All eyes in Hollywood are on Margot Robbie.
Not only is the Oscar-nominated actress one of the movie industry's fastest-rising stars, she is also one of its most glamorous and a producer's dream.
Stepping on to the red carpet in Cannes last week to promote her latest film – Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – she was the picture of cool elegance in sequined Chanel. And her appearance just a few days earlier – executing a perfect dive into the Med while wearing a sculpted, one-shouldered white swimsuit – attracted more attention still.
What a difference a couple of years makes. In what may come as rather a surprise, pictures have emerged that suggest Ms Robbie was not always quite so well-groomed. Just months before bagging her starring role in Tarantino's epic, in which she plays Sharon Tate, the most famous victim of the Charles Manson murders, the 28-year-old was still living in a cramped and scruffy house-share in South London where seven people were squeezed into four bedrooms. The crowded home in Clapham, affectionately known as "The Manor" by its residents, was a hotbed of partying and hard drinking – followed by small-hours excursions to dingy local nightclubs. It was here that Margot began her relationship with her husband, Surrey-born film-maker Tom Ackerley, and had what she describes as 'the best times'.
The lease on the property was originally signed in early 2014, shortly after the release of the film which would make her name – Martin Scorcese's The Wolf Of Wall Street, in which she played seductress Naomi Lapaglia opposite Leonardo DiCaprio.
Australian-born Margot, in London for the UK premiere, used the trip as an opportunity to meet up with the British friends she had made on the set of wartime drama Suite Francaise. The actress is said to have formed tight bonds with the London-based film crew, and the old gang had reassembled in the room of a glamorous hotel which was paid for on Margot's behalf by Paramount.
The reunion sparked a seemingly outrageous idea – that the friends should all live together and recreate the fun they'd had on set. At the time, former Neighbours star Margot was on the cusp of worldwide stardom but was still living out of suitcases as she travelled the world for filming, awards ceremonies and premieres. The prospect of a base was suddenly all-too seductive.
Three days later, the group signed a lease on the decidedly modest house, chosen to be affordable to even the lowest-paid crew member – even though Margot was, at the time, worth several million pounds. One of the housemates was Suite Francaise's assistant director Tom, the son of an estate agent, and it was while living in close proximity that their relationship developed.
It was a raucous period by anyone's standards – certainly according to pictures posted on one of her former housemate's Instagram page. In one from April 2014, captioned "the house degenerates', a brunette Margot is almost unrecognisable as she poses on a roof with her new housemates.
One black-booted leg held aloft, her tongue stuck out like a defiant teenager, she wears a naughty grin as she sticks two fingers up at the camera with both hands. Perhaps prophetically given her 2018 Best Actress Oscar nomination for her role in I, Tonya, her T-shirt bears the slogan "Oscars bait". She is joined by friend Sophia Kerr while a group of young men parade in various states of undress.
Another snap posted a month later reveals a huge pile of bin bags strewn outside the house, filled with empty beer cans and bottles. Within days, another post shows an ecstatic Margot sitting astride the shoulders of a friend.
One acquaintance, who attended one of the parties, remembers Margot's room as unkempt, with an unmade bed and clothes scattered on the floor. It is worlds away from her current "house-share" – a pristine £2.1 million four-bedroom Los Angeles villa, which she has owned with Tom since 2017.
Big break on Neighbours
For all her fame, Margot has always enjoyed a laid-back – and, indeed, dishevelled – approach to life. She grew up the third of four children on a fruit farm on Queensland's Gold Coast, raised by her strong-willed single mother, Sarie Kessler, whom she has described as "amazing". Scottish-born Sarie instilled in her children the importance of hard work and, by the age of 16 Margot had three jobs – as a cleaner, a Subway sandwich maker and as a surf store sales assistant. She left home to pursue her acting career in Melbourne, and was on a low-budget snowboarding holiday in Canada ("in a van with no doors") when she got the call to appear on long-running Australian soap opera Neighbours. The show has launched the international careers of many singers and actors, most notably Kylie Minogue, Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce. And, after three years, Margot decided to try her luck in Los Angeles.
