Margot Robbie left a pink present for Ryan Gosling every day on Barbie

Margot Robbie left a pink present for Ryan Gosling every day on Barbie

Margot Robbie covers the summer edition of Vogue, obviously to promote Barbie. I went into this thinking it was just going to be a by-the-books celebrity profile, but magically, it’s so much better. Margot talks a lot about Barbie, of course, but most of her perspective is as a producer, because she was putting this together and trying to get it made for years. She was the on who brought Greta Gerwig on-board as co-writer (along with Noah Baumbach) and director. Margot was the one meeting with Mattel and Warner Bros. This Vogue piece also includes lots of backstory on how they approached the whole concept of “a movie about Barbie,” as well as quotes from Greta and Ryan Gosling and several of the actresses playing other Barbies. Some highlights:

Whether she ever thought about wanting to be Barbie: “It wasn’t that I ever wanted to play Barbie, or dreamt of being Barbie, or anything like that. This is going to sound stupid, but I really didn’t even think about playing Barbie until years into developing the project.”

Ryan Gosling as Ken: “The greatest version of Ryan Gosling ever put on screen,” in Robbie’s estimation. (Gosling: “Ken wasn’t really on my bucket list. But in fairness, I don’t have a bucket list. So I thought I’d give it a shot.”) In Barbieland, Ken is basically another fashion accessory. “Barbie has a great day every day,” we are told in voiceover delivered by Helen Mirren. “Ken only has a great day if Barbie looks at him.” Mattel introduced the first Ken doll in 1961, in response to letters demanding Barbie get a boyfriend. “Barbie was invented first,” Gerwig points out. “Ken was invented after Barbie, to burnish Barbie’s position in our eyes and in the world. That kind of creation myth is the opposite of the creation myth in Genesis.”

Gal Gadot was almost Barbie: During the casting process, Gerwig and Robbie looked for “Barbie energy,” a certain ineffable combination of beauty and exuberance they concluded is embodied in Gal Gadot. Robbie: “Gal Gadot is Barbie energy. Because Gal Gadot is so impossibly beautiful, but you don’t hate her for being that beautiful, because she’s so genuinely sincere, and she’s so enthusiastically kind, that it’s almost dorky. It’s like right before being a dork.” (Gadot wasn’t available.)

Sentient Barbie: Breezing through the choreography at the front of the pack, she suddenly turns to the other Barbies and asks: “Do you guys ever think about dying?” Later she wakes up and finds her feet are no longer arched. “I have no context for this but my heels are on the ground,” she says. “You’re malfunctioning,” another Barbie tells her.

Gosling on the gifts Margot left for him: “She left a pink present with a pink bow, from Barbie to Ken, every day while we were filming. They were all beach-related. Like puka shells, or a sign that says ‘Pray for surf.’ Because Ken’s job is just beach. I’ve never quite figured out what that means. But I felt like she was trying to help Ken understand, through these gifts that she was giving.”

Gerwig was inspired by the 1994 bestseller Reviving Ophelia. “My mom would check out books from the library about parenting, and then I would read them,” Gerwig says. The book describes an abrupt change that happens in American girls when they hit adolescence and begin to bend to external expectations. “They’re funny and brash and confident, and then they just—stop,” Gerwig says. This memory bubbled up early in the writing and Gerwig found it “jarring,” the realization that this is where the story had to go: “How is this journey the same thing that a teenage girl feels? All of a sudden, she thinks, Oh, I’m not good enough.”

Margot loves food but she doesn’t cook. “In our friendship group in LA and London, all the guys cook, and love cooking, and are really good at it. And none of the girls cook, and we love drinking, and we’re really good at it.” Robbie finds cooking stressful. She gets distracted easily: “Everything lights on fire in the kitchen. I’m not even kidding.”

[From Vogue]

There’s also some stuff about how Robbie found it difficult to do the kind of preparation she would normally do before a film, like how do you research how to play a sentient doll? So Greta Gerwig arranged for all of the Barbies to watch a film every week, films which they could use as references. It seems like the Barbies were also encouraged to think about who owns them or what kind of person or kid plays with them as a way of informing their characters. It’s interesting. I came away from it feeling like Greta really did her research on the history of Barbie, and that Margot is the kind of producer who trusts the people she hires. Mattel was probably sh-tting bricks at first but I hope they realize that they’ve got one of the most buzzed-about films of the year.

Cover & IG courtesy of Vogue.

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