The Strong Female Leads That Make Margot Robbie An Incredible Actor

by : Francesca Donovan on : 02 Jul 2018 21:20
Actor Margot RobbieActor Margot RobbieGetty

She might be an acting chameleon of the highest order, transforming for each role, but most Margot Robbie characters have one thing in common.


They’re a true reflection of what it is to be a woman, in their own unique and diverse way, hand-picked by Robbie herself who manages to keep it real in an industry built on faking it.

Margot Robbie was born and raised in Dalby, a small town in rural Queensland, Australia. While her family worked the surrounding farmland she dreamed of becoming a magician.

The young girl – a Harry Potter fan and self-confessed nerd – thought acting careers were only bestowed upon those born in Hollywood.

But her big break as the feisty Donna Freedman on Neighbours, which she landed after persistence with the producers aged just 17, changed the course of Robbie’s career.

Margot Robbie as Donna Freedman in NeighboursMargot Robbie as Donna Freedman in NeighboursFremantleMedia

Robbie became an Aussie TV mainstay and starred in 311 episodes on the daytime soap.

Her most famous storyline highlighted the need for better equality and diversity when Donna kissed the new Ramsay Street resident Sunny (Hany Lee Choi) on screen, causing public outcry and moral panic among the bigots.

In response to the ridiculous backlash, Robbie told the Herald:

It’s really not a big deal at all. It’s not an actual gay storyline, it’s just kind of an impulsive peck. It’s just like another day on set really. I have to kiss other characters all the time and usually that’s real kissing.

While she may have downplayed the importance of representation on screen as a young actor, Robbie would go onto understand the power of a realistic representation of womanhood.

Just like Donna, Robbie’s career aspirations extended far beyond Ramsay Street, across the pond. A decade later, Robbie turns 28 today, with a body of work which captures the human condition so expertly for such a young actor.

Margot Robbie arrives for the Australian Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards 2009 at Hisense Arena on November 13, 2009 in Melbourne, Australia. Margot Robbie arrives for the Australian Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards 2009 at Hisense Arena on November 13, 2009 in Melbourne, Australia. Getty

In 2013, after a now notorious audition, Martin Scorsese cast Robbie as Naomi Lapaglia, the ‘love interest’ of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort in the blockbuster The Wolf of Wall Street.

But the character, loosely based on Brooklyn-born Nadine Macaluso, was so much more than an observing sideline part in the male-centric arena of the stock market.

Robbie expertly portrayed the three-dimensions of a passionate, quick-witted, street-wise woman, with the ability to poke fun at her beauty while owning unapologetically.

Margot Robbie in The Wolf of Wall StreetMargot Robbie in The Wolf of Wall StreetParamount Pictures

The fact Robbie is mostly talked about in terms of that scene is only a reflection on the mainstream media’s insistence on bolstering and highlighting a woman’s sexuality above a great performance.

Either way, she was shot to the top of the Tinseltown elite.

But Robbie persevered and with good critique from within the industry – as well as a few subsidiary shout outs from award structures complimenting her looks – she’s gone on to do great things.

Nicknamed Maggot by her family, Robbie doesn’t bring ego into her performances.

Her humility gives her an accessible quality akin to the ‘Girl Next Door’ trope with which we all seem to be so obsessed with – and it comes across in her choices for film roles.

Actors Margot Robbie and James Frecheville attend Australians in Film's 2011 Breakthrough AwardsActors Margot Robbie and James Frecheville attend Australians in Film's 2011 Breakthrough AwardsGetty

Her next foray into the silver screen, in fact, wasn’t another Scorsese-style blockbuster but an indie film called Z For Zacharia, in which she carried the three-role narrative, which subtly looked at human relationships and coping mechanisms in the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world.


Next up came that cameo in The Big Short. She self-deprecatingly played herself, in a bathtub, explaining mortgage bonds. It was captivating, comedic, acutely self-aware and held the attention of everyone who doesn’t give a hoot about mortgage bonds.

It would’ve been easy for Robbie to continue to get work from this point onwards – a steady stream of typecast characters, one could’ve assumed – thanks to the blockbusters on her CV.

But WTF did she do next? She opted to play a complicated an unlikeable Tanya Vanderpoel in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, written by Tina Fey.

Margot robbie in Whiskey Tango FoxtrotMargot robbie in Whiskey Tango FoxtrotParamount Pictures

The care-free character appeared superficial in her role as Fey’s foil, until the last when her ultimately morally-flawed decisions were driven by her hunger for success.

It’s rare a hard-working woman gets written this way into a fictitious place of work. It was very real.

Then came a blip from the realms of reductive characterisations from the past when Robbie played the Jane Clayton to Alexander Skarsgård’s Tarzan in David Yates’ reimagining of the classic tale, The Legend of Tarzan.

Margot Robbie playing Jane Clayton in The Legend of TarzanMargot Robbie playing Jane Clayton in The Legend of TarzanWarner Bros. Pictures

There were high hopes. This new Jane was to be an independent woman who wasn’t defined by the titular male role – and although she had all the nouse and strength of the male cast members, she still ultimately needed saving by Tarzan.

Sigh. Much the same fate has befallen David Ayer’s take on the intelligent if unhinged Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, playfully portrayed by Robbie in a stand-out performance, despite all the gender politics.

Robbie was so loved in the film she’s earned her own Suicide Squad spin-offs which are currently in the pipeline.

More exciting was Robbie’s titular role and producing credits (which she shares with husband Tom Ackerly) for I,Tonya, the biopic which told the tale of Tonya Harding, former figure skater.

Robbie’s Harding offered the perfect mirror to reflect the complexities of the multitude of baddies in the unexpected blockbuster mock-umentary movie.

Namely: Domestic abuse, parental physical and emotional violence, class prejudice, and the media’s need to pit two women in the public eye against each other.

Not to say Robbie did Harding the disservice of painting her as a saint; she’s obviously not.

But Robbie stayed true to the reality of Harding’s personhood.

Margot Robbie in I TonyaMargot Robbie in I TonyaNeon

Credit where credit’s due; it was a wonderful performance and it’s still so important, in this day and age of undeniable gender inequality, to make sure women are not put up on a pedestal as two-dimensional beings in pop culture.

At the 90th Academy Awards, Robbie earned a nomination for Best Actress, while her co-star Alison Janney won Best Supporting Actress.

In Goodbye, Christopher Robin, Robbie’s Daphne Milne again took a risk with her off-screen reputation for being a so-called likeable woman, when she turned her hand to playing the cold, detached mother of C.R. Milne.

Robbie underwent an incredible aesthetic transformation into the formidable historical figure, Queen Elizabeth I, for her role in the period drama Mary Queen of Scots.

Check it out:

While Terminal looks like a cinematic cliche, Robbie is also listed to play Marian in the story of Maid Marian, without her Robin Hood.

Unfortunately, for actors, it’s almost impossible to separate their body of work from their private personalities, due to the endless junkets and press they must commit to after shooting their films.

Thus, it’s hard not to develop a soft spot for Margot, who displays a quiet confidence beyond her years and a humility not befitting of Hollywood.

Margot Robbie at the 88th Annual Academy Awards Margot Robbie at the 88th Annual Academy Awards Getty

Her track record in terms of her film roles may not be spotless – but whose is?

After all, Pobody’s Nerfect and anyway, perfect characters make terribly boring films.

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Francesca Donovan

A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you've never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.