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The Transformation Of Margot Robbie From Childhood To Barbie

After a decade on the silver screen, Margot Robbie is a bona fide A-lister with roles in acclaimed and celebrated films, having worked with such high-profile directors as Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. Since 2016, she has defined the role of Harley Quinn, all the way down to a Jersey accent so thick you'd never know her true country of origin. After playing the role three times — most recently in James Gunn's 2021 film "The Suicide Squad" — Robbie has taken on an even more iconic pop culture figure with "Barbie."

Fame and the glamour it entails seem to suit Margot Robbie. A single look at that million-dollar smile tells you all you need to know: This person was born for the screen. She's played homewreckers, heartbreakers, and iconic women both fictional and historical. With a heavyweight Hollywood history under her belt, what is it that makes Margot Robbie tick with such explosive star power? This is how Margot Robbie transformed from childhood to Harley Quinn ... and beyond.

Born a sugarcane scion and raised on an outback farm

Even some of her most vivacious fans don't know that Margot Robbie was born on the gold coast of Australia as the daughter of a sugarcane magnate. Although Robbie's father left when she was very young, resulting in a strained relationship between the two (her mom walked her down the aisle at her wedding), she has him to thank for her upbringing on a rural farm, and for her education at private schools.

Margot Robbie has made no secret of her disdain for her father, providing a tight-lipped answer when Harper's Bazaar asked her which qualities she takes from him. "None. Nothing. I'm not like him at all," she said, refusing to expand on the subject. Other than her education at Somerset College, it does seem like Robbie was left to fend for herself growing up, which goes a long way toward explaining why she's chosen to remain estranged from her dad.

Odd jobs and Subway sandwich artistry

Despite having a rich father, Robbie claims she and her mom, Sarie Kessler, struggled to get by after he left. Robbie picked up odd jobs to make ends meet, including a job making sandwiches at Subway. She told Vanity Fair that she was initially tasked with slicing vegetables and cleaning cutlery, but then she was promoted to the sandwich line. "I was really good at it!" she said. "I make a mean Subway. The trick is to spread everything evenly out and cut it so well that there is never a bad bite."

Robbie's other jobs included catering, warehouse work, and a stint at a pharmacy, taking her first real job at a mere 10 years old. However, it's safe to say that Margot Robbie got the last laugh. After landing her first big acting gig on an Australian soap drama, Subway hired her to star in a commercial spot.

Margot Robbie's first recurring role was on an Aussie soap drama

Audiences outside Margot Robbie's home country of Australia probably think of her as the avatar of Tonya Harding or Sharon Tate, but back home, she's often recognized for her work on "Neighbours," in which she played a character named Donna Freedman. The character became a fan favorite due to what many saw as positive bisexual representation (Donna hooked up with both men and women) and Robbie's obvious star power.

Originally cast as a one-off role, Donna soon became a recurring character on the show. She ended up staying on for three years, but in 2010, she left Australia to pursue a career in Hollywood, telling TV Week, "I want to go to America; it's always been my goal to work in Hollywood. It's the one stage in my life where I have absolutely nothing holding me down." Based on what was to follow for the young star, leaving her beloved soap was a very good decision.

The face slap that landed Robbie a role in The Wolf of Wall Street

After being cast in several movies, Margot Robbie wasn't yet a household name. All that changed when Martin Scorsese picked her to play Jordan Belfort's wife, Naomi Lapaglia, in the veteran director's stunning epic of greed and debauchery, "The Wolf of Wall Street." The role had her playing opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, whose deranged energy she matched beat for beat, no small feat considering how committed to the part her scene partner was. 

Robbie reportedly got the part by slapping Leonardo DiCaprio in the face during her audition, a move that was decidedly not in the original script. She told Harper's Bazaar, "In my head I was like, 'You have literally 30 seconds left in this room and if you don't do something impressive nothing will ever come of it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance, just take it.'"

That slap set in motion a storied career which led to her iconic role as Tonya Harding in "I, Tonya" and a turn as the late starlet Sharon Tate in Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood." Along the way, however, she defined one of the most beloved villains in superhero history.

Margot Robbie makes Harley Quinn her own

When she signed onto David Ayer's "Suicide Squad," Robbie didn't know much about the character. "I wasn't familiar with the comics. I had vaguely heard of them, but I had no idea that there was such a big fanbase for Harley," she told the Washington Post. Even so, her take on the character was a hit, and Vogue listed the character as the number one most Googled Halloween costume of 2016. That costume was a wild departure from the Joker-themed one-piece of the comics, consisting of fishnets, a studded belt, and a ripped tee shirt reading, "Daddy's Lil Monster." Robbie would later update the costume to cater less to the male gaze in films over which she had more control.

