Australian superstar Margot Robbie returns to a role she made absolutely iconic, Harley Quinn, in this week’s comic book blockbuster Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn).
Robbie has made a name for herself very quickly with a number of celebrated roles in a short amount of time. Here are seven of our favourites, ranging from Olympic Skaters to English monarchs. There’s even an appearance as herself…
1. Naomi Lapaglia (The Wolf of Wall Street, 2013)
Robbie’s self-described “Duchess of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn” was the perfect foil for Leonardo DiCaprio’s self-absorbed stockbroker Jordan Belfort in Martin Scorsese’s boundary-pushing black comedy.
Robbie’s character Naomi is a glamorous, beautiful former model, whom the sickeningly rich and depraved Belfort regards as another adornment to his status-obsessed lifestyle. However, Naomi is also playing the game to an extent, enjoying the wealthy trappings of her lifestyle with her super-rich husband.
Of course, money can’t buy you everything, and eventually, it all collapses in a hideous blizzard of drugs, domestic abuse and divorce. This was Robbie’s breakout performance: intelligent, sexy and featuring a pitch-perfect Brooklyn accent.
2. Herself (The Big Short, 2015)
OK, so perhaps this is a bit of a cheat, given Robbie’s brief cameo (as herself) is designed to liven up the dry, complicated world of insider trading. That’s the subject of Adam McKay’s acclaimed, Oscar-winning comedy-drama, which gets up close and personal to those who instigated the 2008 financial crash.
In full make-up and sitting in a bubble bath, Robbie explains the concept of subprime mortgages – in between sips of champagne. It’s a small moment in the film but one that demonstrates Robbie’s knack for deadpan humour.
3. Harley Quinn (Suicide Squad, 2016)
The anarchic Harley Quinn is a relatively new character in comic book terms, having been developed for the Batman animated show back in the nineties. Therefore, when it came to 2016 DC movie Suicide Squad, Robbie enjoyed free reign to re-imagine the character as she saw fit.
Although Quinn is part of a villainous ensemble in this critically-derided comic book movie, she remains the clear stand-out thanks to her unpredictable nature and quick wit; even the look of the character is somewhat different from the harlequin-style outfit of the comic book series. With her trusty baseball bat in hand and disdain towards those who fail to act as “the bad guys”, Robbie’s Quinn sports a mischievous grin that hints at darker intentions.
We’re re-acquainted with the deadly yet oddly endearing character in Birds of Prey, in which Quinn has become freed from her abusive relationship with the Joker (played in Suicide Squad by Jared Leto). And Robbie is later set to return as Quinn in director James Gunn’s Suicide Squad reboot, due for release in 2021.
4. Tonya Harding (I, Tonya, 2017)
Robbie’s first Academy Award-nominated role couldn’t have been further from the glamour of The Wolf of Wall Street.
Portraying disgraced American figure skater Tonya Harding, Robbie put her all into a character who’s driven by perfectionism, also sketching in the character’s troubled upbringing. The scenes shared by Robbie and a ferocious, Oscar-winning Allison Janney as Harding’s monstrous mother LaVona Golden are brilliantly acidic and bitter.
Robbie’s performance turned the public perception of Harding on its head, asking if the true culprits are the public who build damaged people up only to knock them down. It’s a gritty, no-nonsense portrayal that further demonstrated Robbie’s versatility.
5. Queen Elizabeth I (Mary, Queen of Scots, 2018)
When it came to this lavishly appointed costume drama, Robbie applied her brand of I, Tonya intensity to the role of one of England’s most famous monarchs. Robbie seethes and plots in the role of the legendary Elizabeth I, a ruler revered and feared in equal measure, all the while threatened by a younger, more progressive challenger to her throne: Mary, Queen of Scots (Saoirse Ronan).
While other actors would look for roles that accentuate their glamour, Robbie also portrays the older Elizabeth, ravaged and pockmarked by illness, and isolated by her sense of authority. It’s a testament to Robbie’s dedication that she continues to seek out interesting, as opposed to fashionable, roles.
6. Sharon Tate (Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, 2019)
Some critics of Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film complained that Robbie was sidelined in this story of 1969-era Hollywood. She portrays ill-fated, real-life actress Sharon Tate, and gets very few lines, instead breezing through the backdrop of the movie as an optimistic, sunny presence. However, one cannot judge a powerful performance from words alone, and Robbie’s sheer screen presence is an infectious, captivating contrast to Leonardo DiCaprio’s ageing TV star, Rick Dalton.
In BAFTA nominee Robbie’s hands, we’re witness to a bold new talent on the rise, ascending into the Hollywood dream just as Dalton is descending from it. The performance is one of purity, particularly in the lovely scene where Tate watches herself on the big screen in the midst of a paying cinema audience. Of course, in reality, Tate’s life was tragically and horribly curtailed; thanks to the double-whammy of Tarantino and Robbie, we can occupy a happy place and imagine what might have been.
7. Kayla Pospisil (Bombshell, 2020)
Bombshell dramatizes the shocking true story of the Fox News scandal, in which a group of female anchors and employees exposed CEO Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) on the basis of sexual harassment. Whereas Nicole Kidman and Oscar nominee Charlize Theron play real people (Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly), Robbie’s character is a fictional amalgam of several real-life individuals.
Kayla Pospisil is a rising star at Fox News, whose sense of idealism and personal ambition is challenged when she becomes the victim of horrific abuse of power. One scene, in particular, involving Robbie and Lithgow’s threatening, insinuating Ailes, is brilliantly acted, allowing Robbie to convey the full horror of the situation with her eyes. It’s no wonder that the film has earned her a second Academy Award nomination – whether she’ll win or not is another matter.
James Luxford is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team. Follow him on Twitter.