Margot Robbie’s Eyes are Up Here, Thanks

How the actress’s upcoming projects look to expand her image.
By  · Published on April 24th, 2017

How the actress’s upcoming projects look to expand her image.

There’s no denying that Margot Robbie’s sex appeal has played a role in the trajectory of her acting career. However, while she’s often listed among Hollywood’s rising stars, her sex symbol status has not come without a price, as perhaps best exemplified by Vanity Fair’s obnoxiously terrible profile of the actress, which should not perhaps be counted as journalism so much as patronizing sexist ooze. The article mentions that Robbie is a talented actress, but mostly focuses on trying to describe her physical appearance as extensively and creepily as possible, with seemingly a secondary goal of irritating the entire country of Australia, or as Rich Cohen calls it, “America 50 years ago.”

From her “eagle spread” seduction scene in The Wolf of Wall Street to her bubble bath cameo in The Big Short to Harley Quinn’s absolutely everything in Suicide Squad, Robbie’s rise from “who?” to bona fide movie star has featured a lot of sexual imagery, even by Hollywood standards.

It’s not that people have not noticed that Robbie is a capable actress. In fact, one of the most frequent comments made regarding her acting career is how she has managed to infuse depth into would-be stereotypes. Her performance as Harley Quinn marks one of the very few redeeming features of the garbage fire that is Suicide Squad, even if her dialogue often feels like the sort of stuff a gaggle of hormonal fifteen year old boys who have never talked to an actual girl before would think up — after all, the film also solidified Harley Quinn’s place as second most stereotypical nerd boy fetish, after Slave Bikini Princess Leia.

Still, if you looked at Robbie’s body of work to date, “typecast” might be a word that comes to mind. Now, let’s take a moment here to acknowledge that typecasting is not fundamentally evil, nor is it the same as stereotyping. Stereotyping would be only casting Robbie in specific roles because she fits a particular visual bill. What we’ve seen instead is that Robbie has a knack for adding some degree of depth and roundness to a rather particular sort of character that’s often portrayed with the depth of a sheet of printer paper. Getting more work offers doing a thing you’ve proven to be particularly good at doing is just sort of how jobs work in general.

However, when the specific sort of role you’ve become proficient in is of the sort that Robbie’s is, even less creep-tastic profiles will often feature such lines as: “It comes as a surprise, then — a relief, even — to meet Robbie in April on the Santa Monica Pier and discover that she’s not remotely like the manipulative sex kittens she’s been so eerily good at portraying on the screen.”

Speaking of screens, we haven’t seen Robbie on the silver screen since last summer, which brought both Suicide Squad and The Legend of Tarzan (and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot), but that’s not because she hasn’t been busy. According to IMDb, Robbie has no less than seven projects currently in various stages of development, and the majority of them suggest that Robbie is attempting not to so much rebrand as to greatly expand her image. Included are three biopics, also known as the “please take me seriously as an actor, goddamnit” genre.

The most recent announcement of these films came last Friday, when Variety reported that Robbie is in talks to play Queen Elizabeth in the upcoming Mary, Queen of Scots film opposite Saoirse Ronan, which is being adapted by House of Cards creator Beau Willimon from the book The True Life of Mary Stewart. The film has yet to be greenlit, but apparently “things are headed in the right direction.” Now, I think that it’s worth noting that of all the royalty that has ever lived, and just how frequently historical royalty appears on screens large and small, Robbie has signed on to play the Virgin Queen. Scholars continue to debate the veracity of the popular moniker, and even if Elizabeth was technically celibate that doesn’t mean she was a nun, but still, one imagines that even if Willimon is intending to take considerable liberties with his adaptation, he will not be taking Elizabeth’s character down the seductress route.

One of her other two biopics in the works, Simon Curtis’ Goodbye Christopher Robin, in which she plays A. A. Milne’s wife Daphne, is a somewhat similar case in this regard. I admit I don’t know much about the creator or the creation of Winnie the Pooh, but if audiences leave Goodbye Christopher Robin when it comes to theaters this November thinking “wow, A. A. Milne’s wife was a sex bomb!” — even if that thought is followed by “and Margot Robbie’s performance was amazing!” — something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Robbie’s third biopic in the works, I, Tonya, will also be a new look for the actress — physically, that is, as set photos from the upcoming film about the American ice skater at the center of a 1994 scandal have revealed that she’s hardly recognizable in costume for the role.

Margot Robbie has already proven herself a capable actress, but it looks like she’s gearing up to give audiences a much better sense of the full extent and range of her abilities.

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Ciara Wardlow is a human being who writes about movies and other things. Sometimes she tries to be funny on Twitter.