If there's one more thing to know about "The Wolf of Wall Street" before its release next week, it's that you should be ready to remember scene-stealing, Australian-born newcomer Margot Robbie, who plays Jordan Belfort's (Leonardo DiCaprio) manipulative second wife, Naomi (aka "The Duchess").
Robbie — who generated some buzz (and tabloid headlines) earlier this year while filming "Focus" with Will Smith — makes a very good impression upon Belfort and his pals when she walks into one of their outlandish parties in the Hamptons. Coincidentally, Robbie made a similarly striking impression upon DiCaprio and director Martin Scorsese during the "Wolf" audition process, due in part to her mastery of the Brooklyn accent, but more so because she so into their scene she slapped DiCaprio.
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Yahoo Movies recently caught up with Robbie to talk about all the trappings that come with portraying a Long Island housewife in the '80s (think big hair and spray tans), why she thought DiCaprio was a homeless person when they first met, and her big year in movies, which also included her role as the English-accented first love of leading man Tim (Domnhall Gleeson) in the era-hopping family rom-com "About Time."
Was your first meeting with Mr. DiCaprio at all similar to your character's first meeting with Jordan Belfort?
Margot Robbie: Ha, no, it wasn't really like that at all. We weren't in the Hamptons, we weren't at a cocktail party, we were in a studio audition room in New York, and he still had his giant beard and long hair from "Django Unchained" because he had just wrapped filming. And I walked into the room and for a heartbeat I thought, "Who is that? Someone sort of homeless-looking in the corner?" And that was Mr. DiCaprio, and then a few minutes later we're doing our scene and I ended up getting carried away and hitting him in the face. So our first encounter was a little interesting but that definitely broke the ice and we've had a great working relationship ever since.
How did you master that Long Island accent?
M.R.: I did a lot of technical training a couple years ago when I was preparing to move to America, to prepare for the standard American accent. So I had all the technical training in place which, now when I start working other accents, I can adapt that knowledge and use it for whatever accent I need.
Tim Monich was Leo and my dialect coach on set, he provided me with a lot of voice recordings of actual women from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where my character was from, and I would just listen to them on my iPod and mimic them. Another thing that bizarrely helped: my acting coach told me when I was first putting my audition on tape, she said, "Pretend like you have acrylic nails on and they've just been painted and the paint is still wet." I said, "How does that help my accent?" She said, "Just do it."
So I put my hands out and thought, "OK, my fingernails are wet" and suddenly these hand gestures came out and I'm waving my hands around, I've got this attitude, it really worked. It was the perfect combination of the technical training and that bizarre little trick and the expertise of Tim Monich.
So you didn't have to watch any episodes of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" or anything?
M.R.: No I have little to no patience for reality TV so thankfully I didn't have to resort to that.
One can't help but notice your lovely and very bronze skin in the film. What was the preferred method for achieving that? Spray tanning?
M.R.: Oh gosh, that was once a week on a Sunday night. I would get a spray tan and my acrylic nails put on and be ready to go for another week. It was so disgusting. The smell of the spray tan makes me want to gag now, but yeah, most of the cast would all get spray tans so that we would be overly bronze all the time. It was hilarious.
And oddly authentic. It's crazy how certain stereotypes are true.
M.R.: Yeah we looked back at the photos, and they're all weirdly bronze all the time.
Speaking of showing off your bronzed skin, how easy or difficult was getting comfortable with those love scenes and skimpy outfits? How did DiCaprio and Scorsese help set you at ease?
M.R.: Everyone on set did their best to make it a comfortable environment to shoot those scenes, but it's still incredibly daunting and uncomfortable. You just have to grit your teeth and do it there is no other option. It's not like, "Will I or won't I?" It's that's what's in the scene, and we have to shoot that by this time tonight, and so you get on with it.
The sooner we get it done, the sooner you can put your clothes back on. So it really was like, "OK, be the character. She would do it, do it." It was weird, but by the end of the film everyone was so used to getting undressed that we didn't care. You took your robe off easily. But the first time? Definitely, I was petrified.
Well you make her a lot of fun to watch in how she seduces Jordan.
M.R.: That is definitely her source of power, it was fun to wield that over him.
The movie is such a crazy ride. What do you think audiences take away from it?
M.R.: Gosh, I don't know. People keep asking that. I'm still obliged to think I hope they see a greedy lifestyle and in the end living in excess won't make you happy. But I don't think we made this movie to tell a moral story about what's right and wrong. People know what's right and wrong. I think it's a film to look closely at a bunch of crazy characters and this unique insane time of their lives and what they were doing. It's just an entertaining, close-up, uncensored, raw version of that. So I hope people don't look at it and think they want to live that way. But I hope they think it's entertaining three hours of film-watching.
What was your favorite Naomi moment, given all her ups and downs?
M.R.: I really love the last sequence when I ask for a divorce and it escalates into the giant fight scene where I get to smash the window in and scream and all those kinds of things. It was kind of a cathartic moment in the film when everything bubbles over the surface and you explode and then she's gone. That's the last time you see her, and I like that it was out of a drive to protect her kids. It was nice to have that motivating factor.
We've heard your English accent and now the Brooklyn one. What new accent will we hear from you next?
M.R.: I play a French peasant farm girl [in "Suite Francaise"], but I will be doing an English accent [playing] French. So you'll hear an English accent again, and then the film I just wrapped is "Focus" where I am doing a standard American accent. I play a New York girl, and I don't know what's going to be next. I hope I get another challenging accent to do because they are some of my favorite things to do, perfecting an accent. I'd like to do a Boston accent. I'd love to do a Southern accent next.
Nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Picture, Comedy or Musical, "The Wolf of Wall Street" opens nationwide on Christmas Day.