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Margot Robbie and Will Smith tell all at the Focus Press Conference

25 February 2015

Will Smith stars as Nicky, a seasoned master of misdirection who becomes romantically involved with novice con artist Jess (Margot Robbie).  As he’s teaching her the tricks of the trade, she gets too close for comfort and he abruptly breaks it off.  Three years later, the former flame—now an accomplished femme fatale—shows up in Buenos Aires in the middle of the high stakes racecar circuit.  In the midst of Nicky’s latest, very dangerous scheme, she throws his plans for a loop…and the consummate con man off his game.

Moderated by Edith Bowman, #ActingHour’s Lydia Kay was in attendance for The Fan Carpet at the press conference attended by Margot Robbie and Will Smith, they talk about their chemistry, working together on Suicide Squad and music…



I want to know what was the first thing that interested you about this project?

WS: The impetus to make Focus. I love the work of John and Glenn, the directors. They did Crazy, Stupid, Love and I love that film and when I read Focus it was so interesting because it is so many different kinds of movies, they like completely ignore genre. So, it’s a heist film but then it will be a bizarre comedy for a while and then its really serious and there’s great action and then there’s a love story, as you’re aware. There’s a wonderful love story at the centre. So I just love how many different styles and flavours that they would demand of the actors and you know we would be in scenes sometimes and be like so this is serious right? Yeah, but have fun with it. You would just get to go through so many ranges of the spectrum.


They write really well for women as well. They write great female characters as well.

Margot Robbie: They do. Like Will was saying, they say at the heart of it there’s this love story so yeah they was a lot to digest in that sense because half way through she’s a woman scorned and it kind of transforms her after that. They develop it really well.

She has a great journey though and I imagine it was kind of fun to bring to life

MR: Yeah, it was really nice to have a character who has one starting point and is a totally different person at the end of the film. It’s kind of nice to play that so I was lucky.


Who do you think is more in control by the end of the film between the two of you? Who’s in charge?

WS: I think it’s pretty obvious, kind of like on set.

Well I heard when you kind of arrived on set you had this amazing confidence

MR: I call it bossiness more than confidence.

WS: The thing about Margot is that she is absolutely certain of who she wants to be and wants she wants to do but she’s also absolutely certain who she wants you to be and what she wants you to do. So that was funny to see. She’d say ‘No like sorry hold up a second, no’ ‘You know I’ve made a couple movies Margot I have some ideas too’

I bet you quite like that though

WS: You know what’s great is that she’s right most of the time, which is fantastic. 90% of time if something doesn’t feel right to her in a scene it’s correct but I’m a man I gotta go against it anyway. Her instincts are really brilliant. She can’t always say why it doesn’t feel right she’ll just say ‘do it the way I said’ you know. So I learned to do that, but it was really fun working with someone with that level of instincts that were so different from my own.


Did you guys get much of a chance to improv in this film or was it kind of sticking to the script with the whole thing?

MR: I feel like we improv-ed quite a bit

WS: Yeah

MR: Which is surprising because there were so many plot points that we obviously had to hit in each scene or hit to a certain degree or high to a certain degree. So, it shouldn’t have left much room for improv but the guys really encouraged it.


Is there one scene that sticks out for you that was kind of really good example of you improving?

MB/WS: The end scene.

MR: When we did that end scene, I don’t want to ruin it for people who haven’t seen it, it’s quite dramatic but there were takes when we were just in hysterics and when you watch it

WS: It looks like it makes sense

MR: Yeah.

WS: What’s really great that they do, that is fantastic, is that they create a set where everyone is involved so they get what they want and you’re rolling and they’ll let anyone yell out a line if it’s funny. If somebody just yells something out that’s funny they’ll be like ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, Marot say that say that! Say that!’ The grip says ‘hey he should say…’ you know they’ll be like ‘Will say that say that!’ It’s like this really great family.

MR: It’s good though. Everyone’s in it together and everyone’s working towards the same goal.

WS: It was a little awkward for me in the love scene but other than that. ‘Will, Will, Will, where’d your leg where’d you leg go?’


I wanted to know if it was difficult to learn these tricks and have you been robbed before? If you have been robbed how did it feel?

MR: It didn’t feel like anything because I didn’t notice I was being robbed at the time. I’ve been pickpocketed very effectively and I’ve been blatantly robber, so that I was aware of.

WS: Margot gets robbed all the time and I’m like how can you manage to get robbed so much?

MR: Cause I’m not 6-foot-3, I’m an easy target.

WS: Well, she grew up in Australia where people are nice all the time but I was like when I leave the house 5% of my money is in my sock. You split some of your stuff up cause you know you’re gonna get robbed.


How kind of difficult were the tricks of the trade to learn?

MR: It’s a lot harder than it looks and the more you understand it the easier it gets. So the more you look in to the kind of psychological side of it the more the physical side makes more sense because to begin with you cant believe that you could steal something in plain sight. They will to catch me there is now way I’m going to try that but if you learn it from the finest. When he explains misdirection and things like that, it makes the physical side of stealing a lot easier.


