Margot Robbie: The It Girl That Isn't

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How the actress sidestepped the pitfalls of sudden stardom. 

Hollywood’s most successful franchise is It Girls. Year after year, a bountiful, usually blonde, crop of leggy talent is harvested on magazine covers. Some graduate quickly from It-dom (Charlize Theron, class of 1996; Scarlett Johansson, ’03), while some make the cover of Vanity Fair and then are rarely heard from again (Mena Suvari, ’00; Abbie Cornish, ’10; Suki Waterhouse, probably ’17). 

Margot Robbie (’13), by contrast, is somehow the It that Isn’t. The 25-year-old Australian has been called It. She looks like It. And after her jaw-dropping, Basic Instinct–topping performance in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, she was probably offered all the usual It parts, like playing the girlfriend in whatever Adam Sandler is doing next. But Robbie, who served time on television in Australia’s Neighbours and on ABC’s short-lived 2011 series Pan Am, has made every choice since Wolf judiciously—including turning down the cover of Playboy in 2014. 

What Robbie didn’t turn down was the chance to play against expectations. She earned industry cred by ditching the blonde hair and working with Chiwetel Ejiofor in Z for Zachariah and Kristin Scott Thomas in Suite Française. She then stole every scene from Will Smith (no small feat) as the femme fatale in the otherwise forgettable Focus. She returned, briefly, to full self-aware It mode with the cameo of 2015, in The Big Short, explaining subprime loans while submerged in a bubble bath and drinking a flute of champagne. The scene ends with Robbie looking the audience dead in the eye and telling us to buzz off (only less politely). 

With news she’s set to play disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding in a forthcoming biopic, Robbie will keep us guessing this year, too. She’ll play the Jane to Alexander Skarsgård’s Tarzan in The Legend of Tarzan (July 1) before joining the DC Comics universe as part of a troupe of supervillains in Suicide Squad (August 5), in which she hides her perfect face behind a deep cake of white makeup and deranged lipstick and once again tells our expectations to, well, buzz off.