Seemingly overnight, Margot Robbie has become one of the most sought after actors working today. Born in Dalby, Queensland and raised on Australia’s Gold Coast, the 25-year-old star got her start in 2007 with starring roles in Aussie independent films I.C.U. and Vigilante, before appearing on the long-running soap, Neighbours. Cast by Richard Curtis in the romantic comedy About Time in 2012, she would go on to co-star opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).
Robbie has hardly paused since. In 2015, she starred opposite Will Smith in Focus for directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, reteaming with the filmmaking duo again for the upcoming Tina Fey seriocomedy, Fun House (loosely based on former Chicago Tribune correspondent, Kim Barker’s, memoir ‘The Taliban Shuffle’). Her forthcoming projects include David Yates’s Tarzan (as Jane, opposite Alexander Skarsgård) and the eagerly anticipated, DC Comics supervillain film, Suicide Squad, as Harley Quinn.
For Robbie, though, the more down to earth role of Ann Burden, a self-reliant farm girl in Z for Zachariah, was both surprisingly (for those who don’t know her) and fortuitously (for the production itself) a seamless fit. “I only had five days to prep for this film so it was pretty intense,” explains the Australian actress. “Fortunately, I grew up doing a lot of the physical stuff that Ann does in the film, so that was a massive advantage. I already knew how to shoot guns, move cows and drive tractors… Thank goodness or this would have been a lot more difficult.”
“Some people may see Ann as a bit of a pushover, but she has a lot of strength,” says Robbie of her character. And while Burden herself is deeply religious, a view which, according to Robbie, informs her view of the new world in which the character finds herself, she is never overbearing, instead presenting a quiet counterpoint to John Loomis’s determined pragmatism. “She has a very strong faith and that’s ultimately where she gets her strength from,” explains Robbie. “She’s also very physically strong and can do a lot of the jobs that the men typically do.”
For Robbie, the biggest challenge in bringing Burden to life was nailing down the character’s regional accent with only a limited amount of time to prepare. “That was the thing I really struggled with,” says the actress. “Getting the accent perfect in five days was really difficult. She’s meant to be from southern West Virginia; a rural, mining-country accent. Fortunately, I had my dialect coach with me [on location]. Thank gosh, because she was my lifesaver.”
“Margot is a fun girl, a really easy person to get along with, so when I found out she was doing this I was really ecstatic,” says Robbie’s Z for Zachariah costar, Chris Pine. “She really has her stuff together in terms of the characters she wants to play and where she wants to take them.”
“There’s something about the fullness of these characters that I think both Margot and Chris were both really able to explore,” adds Chiwetel Ejiofor. “They’re both actors who really get into the heart of the story. And that’s the only way to do a story like this where you’re relying on a lot of nuance, on subtlety, on these unsaid things between the characters and their relationships as they develop… They were both perfect for the parts and it was amazing to have this opportunity to work with them.”
“Z for Zachariah” is released and distributed by Captive Cinema.
Showing on September 30. Nationwide!