Though she initially had no plans to reprise the character of Harley, Robbie leapt at the opportunity to redeem the character with a feminist spin in "Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)," which was released in 2020. She was an executive producer on the picture, which told the story of Harley Quinn's breakup with the Joker and saw her acting opposite Ewan McGregor as the villainous Roman Sionis. "I thought the industry needed a girl-gang action film," she told Rotten Tomatoes.

Robbie returned as Harley once more in James Gunn's "The Suicide Squad" in 2021, but for now she seems to have relinquished the role to Lady Gaga for 2024's "Joker: Folie à Deux."

Taking Harley Quinn to another level

Fans fell in love with Margot Robbie's portrayal of Harley Quinn in 2016's "Suicide Squad," but if it wasn't for Robbie's intense dedication, that would have been the last time any of us saw the character. When it came time to bring Harley back for another adventure, Robbie stepped up and put more work into 2020's "Birds of Prey" than anyone realized.

The movie, which is less a sequel to "Suicide Squad" and more a companion piece exploring Harley's offbeat life, forced Robbie to work in multiple roles at once. Obviously she was the star of the film, but as one of the founders of LuckyChap Entertainment, she was also acting as a producer on the project. She went above and beyond in both jobs, getting all the pieces put together to make the film a reality and committing to the role so much that she did most of her own stunts.

Robbie wanted to do as many of Harley's action sequences herself as possible, and she brought that same energy to James Gunn's sequel, or soft reboot, "The Suicide Squad." Harley Quinn's biggest scene in the movie involves gymnast-level flexibility as she uses her feet to pick a lock before escaping from a small prison cell, and Robbie did almost all the work on her own. In an appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," Gunn said Robbie "is like a human Swiss Army knife."

Starting her own company

There are transition periods in every career. Margot Robbie went from TV star to movie star, but she didn't stop there. Between her time on the set of "The Wolf of Wall Street" and the moment that fans first saw her as Harley Quinn in "Suicide Squad," Robbie was laying the groundwork for the next phase of her career.

"I didn't want to pick up another script where I was the wife or the girlfriend — just a catalyst for the male story line. It was uninspiring," she told Harper's Bazaar in 2018. Playing Naomi Lapaglia alongside Leonardo DiCaprio's Jordan Belfort might have helped skyrocket Robbie to fame, but it wasn't exactly the kind of role she was keen on playing again and again. So she decided to solve the problem of potentially being typecast by opening her own production studio.

LuckyChap Entertainment began operating in 2014, and the fledgling production studio has grown significantly since then. Not every one of its films have been smashing successes, but some, like 2017's "I, Tonya," have been Oscar-worthy. Of course, Robbie still stars in other films, but when she's working on a project today, she's most often wearing a producer's hat as well.

I, Tonya was another career turning point

"The Wolf of Wall Street" was a big break for Margot Robbie's acting career, but there's another movie that's been just as important, if not more so, to her overall transformation. "I, Tonya" marked a number of firsts for Robbie: It was the first time she played a leading role, and it was also the first time her production company, LuckyChap Entertainment, helped bring a project to life. In many ways the movie was a make-or-break moment for the company.

Written by Steven Rogers and directed by Craig Gillespie, the biopic follows the life of U.S. figure skater Tonya Harding, so the role required a bit of extra work from Robbie. For one, she had to learn how to skate, a skill that Robbie has held onto, though she's more often on rollerblades than out on the ice these days.

Luckily, Robbie and her team struck gold with "I, Tonya." The film had a huge presence at the Oscars, with Allison Janney winning for Best Supporting Actress, and Robbie herself getting her first Oscar nomination. Robbie told Variety that the movie marked the first time she thought, "Okay, I'm a good actor now." Although LuckyChap's subsequent two films — 2018's "Terminal" and 2019's "Dreamland" — didn't earn quite as much acclaim, the company's next major hit was right around the corner. 2020's "Promising Young Woman," another LuckyChap venture, won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and secured a handful of other nominations.

Bombshell gave Robbie a difficult role

Margot Robbie has a knack for portraying real-life people on the big screen, but that's not exactly what she did in "Bombshell." Based on true stories, the film explores a culture of sexual harassment that proliferated at Fox News under Roger Ailes and tells the story of three women who helped bring that culture into the light. Charlize Theron plays Megyn Kelly and Nicole Kidman plays Gretchen Carlson, but Robbie's character, Kayla Pospisil, was created for the movie and introduces audiences to the events unfolding at the conservative news network.

