Ahead of the movie Bombshell, Margot Robbie talks with Michele Manelis about sexual harassment, fear of public speaking and imposter syndrome
What have you learned about sexual harassment through making Bombshell?
One of the first lines in the script explained that sexual harassment is when someone makes any unwelcome sexual advances. Up until that moment, I thought I had a fair understanding of what it meant but when I read that line, I realised that I didn't know what sexual harassment was at all. I always thought it required physical contact for it to be considered illegal or wrong. And it was then that I thought, "How do I not know that?" And if that is the case, then any catcalling on the street or from a dude in the bar, or whatever is a form of sexual harassment. I don't know if I know any woman who hasn't experienced sexual harassment to some degree of severity.
And Bombshell being set in the world of Fox News specifically? What did you learn about that culture?
There is a kind of uniform, a Fox News uniform. There are tight dresses, legs on show, the Lucite desks and that's very much talked-about in the film. I really appreciated the line in the film, where Nicole Kidman's character, Gretchen [Carlson], says, "You know why soldiers wear the same uniforms? So that they know that they are replaceable." I think the aesthetic comes into play so much and it was a huge part of these women's journey.
The elevator scene in the trailer with you, Charlize and Nicole – what was that like?
I think once the combination of Charlize, Nicole and myself signed on to those three characters, everyone was like, "Whoa! We have to put them all in one scene at some point." And it would have been a wasted opportunity not to. It was perfect. I think they symbolised their exact predicament in that they were isolated, they weren't reaching out to each other and they were kind of stuck in their own prisons, desperately needing help but reluctant to speak up and ask for it at that point.
Your character wants to be an anchor woman – did you ever want to be on air?
On air - no! I hate doing things live; it scares me so much. If I get up to do a speech at someone's wedding, I'm freaking out! My voice is shaking, and everyone says, "Don't you do this for a living?" And I'm like, "No!"
This is an important film for people to watch, not only because of the insidiousness of sexual harassment but because of the powerful who abuse the powerless, regardless of gender.
I think it's important for everyone to see it, should they ever find themselves in a situation they can recognise whether they themselves are manipulating from the position of power they are in or they are on the receiving end of that. It's not an issue of men versus women, I think it's anyone versus anyone and I think it's everyone recognising what's appropriate and what's not.
As much as you've accomplished, certainly since you arrived in Hollywood, do you ever feel like a fraud? Many successful people will say they have the feeling that one day they will be found out?
I think we all have that fear. I remember after I did Wolf of Wall Street, saying to a friend, "I haven't worked for six weeks now, I will probably never work again." You can't help but have that voice of doubt in your mind, wondering if I wake up [from this dream], will it all disappear as quickly as it's come? Probably every other actor I've talked to has that voice in their head sometimes.
Have you always been ambitious?
Yes. I have always been driven, very career-minded and I had been starting mini-businesses since I was a kid. I would steal my brother's toys and sell them on the side of the road. I was always like, "What's the next thing?" And the same thing with coming to America. I had a plan, I was always trying to take that next step in my career and I'm still always trying to look further and do something else in my career.
You seem to be working non-stop, both in front as an actor and behind the camera as a producer – is there a strategy behind it?
No, I just feel there are so many great opportunities that have arisen in my life that I can't imagine saying no to them. Sometimes I know I should slow down and it would be healthier to have a bit of a break. But when such an amazing opportunity comes along, it's so hard to say no to it. I'm trying to get better at trying to pace myself.
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Bombshell is at cinemas from Thursday, January 16.