From 'Focus' to 'Barbie': The Untold Story Behind Margot Robbie's Success


| LAST UPDATE 07/16/2023

By Abby Wall

Believe it or not, it took Robbie years to break free from the "imposter syndrome" feeling, but after years of success, the Australian bombshell finally feels accepted. Let's take a closer look at her story...

Margot Robbie

This dazzling talent has played some of the most iconic fictional and non-fictional characters over the past decade, from Tonya Harding to Sharon Tate and now Barbie in the upcoming live-action film.

Margot Robbie Barbie MovieMargot Robbie Barbie Movie
Anthony Harvey via Shutterstock

Despite being one of Hollywood's highest-paid actresses and most popular celebs, Robbie admitted later in her career that she "had major imposter syndrome" when she first got started. After appearing in a few roles in TV and movie, Robbie landed a life-changing role in The Wolf of Wall Street, and nothing was ever the same.

Before All the Fame

But what was her life like leading up to all this success? Well, you could never tell from her list of perfect American accents, but Margot Robbie was actually born in the land down under! The star was born in Dalby, Queensland, Australia, and only made the move to America after deciding to pursue her career in acting.

Margot Robbie Childhood storyMargot Robbie Childhood story
Silver Reel/Lucky Hat Entertainment/Material Pictures/Kobal via Shutterstock

Her parents separated when she was only five years old, and she and her three siblings were raised by their mother. The actress spent a lot of time on her grandparents' farm, which she would later joke helped her in her role as Ann Burden in Z for Zachariah, saying, "I already knew how to drive a tractor and milk cows."

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Getting Into Acting

Robbie took on her first acting roles back in 2008, while in high school. The young actress starred in two independent thriller films, I.C.U and Vigilante. She would later look back at these different experiences and say being on a film set was "a dream come true." But it was only later in her life that she'd come to feel that way...

Margot Robbie Neighbours SoapMargot Robbie Neighbours Soap
IMDB-I.C.U (2007) via Osiris Entertainment

Robbie initially made her TV debut in the drama series City Homicide before becoming a regular on the TV soap opera Neighbours. She was supposed to play her character, Donna Freedman, as just a guest role, but was so loved that she was cast for three years! Her career had begun to pick up momentum that she'd never planned.

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'Never Considered Acting'

Despite always loving films growing up, Robbie actually never saw herself as a professional actor. Years later, the actress was interviewed by journalist Lynn Hirschberg, asking her if she remembers how old she was when she decided she wanted to be an actor, to which she simply said, "No," before guessing it was when she was 16.

Margot Robbie acting careerMargot Robbie acting career
Fremantle Media via Shutterstock

"Of course, I loved movies my whole life, but I never considered acting as a job. I think my family were well aware that I was quite a performer when I was a kid because I would constantly re-enact movies," she said. Robbie realized only later on in life that she, in fact, wanted to act professionally.

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Going Global

After realizing she was dedicated to doing whatever it took to pursue this new dream, Robbie moved from Australia to the U.S. in hopes of making it big in Hollywood. Spoiler alert-she did. The actress landed her first gig in 2011 as Laura Camera, a flight attendant on the drama series Pan Am.

Margot Robbie Pan AmMargot Robbie Pan Am
Shoe Money Prods/Jack Orman Prods/Sony Tv/Kobal via Shutterstock

The show was canceled after one season, but that wasn't going to stop her from finding her way in the business! In 2013, she made her feature film debut in the Richard Curtis rom-com film, About Time, starring Domhnall and Rachel McAdams. However, her breakthrough role was just around the corner…

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Breakthrough Role

Robbie landed the Martin Scorsese-directed film, The Wolf of Wall Street in 2013 after completing one of the most memorable auditions of all time. Robbie later explained to Harper's Bazaar she knew she had a "once-in-a-lifetime chance" to act alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, so she did whatever she could to stand out during her audition.

