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Margot Robbie's acting method in Barbie

This is what happens when an actor decides to lose himself completely in his role

Margot Robbie's acting method in Barbie  This is what happens when an actor decides to lose himself completely in his role

Greta Gerwig's Barbie hits cinemas worldwide on 20 July, going head-to-head with Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer. The lead actors, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, are the faces who play Barbie and Ken respectively. Playing along with them is a huge and diverse ensemble, bringing together young promise, iconic characters and seasoned actors. Just a few names: Emma Mackey, Michael Cera, America Ferrera, Will Ferrell, Simu Liu, Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Ncuti Gatwa.

Behind this film - a kind of coming-of-age Barbiecore in which the plastic protagonist, used to being perfect and beautiful, must defy the real world - is a pervasive marketing, promo and communications campaign. After the posters of the entire cast (each with a personalised claim), the soundtrack produced by current pop stars (including Ice Spice and Dua Lipa) and the trailers that literally drove social media crazy, also the interview in which Robbie shows Barbie's house to Architectural Digest.

You can not say it does not work. Ryan Gosling's statements about the film ("I did not take the part right away," he said, adding "but then I saw a Ken on the floor with his face in the mud and I texted Greta to tell her I assumed it was a sign") were the most popular topic of conversation on Twitter for 48 hours. That's almost a record. For her part, Margot Robbie is so into her role that she even posed like a Barbie at the premiere of Asteroid City and has been walking around almost exclusively in pink for months.

But how did she do it? Like many of her male colleagues, she has taken to method acting. This is a set of techniques that go back to the teachings of Stanislavski and have been further developed by Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler and Sanford Meisner. The aim is to put oneself completely into the character and give an engaging, deep and truthful performance. Today, acting teachers and theatre actors still study, teach and perform this method. In short, it is a fluid, moving subject and much more complex than one might think.

However, in the contemporary mainstream, which often refers primarily to Hollywood, the misused term 'method acting' refers to all the unorthodox and often even disturbing, harmful or offensive practises professionals use to get into and stay in character. Some examples? Anne Hathaway recounted that in 2021, while filming the miniseries WeCrashed, she was not allowed to call her co-star Jared Leto by his first name because he was too stuck in character. Jared Leto also took on the role of the Joker during the filming of Suicide Squad in 2016, sending the rest of the cast used condoms, sex toys and dead rats. Jeremy Strong completely isolated himself from his colleagues for his complex and nuanced role in Succession, a TV series that has just ended, going to set tipsy and throwing himself off stage without restraint, risking breaking something in the process. The examples are numerous, but it is the worst that surface.

Margot has adopted a method that goes against the grain for her... by being as nice and pretty as possible. Yes. No dead mice or alcohol abuse during work hours, just treats and bows. We know this thanks to Ryan Gosling, who said, 'To put me in character and immerse us both in the dynamic between Ken and Barbie, every day of shooting he left me a little pink gift tied with a pink bow from Barbie to Ken,' the actor told Vogue. "They were all little gifts that went with the beach," he added. "Because Ken's job is the beach. I do not know what that means. I feel like she was trying to help me understand it with these little gifts."

To get inside the head of the world's favourite doll, however, Robbie did not stop there. Normally, she revealed, she uses the technique of "animal work" to understand her roles, meaning she identifies each of her characters with one or more animals and their characteristics. With Barbie, however, she found it particularly complex. "I tried with a flamingo, but it did not help. I asked Greta for help and told her that I needed to face this journey into the role. And she recommended a podcast to me, an episode of This American Life about a woman who does not practise introspection. Who does not have a voice in her head to listen to". And so the most anticipated film of the year found its perfect Barbie, who in the process also proved (and what fits the character better than that?) that kindness goes much further than extreme gestures.