In the eyes of budding film stars, Margot Robbie is in an enviable position. “I must be hated by every actress,” she announces, sipping on tea in a lavish London hotel suite. And she has a point – in the space of just two and a half years, the 23-year-old has gone from Neighbours regular to one of Tinseltown’s ones to watch. She may only appear in Richard Curtis’s About Time for “like, five minutes”, but the blonde Aussie’s next role sees her deep among the A-listers. From the moment Robbie was cast as the prime love interest in The Wolf of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese’s hotly anticipated blockbuster featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill – she became the envy of Hollywood.
“It was the best experience of my entire life,” she recalls, brimming with excitement over the film that is sure to make her name. “It was the most insane script – I don’t know how to prepare people for the movie they’re going to see. Everyone involved was the best at what they do so creatively it was heaven.” And there’s the added bonus of playing opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, of course…
“I did my test with him and Marty in a room. We sat down and all started talking about the weather and I thought, ‘You’re in a room with Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio and we’re talking about the weather. Say something interesting.’ And it failed me.
“But then we got into the scenes and I got completely carried away and ended up hitting Leo in the face. It’s not in the script anywhere. I just sat there completely frozen and thought, ‘You just hit Leonardo DiCaprio in the face. They’re going to sue you, they’re going to fire you.’ And then he and Marty burst out laughing. Leo just said, ‘Hit me that hard again’.”
Fresh from her adventures in the land of Scorsese, Robbie soon found herself in Belgium filming an entirely different kind of movie. Telling the tale of occupied France during the days of Nazi Germany, Suite Francaise evokes a country at war and the hardships faced by its local people. “I’d gone from having $5,000 worth of extensions in my hair to having dirt shoved under my nails and smoke shoved in my face. It was very, very different.”
But while the glamour stakes fell, filming on location in the centre of Europe had its benefits. “What Belgium does best is beer, chocolate, waffles and fries which are the four main food groups that make up my diet so I was in heaven. And Europe’s so amazing, coming from Australia where it takes 24 hours to get everywhere.
“It was so easy to travel from Belgium, so my brother came over. He just graduated high school and we both went to Croatia, Portugal, all these places. We’ve come back with lovely tans and our livers are destroyed but we had a really good time. We got to the Mandarin Oriental and were like, ‘We don’t have to wear our flip flops in the shower? We don’t have to rent towels for two Euros that have people’s hair on them?'”
Hearing Robbie talk, it’s easy to forget she’s not a 23-year-old student heading off on her budget summer travels. Except, come November, the release of Wolf will see her face plastered across posters, newspapers and magazines worldwide. “That’s why I did all my backpacking, because after this I don’t think I’ll be able to stay in hostels anymore. I feel like I definitely made the most of all those normal experiences.”
So, how does it feel to have the words “rising star” attached to your name? “‘Overnight sensation’ is my favourite. It’s so lovely to make it sound like it all happened so quickily. There was actually quite a lot of work involved but it sounds nicer when people say it like that.
“I’m still just scratching my head, thinking, ‘I don’t know why this is happening?’ I now have this irrational fear that I’m going to come to this untimely, gruesome death at a very young age because why else are so many good things happening right now?'”
And although she can count Scorsese and DiCaprio among those “good things”, working with Richard Curtis in her latest film About Time has its own special place in her memory. “The script said Richard Curtis on the front and I didn’t need to read it. He is, in my opinion, one of the best writers of our generation. No one writes like him, no one can make you care about a character in one minute, no one can create such well-rounded, realistic, interesting characters so quickily that you actually genuinely care about.”
Curtis’s latest film follows young lawyer Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) who is informed by his bumbling father (Bill Nighy) that the men in his family can time travel and sets out to use that ability in pursuit of the love of his life, Mary (Rachel McAdams). Robbie’s appearance as Tim’s teenage crush Charlotte may have been brief, but Curtis certainly left an impression on her. “He’s exactly how he sounds on paper. He speaks the way he writes and the way he interacts with people, it’s like he’s some of the characters in his films.”
So, what does she make of his plans to retire from directing altogether? “His films really add value to the world and they really affect people’s lives. It would be a great loss if he didn’t direct anymore.”
But despite her words of praise for its director, Robbie reveals a feminist streak when discussing About Time which sees its male star doing the time travelling, following the precedent set by films like Back to the Future and The Time Traveller’s Wife. “I’m continuously on my tirade that the female characters are never as strong as the male characters. Female characters never get to do anything as fun as the male characters, every piece is male-driven and you’re there to support them and it bugs me no end.”
They may not always be to her liking, but when it comes to female roles this young actress is cleaning up, most recently scooping a part opposite Will Smith in his heist flick Focus which shoots this autumn. Not bad for a girl who started out on Ramsay Street… “It’s so crazy that you can do a Scorsese film and people still just want to talk about Neighbours. ‘What’s Leo like? But actually, what’s Karl Kennedy like?’ It’s unbelievable.”
About Time is released in UK cinemas on Wednesday 4 September. Read Radio Times’ review here.