By Charlie Schmidlin | The Playlist January 8, 2014 at 12:40PM
Two years ago, up-and-coming actress Margot Robbie was stuck in what she calls a “blessing in disguise”. Her first American TV show, ABC’s “Pan Am”, was cancelled after its first season, but on the upside her freed network contract allowed her to pursue parts in both Richard Curtis’ “About Time” and Martin Scorsese’s next directorial effort. Prior to the network’s decision, Robbie—a 23-year-old Australian star best known for her role on the soap opera “Neighbours”—sent in an audition tape for “The Wolf of Wall Street” on a whim. To her surprise though, Scorsese’s casting director Ellen Lewis saw potential in her tape, and suddenly Robbie found herself in lead contention for the role of Naomi, the smart, sexpot wife to wheeling-and-dealing stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). A short while later, she snagged the role, and Robbie started preparing for her most high-profile film yet.
At both a roundtable and a one-on-one interview recently in Los Angeles, we got the chance to sit down with an enthusiastic Robbie as she described building her character’s distinctive voice, her intense, emotion-fuelled scenes opposite DiCaprio, going nude, and also her recently-shuttered next project, the crime drama “Violent Talents” with Garrett Hedlund and Toby Kebbell.
The Nude Scenes Were Essential—And Central—To Her Character’s Approach
There are scripts that I pick up and say, "There's no reason why she's getting her clothes off, that's just stupid, it’s just nudity for the sake of nudity.” That I do not agree with, ever. But when the nudity is warranted, I totally agree with it, and don't think there's anything shameful in that. If it's justified and the character would do it then it should be there. In this case, [sex is] Naomi's power over Jordan and that's her only way of getting what she wants. That's her form of currency in a world of millionaires when she comes from nothing. The only way of creating a better life for herself and getting what she wants is the fact that she's aware of this sexual power she has over men, and especially over Jordan.
It's just different in this day and age too, because there's the Internet. It was like, if I do this there will forever be YouTube clips of this, there will be slow-motion versions. It's not just the repercussions on myself; my brothers have to deal with that, my grandparents have to deal with that. It's not just something that affects me; it affects everyone around me. So it's not something to be taken lightly. I obviously put a lot of thought into it.
The Fact That The Nude Scenes Were In A Scorsese Film Didn’t Hurt, Either
If there's ever a time to do nudity, it's in the hands of Martin Scorsese, who going to do it tastefully, who doesn't exploit nudity. You watch his films, there's a lot of violence—which he does so well—but he doesn't use nudity as a tool for shock value. It's not like he's going to keep nudity in his back pocket and say, “Here I wanna do something exciting to pick the pace back up.” It's not like that.
So I felt totally comforted by the fact that it would be done well and done tastefully. I'm not really scared of doing it on the day because I know crews are professional and all that kind of stuff, it's more like having it physically recorded forever. And all that ended up, it was so worth it. It was done so well and everyone gets naked in the movie, and it was like nothing.
On Meeting Nadine Caridi, The Real-Life Inspiration For Naomi
I had the choice to meet her or not and I opted to meet her, and I'm really glad I did. It ended up being really helpful. It wasn't necessarily integral to meet her to form my character because I wasn't trying to portray her. And I tried to explain that to her – I was creating a character that was in the same situation that she was in, that lived the life that she was in, but I was by no means trying to be her or portray her at that time. She was really great about it, really understanding, which is a real attribute to how strong she is as a person. She's has to be, to have put up with Jordan and his shenanigans.
When I asked what would they fight about, she was like, "The drugs. The fact that he was a drug addict." And I was like, "Oh." Because in the book [Jordan] conveniently makes it sound like they only fought about him sleeping with hookers and him coming home late and all those kind of things. But her version of events – she said, "I didn't care about the hookers or coming home late. He's a man, he's going to fuck around, I don't give a shit." And I was like, "Wow, okay." She doesn't really have a filter in what she says.
She said he would be doing crack in front of their newborn baby. Any mother would divorce their husband for that. That could justify any irrational crazy behavior if it was out of protection of your child. So that was so helpful for my character because then I could do or say any horrible thing and know that my character's motivation was out of protection for her child. Whether or not the audience sees my side of events is another matter, but just to know my motivation can give me an authentic performance.