Having saved much of the money she made on Neighbours, she chose to spend it on acting classes and dialect coaching. The investment has more than paid off. In 2012 she was cast in TV series Pan Am, about 1960s cabin crew, but it was her role in The Wolf Of Wall Street – which she won after delivering an unscripted slap to Leonardo DiCaprio's cheek during the audition – that brought her to the attention of Hollywood.
Then, in early 2016, while she was still living in Clapham, she was cast alongside Alexander Skarsgard in $272 million blockbuster The Legend Of Tarzan. This was when her career really took off. Skarsgard remembers being "blown away" by how "cool and down to earth" Margot was. He has recalled: "She was living in a house with six other people, kind of a frat-house vibe, and on weekends she would go to Amsterdam and sleep in bunk beds in a youth hostel with Canadian backpackers, or to some music festival in northern England and sleep in a tent. She's not precious at all."
Margot appears to have been refreshingly anti-Hollywood at the time, refusing to lose any weight for the film, while citing what she laughingly described at the time as "selfish reasons".
She was determined, instead, to keep up with her hobby – downing pints with her housemates.
"I was like a naughty schoolgirl," she told Vanity Fair.
"It was my first time living in London properly and I wanted to try every pub. I'm not going to look thin just for the sake of it."
Another photo on her friend's Instagram account shows Margot posing at South West Four, an electronic dance festival held on Clapham Common. She has even admitted to frequenting tacky local nightclub Infernos, renowned for its sticky dancefloor and cheesy 1990s music playlist.
Claiming that even megastar DiCaprio would "actually love it", she has confided that, on the evenings she attended, she "looked so revolting that nobody's going to look twice". It is all far from the well-constructed glamour of Beverly Hills. But Margot has always insisted her pleasures are far more earthly. She extolled the unlikely joys of living in Clapham in an interview with luxury London lifestyle magazine The Resident in 2017.
"For me, where you live and what you do have to be simplistic and comfortable, otherwise how are you possibly going to relax?" she said.
"Clapham has always felt unassuming in the sense that you're just left alone to get on with who you are, and that's perfect. But I like living with lots of people. It reminds me of the house I grew up in.
"It's funny – I always think I want privacy because I'm never actually on my own, ever. But then when I am, I hate it. After five minutes I find people to hang out with."
'The s*** hit the fan'
Despite their burgeoning romance, Margot and Tom – who she once described as "the best-looking man in London" – kept it a secret from their housemates, concerned it would affect the dynamic of the group. But the secret emerged and, she recalled, "the s*** hit the fan. Our house turned into The Jerry Springer Show for a moment there. But then the dust settled, and it was all good".
The couple remained in the flat despite the fact Margot was worth an estimated £6 million by 2016, thanks to her Tarzan pay cheque. Indeed, she claimed that she had never, at that point, spent lots of money either on rent or on "staying anywhere beautiful".
"It actually makes me really anxious, just the idea of it," she told an Australian interviewer. "It seems crazy to spend a huge amount of money on things you don't need.
"If I were a waitress I'd probably have the exact same lifestyle. I'd go to the same clubs I go to already, live in the same house with the same housemates, hang out with the same people. I'm pretty frugal."
Today she is said to be worth $23 million after starring in a string of box-office hits, including Mary Queen Of Scots.
But some degree of that success is linked to her housemates at The Manor. Tom and Margot joined forces with fellow housemates Sophia Kerr and Josey McNamara to set up their own production company, LuckyChap Entertainment, which produced Margot's most critically acclaimed film to date – I, Tonya.
After her marriage to Tom, which took place at a secret ceremony on a beach in Australia with a strict ban on mobile phones, their friends told them it was about time they "got a room". The newlyweds relocated to West London and then, after the production company began to take off, they made the decision to move permanently to America.
Their shimmering LA home is a world away from The Manor. There is an outdoor pool, manicured gardens, a deep, free-standing roll-top bath and marble fittings. Margot has also swapped her evenings at Infernos for cocktails with fellow Aussie actress Isla Fisher and model Cara Delevingne.
Her career, meanwhile, is set to reach even more dazzling levels. Her next film will see her appear alongside Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman in a film about the women of Fox News and the toxic culture they fought.
But however far she strays from her wild Clapham days, it's unlikely that Margot or her housemates will forget them. If rumours are to be believed, the seven residents of The Manor had their tenure immortalised in matching tattoos – inked by Margot herself.