Margot Robbie Says Her Upcoming Role in ‘Babylon’ Is Equal Parts Octopus and Honey Badger

Among Hollywood’s biggest actors, Babylon‘s Margot Robbie has become known for roles that reveal profound humanity from within unlikely sources. This is certainly the case in 2017’s I, Tonya, in which Robbie portrayed the disgraced Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding. She has done the same when bringing to screen DC’s pigtailed villain, Harley Quinn. One can hardly wait to see what she will do when bringing the world’s most iconic toy to life in Barbie. 

But to find her character’s humanity, Robbie drew inspiration from an unlikely place… the animal kingdom.   

‘Babylon’ star Margot Robbie used a movement coach and chose animals for her characters

As far back as 2017, Robbie has employed the expertise of a “movement coach.” Together, they choose an animal (or animals) that will allow Robbie insight into the character she is playing

“When you are distilling a character down to her clearest motivations,” Robbie told the Pacific Sun, “adding a sense of who that person would be as an animal really does help you narrow things down.”

For I, Tonya, in the first role Robbie is known to have used this method, the animal was a Pit Bull. Robbie describes getting into Harding’s character by hunching slightly and giving the impression she was “ready for a fight if anybody picks one.” She also adopted the dog’s underbite. 

But, whereas the much adored yet often feared Pit Bull was the perfect inspiration for Harding’s tougher side, Robbie also needed to show the Olympian’s grace and elegance on the ice. For that, Robbie says she channeled a stallion “running wild.”

Diego Calva, Margot Robbie, and Brad Pitt attend a New York Special Screening and Q&A for Paramount Pictures' "Babylon"
Babylon stars Diego Calva, Margot Robbie, and Brad Pitt | Monica Schipper/Getty Images FOR PARAMOUNT PICTURES

Robbie’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood character, Sharon Tate, also had an animal inspiration (per Vogue), as does Nellie, Robbie’s character in Babylon. 

Robbie is not the only actor to employ a movement coach, either. Most recently, actor Emma Corrin has made headlines for similar work in preparation for their roles as Princess Diana in The Crown and Connie in Netflix’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Margot Robbie’s ‘Babylon’ character, Nellie, is an octopus and a honey badger

In her upcoming role as Nellie in Damien Chazelle’s Babylon, Robbie plays a classic movie star in the vein of Hollywood’s first “it girl,” Clara Bow. 

“Nellie is an outsider in Hollywood,” Vanity Fair details in Robbie’s December profile. “[She is] full of spice and vigor and an untamable energy.” The piece also describes the character as effortlessly sexy with a talent that is impossible to escape. 

When preparing for Babylon, Robbie once again called on a movement coach to help her discover Nellie’s animal inspiration. The result was a bit more unconventional than her previous roles. 

“Nellie’s animals were an octopus and a honey badger,” Robbie explained, “because she’s fluid and tactile but ruthless when necessary.”

The actress points out that octopuses are “transformative” and easily adaptable, a characteristic made possible by their bodies being primarily comprised of soft tissue. Robbie also claims to have drawn largely on the octopus’ superior intellect and playful demeanor as sources for inspiration, providing incredible insight into Nellie. 

According to Ford, the honey badger aspect of Robbie’s Babylon character emerges later and is hard to miss. 

‘Babylon’ cast, release date, and first reactions

Set in 1920s Hollywood, Babylon traces the tumultuous careers of several people trying to make it in the early years of the entertainment industry. Featuring Robbie as the Hollywood starlet, Nellie, Babylon’s cast also includes Brad Pitt as Jack Conrad, a famous movie star. 

Jean Smart will also star as Elinor St. John, and Tobey Maguire will play James McKay. Don’t Worry Darling director and star Olivia Wilde is among the cast, as is Nine Perfect Strangers actor Samara Weaving and The Handmaid’s Tale’s Max Minghella. 

Babylon screened for the first time in LA on November 14, and the reactions are inconclusive. According to Variety, critical responses to the film ranged from those who called it a “daring Hollywood epic” to those who considered it “truly monstrous.” 

Viewers will be able to see for themselves when Babylon releases in theaters on December 23, 2022.