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“I’ve never worked that hard in my life,” Robbie said of playing fictional up-and-coming actress Nellie LaRoy in the period piece, in theaters December 23. “[I was] shattered by the end of that job.”
Robbie cited the two animals that Nellie embodied: an octopus (“She could be both fluid and transformative”) and a gritty honey badger (“She is ready for a fight — constantly. They’re just so thick-skinned.”)
From portraying Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya” to comic book anti-hero Harley Quinn in the DCU — especially Robbie’s LuckyChap Entertainment-produced “Birds of Prey” — Robbie noted that she has a common theme among her onscreen personas.
“I’m a masochist,” the “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” alum said. “I can always find a fifth gear.”
“Babylon” writer-director Chazelle called Robbie “utterly fearless” when transforming into Nellie, adding that the character is “fully animalistic,” much like Robbie’s comparison. “I had a sense that she would attack it,” Chazelle said. “There’s this sort of ravenous physical bravado to her. On the other hand, she’s also the most technically skilled thespian you could hope to work with as a director.”
Chazelle previously boasted that “Babylon” had the “biggest cast, the biggest number of roles I’ve ever juggled by far” in his career.
“The casting process took a long, long time. It’s a mostly fictional film where the characters are fictional, but inspired by composites of real-life people,” the “La La Land” Oscar winner said. “Writing them, I was getting inspiration from a lot of those real-life sources, but pretty quickly you move to the casting phase and you’re just looking for people to surprise you. That was the guiding principle, to demolish all preconceived notions of that era, those people, and find actors who would convey that spirit.”
Chazelle concluded, “It was my first time doing a real ensemble, panoramic movie. I was trying to look at novels and movies, like certain Fellini pictures like ‘La Dolce Vita,’ Altman movies like ‘Nashville,’ the ‘Godfather’ pictures. These old-school epics that manage through a handful of characters to convey a sense of an entire society evolving and changing, so that by the end of the movie you’re in a completely different world.”
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