Harleen Quinzel, but as Harley, she’s a candy-coated madwoman. “Is she so intelligent that she’s pretending to have these behavioral issues to mess with people,” Robbie asks, “or is she genuinely crazy and trying to convince herself she’s sane? I think she is a bit of both.” For Robbie, that inscrutability made playing Harley the most fun she’s ever had on set.
As the first live-action depiction of an esteemed evildoer, the role carried with it a healthy dose of pressure. So Robbie mined the depths of fan sites to ensure diehards “would feel the same way seeing her onscreen as they do reading her in comics.” It didn’t hurt that the role allowed her to reprise the Brooklyn accent she’d mastered for Wolf.
Suicide Squad might have been her only blockbuster this summer; Robbie was all set to turn down the role of Jane, who in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan novels is the archetypal damsel in distress. “I hadn’t read it yet and already said no,” says Robbie. But after many discussions with director David Yates, who helmed the last four Harry Potter films, she became convinced this was a different Jane, a scrappy and resourceful heroine who does her share of rescuing, even as Alexander Skarsgard’s herculean Tarzan extricates her from danger.
A 19th century jungle dweller and a psychotic pigtailed psychiatrist may seem a world apart, but both meet Robbie’s chief criteria. “All the roles I’ve played are very strong and very flawed. I look for a really strong point of view. They know who they are or they know what they want—not necessarily both.”
Robbie, too, knows what she wants. Rumor has it she’s producing and starring in a Harley Quinn spin-off. Her lips are sealed, she says. “But let’s just say I’m not ready to stop playing Harley Quinn just yet.” That, or the accent’s too delicious to give up.