Margot Robbie Wolf Wall StreetMargot Robbie Wolf Wall Street
Appian Way/Paramount/Kobal via Shutterstock

During the audition, the two are fighting back and forward when Dicaprio drops the line, "Now get over here and kiss me." But instead of kissing the heartthrob, she decides to go completely off script and instead hits him in the face and screams, "F*** you." She said, "The room just went dead silent," and she froze, but it worked.

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The Wolf of Wall Street

Clearly, she impressed the crowd with her improvisation and landed the role of Jordan Belfort's second wife, Naomi Lapaglia. The film was based on the 2007 memoir with the same title, written by Belfort, explaining his shenanigans working as a stockbroker in NYC in the '90s.

Margot Robbie Wolf Wall StreetMargot Robbie Wolf Wall Street
 Appian Way/Paramount/Kobal via Shutterstock

"She clinched her part in The Wolf of Wall Street during our first meeting," Scorsese told Time Magazine. Both Robbie's performance and the film itself received incredible commercial and critical success, grossing over $390 million worldwide. Thanks to her rogue decision to slap DiCaprio, Robbie had become a certified star.

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After her award-winning performance in The Wolf of Wall Street, Robbie immediately became Hollywood's newest "it girl." The Australian actress appeared in four major films in 2015 alone, the first of which was the dramedy, Focus, starring Will Smith.

Margot Robbie Focus actingMargot Robbie Focus acting
Moviestore via Shutterstock

Although the film was not considered a major success, Robbie's performance received multiple nominations and praise. Peter Travers from Rolling Stone said, "Robbie is wow and then some. Even when Focus fumbles, [she] deals a winning hand." Yes, she does.

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Suite Française

Following her role in Focus, Robbie starred in the romantic war drama film Suite Française alongside Michelle Williams and Kristin Scott Thomas. Upon its release in 2015, the film earned over $9 million worldwide and gained mostly positive reviews from critics.

Margot Robbie Suite Française Margot Robbie Suite Française
IMDB-Suite Française (2015) via Entertainment One

Robbie went from the Australian soap opera to major feature films in just a few years, but she forever credits her role as Donna Freedman for getting where she is. "The role in Neighbours was a much better career move than doing indie films that weren't really ever going to get distributed or seen at all," she told The Independent.

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Meeting Tom Ackerley

While on the set of Suite Française, Robbie met her future husband, Tom Ackerley. Ackerley worked behind the scenes on the movie, and the two clicked immediately. However, they were first good friends before sparking any romance. But according to Robbie, she was "always in love with him" but was worried he didn't feel the same!

Margot Robbie Tom AckerleyMargot Robbie Tom Ackerley
John Angelillo/UPI via Shutterstock

She even told Vogue that she viewed herself as "the ultimate single gal" and that "the idea of relationships made me [her] want to vomit." But clearly, Tom changed that! The two moved to London in 2014 and began their production company, LuckyChap Entertainment, together with two friends.

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Kept Things Lowkey

The couple kept their relationship out of the public eye, and in 2016 Us Weekly confirmed the two secretly tied the knot! "My husband and I were roommates before we were even dating, so I'm kind of living with my roommate, and it's awesome," Robbie explained to Us about her married life.

Margot Robbie Tom AckerleyMargot Robbie Tom Ackerley
Phillip Faraone via Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

The Focus actress told Vogue, "He's usually a very loud and friendly person, but he's definitely behind the cam," which explains why their relationship is kept private. So anytime we get a glimpse of them on the red carpet together, we can't help but get all googly-eyed!

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Busy Schedules

However, Robbie and the British producer do lead very busy lives! The Wolf of Wall Street star told PORTER magazine that they have "the most fun" together despite their extremely busy schedules. The Suite Française actress shared that even if they are constantly jet-setting, they do whatever they can to spend the most time together.

Margot Robbie Tom AckerleyMargot Robbie Tom Ackerley
Matt Baron via Shutterstock

She and her husband go by a "three-week rule." Robbie told The Daily Telegraph that the "most helpful thing I've learned from other couples in this industry is that you don't go more than three weeks without seeing each other." So, that's what they do!

