So here’s how this happened.
I’m a big fan of a hockey team that I like to call The New York Rangers. I like to call it that, because that is name of the team. In fact, it may be more accurate to say that I am less of a fan than I am a semi-functional obsessive. Many of my earliest memories involve watching the Rangers in the late 80s and early 90s as the franchise finally figured things out and – in one of the most dramatically brilliant playoffs runs in modern sports history – ended their 54-year championship drought by winning the Stanley Cup on June 14, 1994. I’ve been known to refer to the broadcast of that game 7 as one of the greatest pieces of cinema ever made. My byline for this site required me to define myself in two sentences – one of them is about the Rangers.
Being a Rangers fan is sort of like being the Llewyn Davis of the sports world – you’re in New York, you’re always being hurt by the thing you love the most, most people don’t know you exist and the ones who do hardly seem to care. Also, it's a known fact that all Rangers fans sing a killer rendition of "Dink's Song". But at least Llewyn Davis had a scene. Sure, he had the Gaslight Cafe and we have Madison Square Garden (aka “The World’s Most Famous Arena™”), but in stark contrast to how it is for the fans of every other major sport in America, hockey lovers seldom feel like they have anyone to talk to about the glorious game. The Yankees logo is one of the most ubiquitous symbols in the world, a veritable emblem for outsized New York pride and swagger. On the other hand, every time I see someone wearing a Rangers hat on the subway, it’s like we're both a part of the same secret society. Sure, Madison Square Garden seats 18,200 people and sells out every night, but hockey games often feel like spontaneous happenings more than anything else, and – when watching from home – hockey fans often feel as though the game is being broadcast exclusively for them.
Alas, my cross to bear in life is that the movies too seldom overlap with the Rangers (the less said about “Mystery, Alaska” the better, thanks). But you better believe that, when an opportunity to do so presents itself, I’m not gonna let it go.
This brings us to “The Wolf of Wall Street” star Margot Robbie. Margot Robbie, a young Australian actress who recently graduated from soap operas in her native country to starring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in the best Martin Scorsese film since “Goodfellas”, is nothing less than a unicorn. Upon first seeing the movie, I was ambushed by her complex and indelible performance as Jordan Belfort’s underestimated model wife. Unfamiliar with the actress, I was rather surprised when a quick Google search revealed that a number of her recent tweets ended in the sweet poetry of the #NYR hashtag. I didn’t think much of it until Robbie appeared on VH1’s “Big Morning Buzz”, where the extent of her Rangers fandom was revealed.
The relevant bit starts about 7 minutes in.
Clearly, action needed to be taken. I sent a perfectly sane and level-headed email to one of Paramount’s finest publicists:
Cut to: “I read Margot your email, and she’d be happy to talk to you.”
Yesterday afternoon, Ms. Robbie rang me up from the “Wolf of Wall Street” junket in Los Angeles. I was a bit embarrassed by the whole thing, but she couldn’t possibly have been a better sport (unless she was hockey, of course). Her enthusiasm for the Rangers was undeniable (the brackets in our interview should be taken to heart), her responses were wonderfully genuine, and her insights into the film were every bit as illuminating as those offered by writer Terence Winter and editor Thelma Schoonmaker. Of course, I wouldn’t expect anything less from a Rangers fan.
FILM.COM: I know I’m catching you at the end of a long day out there, but hopefully this will be a little bit different.
MARGOT ROBBIE: No, no that’s fine. I’ll try my best to sound lively, the jetlag might be catching up with me because I just flew in from Australia yesterday, so my apologies in advance.
No worries, thanks for agreeing to do this strange interview about hockey and the Rangers.
Of course! Are you kidding? My favorite topic!
Mine too! So how did you become a Rangers fan?
Well I always wanted to play ice hockey back in Australia, I'm not sure why, but we didn't have any ice where I lived. It was very hot, a coastal town. So I played field hockey, but then when I moved to America I was finally able to join a team once I wasn’t contracted to a show, but when I was contracted to a show I wasn’t able to play. But I was living in New York, so I was able to watch, and the Rangers were my default team.
And not just by default, but also because they’re the best team ever.
And I just became absolutely dedicated and loyal to them immediately, and have been ever since.
Are there any particular Rangers to whom you’ve become attached?
… Lundqvist. He’s just, I mean…
He’s a beautiful man. I don't mean for that to sound patronizing, it's just true.
I love him so much. He’s so brilliant. And I really love Ryan Callahan, and I really love Brian Boyle, they’re two of my favorites as well.
Do you live in New York these days, does your life allow you to go to the games?
I go to the games whenever I’m in New York, but I’m not living in New York at the moment. I’m not really living anywhere, I’ve been filming all over the place for a while, I’ve been moving around, I’m a nomad.
Fair enough. I guess the most pressing question right now, in all of life, is do you think we’re going to make the playoffs this year?
[Very serious] I always have faith that we’re going to make the playoffs. It’s been a really tough year for us, and I think that we’ve needed that extra pressure. I think that it’s going to motivate us to do better, I think that we perform well under pressure.
I hope you’re right. Now something I noticed in “The Wolf of Wall Street” is that Jordan Belfort is a New York Islanders fan. There’s an Islanders jersey hanging in his office. Did it help you to ultimately hate his character knowing that he was an Islanders fan?
I had no idea that he was an Islanders fan. This is news to me. Oh my gosh. Are you serious?
Yeah, there’s a big framed jersey in his office. It’s either his office or Donnie’s, but I’m pretty sure it’s his. You were married to the enemy.
Had I known this, our fight scenes would have been exponentially more violent than they were! This is huge. I can’t believe that no one mentioned this to me.
