Margot Robbie on Changing Hollywood

There were days when Margot Robbie would walk out of the make-up trailer on the set of her new film, Mary Queen of Scots, and castmates couldn’t bear to look at her. “I’d say, ‘Hey, how’s your weekend?’” says the 28-year-old actress, in her best exaggeration of her native Australian Gold Coast accent. “But they wouldn’t even get close to me. It was very alienating. And I felt very lonely. It was an interesting social experiment.”

Her transformation into Queen Elizabeth I, who was scarred by smallpox as a young woman, took three and a half hours of intensive hair and make-up every day. “They’d start with a head wrap,” says Robbie. “Gelling and pinning my hair down. Then we’d do a bald cap.” There were different wigs for different stages of the story and her illness, one that was very thinning, and prosthetic scarring applied to her face. “Surprisingly, the quick part was the white make-up,” she says. “And the heavily drawn-on blush, eyebrows, lips.”

Michael Kors Collection one-piece; Bulgari necklace and ring.

Such a transformation was no small feat, considering that the actress got her big-screen break playing a character described as “the hottest blonde ever” in Martin Scorsese’s 2013 drama, The Wolf of Wall Street. But Robbie, who currently serves as a face of Chanel, refused early on to be typecast by her beauty. “When I was trying to make my name as an actress, creative roles for women were limited,” she says of her decision to form her own production company, LuckyChap Entertainment, in 2014. “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.”

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Interestingly, Mary Queen of Scots isn’t the first time Robbie has taken on a role that required her to actively make herself look worse on-screen. After all, who can forget the curled bangs, black eyeliner, and braces she donned to play disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya? “Margot is a very, very good actor who takes her work incredibly seriously,” says co-star Saoirse Ronan, who plays Queen Mary in the film. “I don’t think looks even factor into it. Even when she has a glamorous role, she’s got this brilliant, strong presence, and part of that is because she’s a very sincere and authentic person. She’s very open. What you see is what you get.”

Brooch (worn in hair), Chanel Fine Jewellery

Fearlessly shaking off her beauty and diving headlong into complex characters has clearly paid off for Robbie, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in I, Tonya, which LuckyChap produced. And she now has roughly a dozen projects in various stages of development, including a thriller called Dreamland, also produced by her company, a Suicide Squad spin-off in which she will lead an ensemble of female superheroes, and a number of women-led television projects. “When we set out to create our company, it was sort of a new idea, but then in response to the #MeToo conversation it was all that anyone was talking about. People were like, ‘Why don’t we make movies for women?’ Uh, what a revelation, right?”

The waiting area of LuckyChap, which is almost hidden in a nondescript bungalow on the Warner Bros. lot, is cast in a pink glow from the neon sign that bears the company name in a loopy script. On the day of our interview, Robbie emerges from one of the back rooms dressed in high-waisted flared jeans, a black-and-white striped button-down top, and brandy-coloured Mansur Gavriel platforms. She is smiling, like really smiling, radiating joy with her whole body. She tiptoes down the hall as if she’s sneaking up on someone or is giddy about sharing a secret. “I’m Margot,” she says, extending a slender arm to shake hands. “Do you want to see a puppy?”

Dress, Chanel Haute Couture. Earrings, Chanel Fine Jewellery.

She knocks on yet another door, which is opened immediately by her assistant director-producer husband and one of the co-founders of LuckyChap, Tom Ackerley, a tall handsome Brit who is holding a weeks-old pit-mix-terrier puppy they are fostering. Her colleagues are all long-time friends from her days living in London, when she and Ackerley shared a house with a group of young assistants working in film. “We’re calling her Bella,” Robbie says, petting the dog’s head. “We’re absolutely not keeping her, are we, Tom? We can’t keep a puppy. We’re far too busy for a puppy right, Tom?”

Shawl, Armani Privé. Earrings; and bracelet, both from Tiffany & Co. Beauty BAZAAR: Sculpt fierce cheekbones with Chanel Le Lion de Chanel Illuminating Powder (RM235).

Standing in the hall, face-to-face with Robbie, it’s hard to reconcile this version of the actress—this smiling, relaxed, unfettered dog lover—with the dark and complicated character I watched on the screen the day before. Of her metamorphosis, Robbie says, “Normally, there’s someone who steps in and says, ‘No, keep all the girls looking pretty!’ But Josie Rourke, the director, was keen to explore how Queen Elizabeth’s looks affected her relationships, and everyone had the guts to do it.”

Swimsuit, Chanel. Earrings; and ring, both from Chanel Fine Jewellery.

Robbie and Ronan share only one scene in Mary Queen of Scots, but it’s a doozy. The actresses were never allowed to glimpse each other in full regalia until they were filming, so their shocked reaction to seeing one another that way—Mary begging for her life, Elizabeth in steep decline—was visceral. The story of the strained relationship between the two 16th-century monarchs is both a feud and a familial love story. Common threads of their experience—the cousins were both controlled by men in their court, forced into war, and struggled to keep their gender from being seen as a weakness—should bond them together, but instead it tears them apart. “I feel like Mary and Elizabeth could have just sat down and worked it out over coffee,” Robbie says with a laugh. “But all those men kept getting in their way.”

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Next up, Robbie will play actress Sharon Tate in Quentin Tarantino’s take on Charles Manson-era Los Angeles in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, due out later this year, with Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. She is also prepping for a Charlize Theron-produced drama about Roger Ailes and Fox News.

Necklace; and ring, both from Bvlgari.

With her packed schedule, Robbie doesn’t get much time to socialise these days, but she’s not complaining. “I’ve been working non-stop for 10 years, but I’m still giddy every time I walk on set. We live and breathe the work here in LA. I’ve got my head down!” Hopefully, she’ll remember to look up on occasion, if only to show us how beautiful a woman in power can be.

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Fashion Editor: Charles Varenne
Hair: Bryce Scarlett for Moroccanoil
Make-up: Pati Dubroff for Chanel
Manicure: Ashlie Johnson
for Chanel Le Vernis
Production: Paul Preiss for Preiss Creative
Prop styling: Evan Jourden