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The Legend of Tarzan

In 2016, Robbie took on the character of another cultural icon, Jane Porter, Tarzan's love interest in The Legend of Tarzan. Tarzan and Jane have been a part of pop culture since 1912, when Edgar Rice Burroughs introduced the story of Tarzan of the Apes to the world.

Margot Robbie Legend TarzanMargot Robbie Legend Tarzan
Shutterstock via Shutterstock

Over 20 women have played the role of Jane on screen, so when it was time for Robbie's turn, she wanted to make a few things clear before starting to film. She did not want to portray "a damsel in distress" just "waiting for someone to come save her," and she was adamant about not losing weight for the role. You go, girl!

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Becoming Harley Quinn

Considered one of her most influential roles to date, Robbie took on the responsibility of playing Harley Quinn in the 2016 film Suicide Squad. Robbie was the first person to play the DC Comics villain in a live-action film, and well, she absolutely slayed.

Margot Robbie Harley QuinnMargot Robbie Harley Quinn
Moviestore via Shutterstock

Harley Quinn was introduced to the DC Comic world in 1992 as henchwoman and girlfriend to the supervillain Joker, and since then has gained such a huge following that she has continued to appear in multiple DC series. The character is viewed as an antihero, separated from the Joker, and considered a prominent member of the Suicide Squad.

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Does Her Own Stunts

Besides always carrying the oversized mallet, a big part of Robbie's character is that she is an expert gymnast with incredible strength and durability. Although she had never read the comics, she knew she carried a big responsibility to fulfill the comic reader's dreams of who the real Harley Quinn was.

Margot Robbie Suicide SquadMargot Robbie Suicide Squad
IMDB-Suicide Sqaud (2016) via Warner Bros.

So, in order to get physically prepared for her role, Robbie intensively trained for six months before filming even began. According to the movie producer Richard Suckle, she did "a tremendous amount of her own stunts." She even learned how to hold her breath underwater for five minutes!

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Enormous Success

Suicide Squad was an immediate commercial and critical success and became the tenth-highest-grossing film of 2016, with box office earnings totaling over $746 million. The film's cast included Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Will Smith, and, of course, Robbie.

Margot Robbie Harley QuinnMargot Robbie Harley Quinn
Moviestore via Shutterstock

After the movie was released, Robbie's performance was called "genuinely terrific" by The Atlantic. She was nominated and won multiple awards for her role and would later reprise her supervillainess role as Harley Quinn twice more in 2020 and 2021.

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I, Tonya

Believe it or not, it was only after the biopic I, Tonya, was released, did Robbie finally consider herself a "good actor." The Suicide Squad star received her first Oscar nomination for playing Olympic ice skater Tonya Harding and became the youngest-ever Hollywood star to receive a BAFTA.

Margot Robbie I TonyaMargot Robbie I Tonya
 Clubhouse Pictures/Kobal via Shutterstock

Released under her own production company banner, LuckyChap Entertainment, I, Tonya followed the life of the figure skater and her link to the 1994 assault on rival Nancy Kerrigan. To prepare for the role, Robbie met with the former athlete, watched old footage of her, and perfected the Pacific Northwest accent.

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Career Vulnerabilities

Despite her success, Robbie felt insecure about her place in the industry for years. The I, Tonya star told Vogue that "for the first couple of years, I [she] had major imposter syndrome" and that it took some time for her to realize she's "really in this industry" and that is not just a "wonderful dream" that's going to "disappear."

Margot Robbie Imposter SyndromeMargot Robbie Imposter Syndrome
Image Press Agency/NurPhoto via Shutterstock

"Every time I'd go (to a red carpet event), I was like, 'I can't believe they let me in. Someone's going to notice that I don't belong here; they're going to kick me out of Hollywood," she told Vogue. A few years into her career, Robbie said to herself, "Oh wow, I don't have that imposter syndrome anymore," and here we are.

