During Variety's Actors on Actors interview series, Margot sat down with Oppenheimer star Cillian Murphy to discuss their box office hits. While discussing Barbie, Margot opened up about struggling to transform into Barbie and the various acting methods she used before she got it right.
"It was so weird prepping Barbie as a character," Margot told Variety. "It was almost like all of my usual tools didn't apply for this character."
"I work with an acting coach, and I work with a dialect coach, and I work with a movement coach, and I read everything, and I do all these things."
Margot said she's also a big fan of animal work when she's preparing for a character. Animal work or "animal exercises" is an acting method where performers study the characteristics and movements of a particular animal. Those movements are then used to capture the physicality of their character.
"I was maybe 45 minutes into pretending to be a flamingo or whatever, and I was suddenly like, 'It's not working. The animal isn't helping me with Barbie. I don't know how to find her.'"
Along with animal work, Margot also revealed she likes to make up childhood memories. She'll think of half a dozen core childhood memories for her character, and that ultimately helps her to explain why her character does the things that they do.
"But I couldn't do that for [Barbie], because she was invented out of a vacuum and lived in a — so all the things I normally did, didn't work. The animal work didn't work. The childhood memories didn't work. Even the accent wasn't something I could cling on to."
"I was really struggling. It's like she was so smooth and shiny, that I had nothing to grab on to. It was like, 'I don't know where you are.' Even though she was written beautifully in the script."
Feeling stuck, Margot turned to writer and director Greta Gerwig for some advice. Margot didn't want Barbie to come off dumb and ditzy, but she also knew Barbie wasn't meant to know anything, she was meant to be naive and ignorant.
Greta introduced Margot to an episode of This American Life podcast that featured a woman who can't introspect...which means she doesn't have that voice in her head that's constantly narrating life, like we all do. This helped Margot portray Barbie as a smart woman who just thinks differently than everyone else.
Greta also used movie references to help Margot capture certain aspects of Barbie's personality and cadence, like scenes from His Girl Friday, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Red Shoes, and more.
"It was the best," Margot said about all of the movies they watched to prep. "It was so fun."
Well, that help from Greta paid off because Margot nailed the role of Barbie, and the film went on to be the biggest box office movie of the year.
To learn more about how Margot got into character, check out the Actors on Actors clip below or watch the full episode.
Margot Robbie on trying to bring the character of #Barbie to life: “I rely on animal work a lot, and I was maybe 45 minutes into pretending to be a flamingo or whatever, and I was suddenly like, ‘It’s not working. The animal isn’t helping me with Barbie.’” https://t.co/5IwVjNm7Us pic.twitter.com/cWzBizQCUm
— Variety (@Variety) December 5, 2023
Variety / Twitter: @Variety