I don’t think your performance suffered for it.
Yeah, maybe it’s a good thing I didn't know that, maybe we would have taken things too far.
[laughs] I definitely want to ask you a question or two about the movie while I have you on the phone. I think I’m most curious about your character so far as her responsibility is concerned. Jordan is hate-able, but I wonder if Naomi wanted to hate him and see him as a monster by the end in order for her to feel like more of a victim, to absolve herself of any guilt for going along with everything.
I mean, I didn’t necessarily look at it that way. I think she got caught up in the whirlwind, and this crazy lifestyle that he made look like so much fun, and he spoiled her rotten and she was happy to live the party while the party was good, but then the hangover came the next day and she just woke up and looked around and thought, ‘Oh, this isn’t the life I want.’ So I think the abrupt lifestyle change and the reality of the situation is what she hated mores than him, I don’t think it was so much finding something to hate in him, I think she just took it out on him.
And speaking of abrupt lifestyle changes, I know you’ve been a hard-working actress for a long time, but obviously there’s a big difference in working on a Martin Scorsese movie. I wonder if that system shock, of working on a film of this caliber, may have helped you to understand what it must have been like for Naomi in some way?
Absolutely. Suddenly being around people with a lot more money… than I have. It didn’t necessarily come when I started working on Wolf, but just when I moved to L.A. and a couple of the parties that I went to and the things I started experiencing, it was kind of mind-boggling that people lived this way. It was truly mind-boggling, and you can see how intoxicating some people would find it. I mean anytime I went to some big outrageous party I would just claim it was character research.
I know that your next film is another large one, this time with Will Smith. Were you more acclimated to it all by the time you showed up for that, or was it still the same sort of overwhelming feeling?
I still haven’t gotten my head around it. You know, they’re truly such lovely, level-headed down to earth people and you just forget about who they are until they mention something… they just seem like such normal people that you forget that they live these grand lifestyles. You talk to them about everyday things, and then they mention something like “Oh, we’ll get in the chopper.” What? And then you’ll be like “Oh, of course you’ll take the helicopter there. That will save time.” You think “Oh, it’ll take us three hours to drive!” And they’ll go “Oh, but it’ll be 15 minutes by chopper,” and you have to reply “Oh, right, what was I thinking?” And that’s the number one thing that any of my family members or friends will say when they meet the people that I work with. They’ll say “But they’re so normal!” They’re exactly like you and me. Exactly like us.
Rangers fans, you mean?
We’re not all so fortunate.
It’s your job to spread the gospel throughout Hollywood.
Trust me, I’m doing everything I can.
I try not to focus on awards too much, or at all, but I certainly think you’re as worthy of consideration as anyone, and I’m trying to figure out why so much of the attention has been elsewhere. Do you think that maybe the nuances of Naomi’s character, and by extension the nuances of your performances, have been overlooked as a result of her more overtly sexual qualities and function in the film? Or is that idea just a baseless result of trying to make sense of Oscar tea leaves?
Honestly, and I’m not just saying this, I hadn’t entertained the thought of being considered for awards season. I’m so mind-boggled by even the conversation, or even the possibility of being considered. Of course it would be incredible, but I don’t know… I don’t know what it takes to be considered worthy for the awards. I’m amazed that Jonah wasn’t nominated for Best Supporting Actor [for the Golden Globes]. His performance is certainly large enough to be nominated, and his performance is definitely in my opinion worthy of being nominated. And I hope when the Oscar nominations come out he is nominated. I don’t know. I’m definitely not shocked, by any means, that I may not have been considered, and I’m definitely not offended by it at all. [Laughs]. I would be absolutely flabbergasted if I were nominated for an award!
One of the things I find so interesting about your performance is that your accent is so over the top and the whole world around you is so heightened, and yet at the same time Naomi never becomes a caricature. You always make her a very real, identifiable person.
Well it’s funny you say that. It really occurred to me when I did my first audition with Leo and we were doing the scene where he’s screaming, we’re doing this big yelling match, and I thought “My God! He’s yelling!” And it could, if someone else was doing it, it could have seemed melodramatic, but not for one second did it sound over-acted when he did it. Not for sone second did it seem too much. And it occurred to me that if you really believe it, if you do anything with complete conviction, it will feel authentic. When you get upset, you are completely irrational, that’s when you’re being the most hysterical. When you’re angry you say and do the most ridiculous things, that’s when you behave like a child and like an absolute maniac. It’s so real and so raw – and so entertaining to watch – so I thought to myself “Don’t hold back! You’re making a mistake all the time when you try to downplay these emotions. You should be pushing it because that’s what’s authentic.”
Being irrational and out of control is what happens in real life. Not cautiously choreographing your anger or your emotions, losing yourself in them is what happens in real life. And when you look back at Leo’s performances, and a lot of Marty’s films, the most brilliant actors do these ginormous performances. I mean Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine”, a ginormous performance, but it never looks over-acted! It never looks disingenuous, because they do it with complete conviction. So I wasn’t afraid to do a very over-the-top accent, or big mannerisms and a big personality, because I’ve met people with big personalities like that, and I’ve had fights where I’ve overreacted like that, so I felt justified in doing that and I just realized that if I did it with complete conviction it would be authentic.
That’s great. And hey, if the acting thing doesn’t work out you can always fall back on being a hockey player.
[Laughs]. I wish! I’m trying. I play on a team but I’m definitely the worst on the team. I’m not so good at the ice skating part. The hockey is good, but the ice skating I need to work on.
Well thanks for taking the time to chat, and I’ll see you at the Garden.
Yeah, for sure.
“The Wolf of Wall Street” is now in theaters.