Robbie has admitted that "Bombshell" was something of a wake-up call for her. She told Variety in November 2022, "I realized that I — as a person with an established position in the industry, financially set up and self-sufficient — I didn't know the definition of sexual harassment, and that's shocking." The role taught her more than the definition, and it helped audiences get a deeper look at just how prevalent sexual harassment in the workplace is, regardless of the industry.

Robbie told EW that she had a tough time getting inside Kayla's head, but once on set the work didn't get any easier. "The emotional side was difficult in a different kind of way," she said. All that hard work paid off, and "Bombshell" earned Robbie her second Oscar nomination, this time for Best Supporting Actress. She might not have gotten a win yet, but one seems inevitable in the future.

She landed a role with a letter

It's not very often that people get an amazing acting opportunity just by asking for it. There's no doubt that Margot Robbie, just like most everyone else in Hollywood, has had her fair share of grinding away at rough auditions to get where she is today. But there's at least one time where a dream role came her way completely by her own request.

Robbie is a massive fan of Quentin Tarantino, and when she was an up-and-coming actress she made a plan to write the director a letter when she felt that she was ready to star in one of his films. That moment came in 2017, after Robbie got to watch her performance in "I, Tonya." She wrote the letter she'd been thinking about for years, and it just so happened to land in front of Tarantino as he was beginning to think about casting for "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood."

Robbie didn't know it at the time, but several of Tarantino's friends had already floated her name for the role of Sharon Tate. Tarantino reached out and invited Robbie to his home, where she spent hours reading through the script he'd just finished. By the time she was done, Robbie was ready to play the role, and Tarantino was more than willing to offer it to her.

She doesn't spend her downtime how you'd expect

Everyone's got to have a hobby. As an actress, film producer, and business owner, Margot Robbie doesn't have much time to herself, but just like anyone else, she's already got a plan for what to do when work finally comes to an end.

"All I want to do is live on a train," Robbie told Vogue in 2023. As far as pastimes go, it might not be the most common, but Robbie finds quite a bit of joy in sitting back and staring out the window while her train rolls through the countryside. In 2022, she and her husband Tom Ackerly took a trip on the Orient Express, which had been a longtime goal for Robbie. She spent the trip the way any good superfan would, by watching Sidney Lumet's "Murder on the Orient Express" and seeing how her travels compared.

Train obsession might be a bit of a family trait. Back in 2019 she took a trip back to her native Australia to spend some time with her sister Anya, and rather than relaxing by a pool, the two of them hopped on board Australia's famous Ghan train, which takes a four-day trip through the Australian outback. The trip was reportedly a gift from Robbie to her sister, and this definitely seems like one of those times when giving a gift is just as good as receiving one.

There are still directors she wants to work with

Margot Robbie has already gotten to work with some of her biggest Hollywood heroes. Before she was a famous actress, she was a dedicated movie fan, and now she's had the opportunity to help some of her favorite directors, like Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, bring their movies to life. That doesn't mean that she's crossed every dream partnership off her list.

Near the end of 2022, Robbie spoke about some of the directors she'd still like to work with. At the top of the list were Paul Thomas Anderson, Bong Joon Ho, and Céline Sciamma. It's hard to imagine that Robbie would have much difficulty getting to work with anyone else she wants. She's one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, and as a producer at LuckyChap Entertainment, she has more say than most in what project she's going to work on next. 

Despite the position she's in today, she still feels just as excited about getting to work as she did in her early days on Australian TV. "I've been on sets for pretty much the last 10 years and I still walk on and think, 'This is soooooooo coooool! Look at that! That's amazing! Oh my gosh!'" she told Net-A-Porter.

She didn't plan to play Barbie

Margot Robbie might seem like the perfect casting choice for Barbie, but that decision wasn't always obvious to her. "This is going to sound stupid," Robbie said in an interview with Vogue, "but I really didn't even think about playing Barbie until years into developing the project." Her work on the "Barbie" movie began from a producer's perspective. Though she was interested in the project, Robbie herself didn't have a long history with Barbie toys, and that might be why she didn't consider getting involved in front of the camera for so long.

Robbie helped get Greta Gerwig involved in the project, and the two of them started brainstorming ideas for who fit their idea of the Barbie character. The first person on that list was actually Gal Gadot, who they thought embodied "Barbie energy." In the end, though there are multiple "Barbies" in the film, Gadot isn't among them. Robbie fits into the role as well as Barbie fits into her Dream House, and though it wasn't the plan from the beginning, things definitely seem like they were always meant to move in this direction.