We were dazzled by the beautiful Aussie actress, Margot Robbie, in 2013's The Wolf of Wall Street. Now she's back as the aspirational con artist, Jess, who's eager to learn the tricks of the thievery trade from first-class fraudster, Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith).
But the actress is more than a pretty face. She's smart as a whip and her intelligence shows through in this role that has her thinking three steps ahead of everyone else. It's one thing to be pretty; it's another to be pretty ruthless.
Apparently, though, Robbie jumped at the chance to play a bad girl, saying the script immediately caught her attention. "It was funny and dramatic with touching emotional scenes, but also a really engaging and intricate plot. There was just so much going on, both on the surface and beneath. I thought it was brilliant that this pair of thieves might fall in love in a world where there's no room for it, where trust is just a tool to manipulate people to steal from them."
But it was the dramatic shift her character goes through that made stealing the role a done deal. "Jess is a dream. She has such an arc in the film, starting out as one sort of girl — inexperienced, sort of a diamond in the rough — and ending up in a completely different place, and that was so much fun to play."
The unexpected spoils that came from her accepting the role included the experience of working with Will Smith, who Margot claims was the true prize. "Will's the best. He's hilarious, he has such a positive presence and he's so accommodating and lovely. I actually forgot that he has such a high profile and huge fan base — until we got to Argentina and suddenly there were thousands of people outside the trailer on our first day of shooting there."
But to be successful as a posh pickpocket and to be believable on film, Robbie had to train with a real-life expert, Apollo Robbins, who's known around the world as the "Gentleman Thief." Robbins trained her on sleight-of-hand maneuvers and confidence.
"We had about 20 hours to work together and Margot not only had the aptitude but real tenacity. She was like a Bulldog, wanting to get everything right, asking how she could take things further. She did phenomenally well handling the difficult mechanics of it, making it look natural and sometimes she had to do it in a tight dress and high heels on cobblestones!" Robbins said.
Gosh, how we hate pickpocketing in heels on cobblestones!
Focus' codirector, Glenn Ficarra, was also impressed. "Margot was so good, that we actually had to slow her down. We were constantly looking at the playback on set, asking each other, 'Did we get it?'" he said.
Let's just say they "got it," big-time! The movie is a thrill ride and certainly the sexiest con film since The Grifters. There are plot twists and turns we never saw coming.
Focus is set to steal the box office on Friday, Feb. 20th.
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