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Roles, Roles and More Roles

After finally being able to tell herself that she is a "good actor," Robbie's career just continued to skyrocket. The BAFTA Award-winning actress began 2018 strong as the voiceover for Flopsy Rabbit in Peter Rabbit, which was a massive box office hit.

Margot Robbie Mary QueenMargot Robbie Mary Queen
Liam Daniel/Focus Features/Kobal via Shutterstock

In her final film of 2018, she totally transformed for her role playing Queen Elizabeth I in the historical drama Mary Queen of Scots. Apparently, she was hesitant taking on the role at first, worried she could not properly portray the Queen, but she was quickly able to tap into her royal status.

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Not only is Margot Robbie killing it in front of the camera, but The Wolf of Wall Street actress has seen major success behind the screen as well with her production company, LuckyChap Entertainment. Under LuckyChap Entertainment, Robbie has produced a few major hits, including I, Tonya.

Margot Robbie LuckyChap EntertainmentMargot Robbie LuckyChap Entertainment
RB/Bauer-Griffin via Shutterstock

In 2019, LuckyChap Entertainment produced a 10-episode dark comedy on Hulu, Dollface starring Kat Dennings, with Margot Robbie as executive producer. The female-centric show also starred Shay Mitchell and Brenda Song, with Robbie making a small cameo.

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Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood

According to Quentin Tarantino himself, there could only be one person to play the famous actress Sharon Tate, and that was Margot Robbie. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was Tarantino's ultimate love letter to the City of Angeles in the '60s, and he had quite the story and cast to prove it.

Margot Robbie Once Time HollywoodMargot Robbie Once Time Hollywood
 A Cooper/Sony/Columbia/Kobal via Shutterstock

The filmmaker told Entertainment Weekly that Margot was "such perfect casting that I [he] didn't have a second choice," and luckily, Robbie felt that same way. As soon as he finished the script, he coincidently received a letter from Margot praising his work, asking for the opportunity to work with him, and he took it as a "good sign."

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Sharon Tate

It was immediately clear that Margot Robbie was meant to play Sharon Tate in Tarantino's film, so together, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, they made one of Hollywood's most talked about movies. The film focused on a new Hollywood in the '60s, with Robbie playing the non-fictional character Sharon Tate.

Margot Robbie Once Time HollywoodMargot Robbie Once Time Hollywood
A Cooper/Sony/Columbia/Kobal via Shutterstock

Although she is saved in the movie by her neighbor (DiCpario) and his best friend (Pitt), the real Sharon Tate was tragically murdered in 1969 by the Manson Family. With enormous pressure and responsibility on her shoulders, Robbie spent time researching the famous actress and getting to know her friends and family before production began.

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Following her role as Sharon Tate, Robbie starred alongside Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman in the Jay Roach-directed film, Bombshell. The film followed accounts of multiple women at Fox News who exposed the company's CEO, Roger Ailes, for sexual harassment in the workplace.

Margot Robbie Bombshell characterMargot Robbie Bombshell character
Hilary B Gayle/Lionsgate/Kobal via Shutterstock

Robbie later expressed to Variety that she really "didn't know the definition of sexual harassment" before filming, and it "horrified her" how little she knew about sexual abuse in the workplace. After working on Bombshell, she co-produced the 2020 Carey Mulligan movie Promising Young Women, which covered sexual misconduct.

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Meeting Harley Quinn, Again

A few years after Suicide Squad was released, in 2020, Robbie reprised her iconic role of Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey. Robbie didn't just star and produce the movie, but she spent three years developing the idea of an "R-rated girl gang film including Harley" under her production company before pitching it to Warner Bros.

Margot Robbie Birds PreyMargot Robbie Birds Prey
 Warner Bros/Moviestore via Shutterstock

Her thought was that "Harley needs friends. Harley loves interacting with people, so don't ever make her do a standalone film," she said." She's got to be with other people; it should be a girl gang. I wasn't seeing enough girl gangs on screen, especially in the action space. So that was always a big part of it."

