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Margot Robbie felt "lost" creating the character of Barbie, but Greta Gerwig helped her find it

Greta Gerwig's esoteric references helped Margot Robbie create a character who has "no interiority" in Barbie

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Margot Robbie felt lost finding Barbie
Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie
Photo: Tristan Fewings (Getty Images)

It’s not easy being pink. Both Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie had trouble figuring out who Barbie actually was when they set out to make Barbie: the character has “no inner life” and “no desires,” Gerwig noted at a recent Q&A attended by The A.V. Club. “She’s not vapid, but she just doesn’t have any interiority.” So how do you play a character like that?

“I felt so lost because I normally have, like, a bit of a tool kit,” Robbie explained. That toolkit includes coming up with childhood memories, working with a movement coach, picking out animals, pulling up pictures, and more. But “none of those tools were applicable to Barbie,” the actor lamented. “I was like an hour and a half into, like, standing like a flamingo, and I realized, ‘Oh, none of these things are gonna work for this character,’ because building from the inside out isn’t what this movie calls for. She’s outside and then you’re gonna find her inside.”


Feeling “vulnerable and exposed,” Robbie showed up at Gerwig’s house “in the middle of the night being like, ‘Help me, I’m gonna ruin this movie, what do I do?’” The director gave her star some “amazing things” to work with. “Greta can not only reference a movie from like 1931 at the same time as she’s referencing a recent TikTok,” but she’ll also “find the thing that’s scaring you most before you know how to articulate it… and then sit in it with you,” Robbie gushed. “Like, she doesn’t give you the answer immediately, she sits in that with you. And then you find it together. And she had so many ways of doing that for this character.”


As Robbie has previously shared, one of Gerwig’s references for her was a This American Life episode about someone who doesn’t “have the inner monologue that we all have” (“She can’t introspect, but she’s very smart”). “Things like that Greta would be like, listen to this, I think it might help,” Robbie recalled. “She doesn’t tie up answers neatly in a bow, but she kind of leads you, like, gently by the hand down this scary path. And then you go down and you’re like, oh, I discovered so much down here... Greta’s an amazing director.”


Such an amazing director, in fact, that Robbie sees Barbie as just the beginning of a bright future. “We might be the new, you know, Scorsese and De Niro. Or Scorsese and Leo, you know?” Robbie joked to Entertainment Tonight at the Gotham Awards, before telling Gerwig, “What I mean to say is, you have to work with me again at least another four times.”