What does it take for Hollywood to make an actress into a star? A guaranteed route includes being able to transfix Martin Scorsese with one look in his direction. For Margot Robbie, a singular glance with her steely blue-greys won the Australian actress a role opposite Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated actor, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street. In the film she plays the Brooklyn-accented, buxom blonde, Naomi Lapaglia. Naomi was the kind of girl who maintained a superb suntan year-round, preferred her hair blown-out and pressed up against a pillow— and knew precisely how to get everything she wanted.
The woman behind Naomi, the actress who brought her to life and enraptured us all, did not at first love the character. The relationship between the two would be a study in growing admiration, respect, and the seductive power of acrylic nails.
Margot Robbie is perched on a velvety couch in the hotel suite at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles. She has her bare legs curled underneath her and one hand wrapped around her slender ankles. Gone are Naomi's overly styled hair, the clickity-clacky acrylic nails, and Bay Ridge accent. Her nails are clean and bare; her cheeks and lips flecked with the slightest rosy hue. Robbie is instead comfortably enveloped in a white, terry cloth bathrobe. Upon first glance, like most actresses and the characters they play, it seems as if Robbie and Naomi could never be one and the same. Though in this case, the actress shares some things in common: her bewitching blue-greys and impassioned spirit. As her fingers nervously twisted the rose gold charm around her neck, Robbie sat down with VIOLET GREY to discuss her dedication for transforming into a character so far removed from herself.
VIOLET GREY: YOU WON JORDAN BELFORT OVER WITH SHORT SKIRTS IN WOLF. HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO BRING THE SAME SEX APPEAL WEARING A BUTTONED-UP SUIT FOR THE VIOLET GREY COVER SHOOT?
MARGOT ROBBIE: For this photo shoot I was trying to channel power and the idea that I ran an empire from the back of my limo. I felt like I owned that hotel, I owned that building, and I owned everything on that block. Maybe when I'm 30 that's all I'll wear: Suits and a cane.
V.G.: IS THAT WHEN YOU FEEL MOST COMFORTABLE ON A SHOOT? WHEN YOU BECOME A CHARACTER?
M.R.: There's nothing I dislike more than being in a photo shoot where they say, "Be yourself." That's not why I became an actress. That's what I find so funny, that you become an actor and all of a sudden everyone wants to know about you. But I didn't become an actor so I could show you me. I became an actor so I can show you characters and never have to show you me.
V.G.: I HEARD YOU DID NOT LOVE YOUR CHARACTER IN WOLF AT THE BEGINNING?
M.R.: Naomi came from Bay Ridge; she had nothing. And she wasn't going to have power in the form of material possessions and money at that stage in her life. Yet she was acutely aware of the effect she had on men, especially on Jordan [played by Leonardo Dicaprio]. A lot of people can look at her and say she's a gold digger and when I initially read the script, I didn't like her. I took a very one-sided look. And the more I worked on it, I realized she was a badass. She recognized that her sexuality was her currency and she was willing to utilize that—unapologetically. And I’m not saying it’s the life that everyone wants but it’s the life she wanted.
V.G.: AND YOU NAILED THAT CHARACTER. I’M SURE HAIR AND MAKEUP PLAYED AN IMPORTANT ROLE?
M.R.: The first thing I said was that my character needs acrylic nails all the time because that changes everything. Well I couldn't do anything the way I wanted to: I couldn't wipe tears the way I would, I couldn't brush my hair the way I would. It was a massive pain in the ass to have them on for six months. I really hated them so, so much but it seriously created the character. I was getting them done once a week. On Sunday night, I'd get my nails and my spray tan, after I finished watching football.
V.G.: WELL, YOU WERE VERY BELIEVABLE AS AN IMPASSIONED WOMAN.
M.R.: It helps to have a dysfunctional relationship [in the film]. [Jordan Belfort] was very energetic and they were often effectively fighting about nothing. But that's everything: fighting over dominance because my character had nothing over Jordan except for his obsession in her. So if she loses that, she's screwed.
V.G.: IS IT TRUE THEN, THAT YOU SLAPPED LEO BY ACCIDENT IN A SCENE?
M.R: In the audition scene, I hit him in the face. It was a bit silly and it could have backfired. It could've gotten me in a lot of trouble but it got me the role so… I don't encourage people to hit people to get roles but in this instance it worked. Acting 101: don't slap your co-star.
V.G.: DO YOU HAVE AN ACTRESS THAT YOU ADMIRE?
M.R.: Grace Kelly has always been my absolute idol. When she's on camera I just can't tear my eyes away; same with Marilyn Monroe. You can't take your eyes off them. They have so much poise and they're so composed and graceful and elegant and chic. But then they can do this physical comedy and in a split second, they can have you in hysterics.
V.G.: WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES A PERSON BEAUTIFUL?
M.R: I guess it's a cliché answer but the most beautiful people I know are kind on the inside. Some people just step into a room and they glow somehow. I don't know how you get that light but maybe that's what beauty is, that light.
CASTING MARGOT: ACCORDING TO LEONARDO DICAPRIO
"Margot has the ability to immediately fight back. We knew the character was going to have a lot of argumentative scenes due to the friction between our two characters, due to my [character's] drug use and infidelity. She instinctively fought back in the audition."
"Margot has an incredible work ethic. Coming from Australia, she immersed herself in a role—an Italian girl from NYC—we didn't even think about where she was from."
"She was fearless and bold, which immediately impressed Marty."