It’s hard to imagine Margot Robbie being entirely picturesque on screen, especially given the type of roles she has tackled in recent years. However, considering the I, Tonya actress is evidently in talks to star in a feature film based on Barbie — the flagship product of toy manufacturing company Mattel — all that could soon change.
The Hollywood Reporter exclusively revealed that after years of development at Sony (since 2014, to be exact), the Barbie movie has shifted gears and found a new home at Warner Bros. And in addition to starring in the film, Robbie will produce the venture through her LuckyChap banner should the deal go through.
THR notes that Patty Jenkins of Wonder Woman fame may also jump on board for the movie. However, with no significant negotiations underway on that front, this could very well end up being just a pipe dream. There aren’t even any plot details for this version of a Barbie movie thus far, after its original premise — one of an excommunicated Barbie doll being made to enter the real world as an imperfect woman — was ultimately scrapped.
Robbie is the third actress in the running to play Barbie, after Amy Schumer and Anne Hathaway were courted and confirmed as leads once upon a time. A plethora of screenwriters including Tully‘s Diablo Cody and The Lego Ninjago Movie story writer Hilary Winston were tapped to contribute various versions of the script.
Sony even had a release date locked in, although, in reality, there were actually several. Initially scheduled to premiere on May 12, 2017, the movie got pushed to June 29, 2018, and then again to August 8 of the same year. The Barbie flick was finally set to land in theaters on May 8, 2020. However, the film rights eventually reverted back to Mattel, and the movie went into limbo until Robbie’s involvement.
Honestly, the fact that studios would continue to put faith in Barbie’s big-screen opportunities isn’t surprising. The fashion doll itself barely needs an introduction. Since appearing on shelves in 1959, Barbie has become a cultural icon that has expanded her reach well beyond the toy aisle.
For perspective, Andy Warhol once painted Barbie. The doll celebrated her 50th anniversary with an haute couture fashion show featuring looks created by 50 American designers, including the likes of Vera Wang and Anna Sui. Prominent figures in pop culture such as Zendaya and Ava DuVernay have been immortalized as Barbie dolls, too. As recently as yesterday (at the time of writing this piece), a Barbie-fied version of Jodie Whittaker’s groundbreaking 13th iteration of the eponymous protagonist in Doctor Who was announced for pre-order.
Barbie has even made waves on screen already, starring in direct-to-DVD animated movies since 2001 after appearing sporadically in short films and miniseries beginning in the 1980s. Overall, Barbie’s official film series has been a viable marketing tool for Mattel. They tell of simple plots that work to immerse consumers in the storytelling potential of the doll as a whole. Barbie has starred in three TV series, too: Life in the Dreamhouse, Dreamtopia, and Dreamhouse Adventures.
And in 2015 — in another bid to keep up with ever-evolving viewership trends — Barbie started vlogging. Like any typical YouTuber, Barbie delivers challenge videos, tags, and room tours on her eponymous channel. But surprisingly, there are nuggets of discernible feminist wisdom thrown into the mix. No doubt a good dose of “femvertising,” Barbie has some useful insights to share regardless.
Really, as an ex-Barbie enthusiast myself, I’m not too mad that the company is at least trying to empower young children to make smart choices and be confident in their own skin. That said, in spite of Hathaway boarding the Barbie project in 2017, I definitely still had concerns. Hathaway’s career was in no serious need of a Barbie adaptation when she had already been doing wonders in the indie world with Colossal at the time. She had blockbuster success on the horizon to look forward to.
Furthermore, despite the fact that preliminary plot descriptions tend to be vague for any movie, Sony’s Barbie film just felt flimsy and basic. Barbie’s talking head camera delivery in her vlog series makes for more direct and thus compelling content in comparison.
Arguably, my reaction to Robbie’s casting should be similar if it actually happens, unless Warner Bros. pushes for a different and hopefully more substantial story to match up with the talent they’ve got. The concept and script would be the deal breaker for a film like this, because more often than not, Robbie doesn’t just play a pretty face. In fact, she has worked hard to subvert many female character stereotypes for some time now.
Playing a caustic bombshell in The Wolf of Wall Street made Robbie internationally renowned. She proves a versatile slant by toning her energic screen presence down considerably for Z for Zachariah. Harley Quinn sure has some demons regardless of the attempted supervillainous glee in Suicide Squad. Robbie snarls and gnashes at her opponents in I, Tonya, and appears to come thoroughly undone in the briefest footage of Mary Queen of Scots alone. She is impressively infuriating in the affecting drama Goodbye Christopher Robin.
Yet Robbie’s supposed interest in a Barbie movie wouldn’t necessarily come out of nowhere, as she’s fully embraced more family-friendly avenues of filmmaking alongside all of the above. She had a voice role in Will Gluck’s Peter Rabbit (that has a sequel in the works) and will produce an adaptation of the famed children’s book The Paper Bag Princess with Pitch Perfect 2‘s Elizabeth Banks.
What makes Robbie’s Barbie bid most fascinating is that we can expect her to champion an important story. It also contrasts with her other upcoming projects that will depict Hollywood tragedy, the rise of criminal enterprises, and the takedown of sleazy moguls. Moreover, we eagerly await her antiheroic return as Harley in Birds of Prey and beyond. Whatever a trip to Barbie’s Malibu Dreamhouse ultimately looks like, let’s keep an eye on it.