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One More Time

Following the success of Birds of Prey, Margot Robbie took on her iconic role of Harley Quinn for a third time in James Gunn's film, The Suicide Squad. Once again, Robbie was praised for her performance and the way she honored the original character. Lady Gaga is playing the next Harley Quinn in the upcoming film, Joker: Folie à Deux.

Margot Robbie Suicide SquadMargot Robbie Suicide Squad
IMDB-The Suicide Squad (2021) via Warner Bros.

"I loved playing Harley again," Robbie says of her character. "I miss her when I'm not playing her, I'm exhausted when I am playing her, but I'm always just keen to do it again. She kind of takes over at some point, and I go on autopilot, and she does her thing."

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In 2022, Robbie returned back to the big screen playing Nellie LaRoy in the comedy-drama film Babylon. The film was based on the combined stories of a couple of actresses but mainly Clara Bow, one of the few movie stars who transitioned from silent films to "talkies" in the late 1920s.

Margot Robbie Babylon characterMargot Robbie Babylon character
 Paramount Pictures/Moviestore via Shutterstock

After starring in a movie named It, Clara Bow became a true "it girl," and Robbie made sure to portray that! The actress studied years of Bow's work, including her tough upbringing, and later described her character as "the most physically and emotionally draining character" she ever played.

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Pitching Barbie

Margot Robbie actually had this idea in the works for a few years before presenting LuckyChap as Barbie's potential home to Mattel. In 2018, she pitched the idea of making a Barbie movie to Mattel, admitting that they didn't have a specific concept in mind but did want to "honor the 60-year legacy that this brand has."

Margot Robbie Barbie roleMargot Robbie Barbie role
IMDB-Barbie (2023) via Warner Bros.

She told Vogue that she began having "bigger meetings with Mattel, and then meetings with Warner Bros." and soon LuckyChap had a "first-look deal." Robbie was connected to director Greta Gerwig about joining the team, and she agreed under the condition that she could write the script with her partner, Noah Baumbach.

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Barbie Energy

According to Robbie, playing Barbie was never a big dream for her, admitting to Vogue that she "really didn't even think about playing Barbie until years into developing the project." So, when it came down to getting into character, the actress had a hard time unlocking the stereotypical Barbie playbook.

Margot Robbie Barbie GoslingMargot Robbie Barbie Gosling
London Entertainment via Shutterstock

One big hurdle the actress had to overcome was figuring out how to portray the sexiness of Barbie. Robbie explains to Vogue, "She's a plastic doll" without "reproductive organs" and probably no "sexual desire," but somehow she is "sexualized" but "should never be sexy." Now that's a mouthful!

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Now that we've gotten a little glimpse of the upcoming film, Margot tells Vogue that she is "all Barbie from here until Barbie" is released! With Ken, played by Ryan Gosling, by her side, we see the couple go to the real world, where they explore the highs and lows of living around humans outside of their Barbie bubble.

Margot Robbie Barbie movieMargot Robbie Barbie movie
Eric Charbonneau via Shutterstock

In addition to Robbie and Gosling, the film's cast is stacked with Will Ferell, Issa Rae, Michael Cera, Emma Mackey, and many more Hollywood stars. The movie is scheduled to be released in July of 2023, and well, we can't wait to see her do her thing as Barbie!

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What's Next?

With Barbie around the corner, we can only wonder what's next for the 32-year-old starlit. Earlier this year, she had a small role in Wes Anderson's Asteroid City, but she still has a few directors on her list she would like to work with, both as a producer and actor.

Margot Robbie Barbie roleMargot Robbie Barbie role
 Anthony Harvey via Shutterstock

She told Vogue, "Greta was on that list for a long time," and "Damien was on that list for a long time," talking about Damien Chazelle, Babylon's director. However, she admits Paul Thomas Anderson is still on that list but confirmed that "he's aware" of the situation!

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