Have you tried it on mates and stuff since then

MR: I have

WS: You know what’s really great though is the psychological side for me, the human behaviour side; you just can’t imagine that a human brain is that feeble. We think that we’re aware and we’re paying attention and we think we’re on top of things but right now everyone is looking this way anything could be going on over there and the more attention we put forwards it just completely blinds us to such huge blind spots. Apollo showed us a surveillance video of a fight where the second the fighter gets knocked down the whole crowd cheers and he goes in and he shows us 30 people pickpocketing at that point. I was like oh my god, how many times have you been at a fight and you’ve gone ‘yeah!’ and the people they sit and they wait for that moment of complete distraction and go right into your bag. This is insane that people don’t even know that this happening around us. We just made £400 just now.

Yeah Apollo’s just rocking around the back right there. You thought he had gone but he’s here.



Since you have learned to read people more and do these tricks have you been to Vegas? Have you tried your skills out?

WS: Well actually I went to Vegas with Apollo, which is a different way to go to Vegas. First of all no body is allowed to even go in with Apollo but he had me try. He said: ‘I want you to walk into a store, I want you to pick something up, put it in your pocket and walk out.’ What you realise is that it takes such courage to even try to cause I’m like Will Smith, that’s a pretty good distraction you know.

They’re probably like have it just take it!

WS: It’s terrifying it takes absolute ice water in your veins to put your hand in someone’s pocket to grab something and take it. I realised, and what I learned with the character as well, it is also a thrill. It’s like jumping out of an airplane; it’s like speeding in a car; it’s like being that close to someone saying ‘hey, what are you doing?’ you know that is like a serious addictive kind of thrill.

Let’s hope you’re not going to continue that.


I’d like to ask you from one character here with a special gift to the forthcoming Suicide Squad, you’ve played a superhero before in Hancock, all characters have dubious morals but how would you say each differs?

WS: Oh wow, that’s interesting. I guess like concept of dubious morals, I’ve always liked to play in that area. The character’s issue in Focus is that he is committed to lying; he is committed to wearing a mask and no one every knowing who he is, and this idea that you can’t have love if you’re liar. You can’t have that thing that we all search for if you’re not being authentic and living without the mask so morally he’s made a decision that being a liar is the only way he can survive.

He protects himself

WS: Absolutely. With Hancock he doesn’t remember so that is an interesting thing. Not having any memory of who he was and what his moral standing was. Then Suicide Squad, we just got started on that, I think I haven’t explored the psychology enough of Deadshot, somebody who can take money to kill people how he justifies, so I still have to work to do on that. In my life in general and in my career those are the types of roles that I’m pushing more towards, those kinds of questions. What was interesting with Focus now is that in my life my journey is around vulnerability and authenticity so to have a guy who has decided to lie to test the boundaries of how wide open and how authentic can I be in real life by exploring the other side of the character. And I don’t care what you say it looks like a dress.


I wanted to ask you about the onscreen chemistry, it was fairly electrifying at times, what was the key to that success or how much did Adrian Martinez have to do with that?

MR: We’ve said it a couple of times but it was something that neither one of us were expecting but for some reason when we walked into the room we just really got along and that kind of continued throughout the shoot and it made everything exciting and fun. It’s not something you can really manufacture so wit wasn’t forced or planned, I suppose, it just existed already, which was handy.

WS: We talk about when Margot came to read for the role she didn’t think that there was any chance that she was going to get because of how different we are.

MR: And the long list of actresses was a little bit intimidating

WS: I’m 46 and Margot was 23 when we did it so the scene wouldn’t work in that way. Then I’m from Philly and she’s from Australia so there are obvious genetic differences but for some reason it just worked perfectly. When you see it on screen none of those questions come up, like oh god why would they do that? It’s like a wonderful puzzle; it works together very well. I enjoyed myself, it was alright I figured it was ok.


This is not a dress by the way. Question for Margot. It’s probably safe to say that the biggest gamble you’ve taken so far is leaving Australia to got Hollywood, what gave you that impetus? You must feel really welcome now considering the company you keep but also, if I may ask, can you tell us anything about the film you are going to be making with Tina Fey?

MR: I’m currently filming that with the writing directors of Focus who are directing the untitled Tina Fey project, as it’s now called. It’s really nice to be working with them again and a lot of the same crew members. What was the first part of that question?

WS: I don’t know but he used the word impetus and impetus was my word.

Moving to Hollywood

MR: It didn’t feel too much like a gamble at the time, it kind of felt like the only way to keep moving forward so it just seemed lie a logical next step. A big for sure and yeah definitely terrifying but I did a lot of pre-planning and saving all my money preparing for up to three years unemployment, which didn’t turn out to be the case. I was lucky.



First a question for Margot, a tricky one, Leonardo DiCaprio or Will Smith?

MR: You’re trying to get me in trouble.

WS: Wait a minute that’s a good question! You’re honour would please instruct the witness to answer the question?

Answer the question

MR: I can’t win with this either way I’m going to get in trouble.


Ok, what did you take form working with Will Smith?

MR: It’s something that you picked up from both of them and they actually have a few things in common. They have extremely cute profiles but on set…

WS: But one of our profiles was huger than the other.

MR: Despite that they would walk on to set and they were so professional. They were so courteous to everyone on set and it just goes to show that if someone in their position can behave that way and be so decent then no one can be a dick on set, there’s no need for it. So it was good.


Will we be being seeing both of you go to Bollywood?

WS: To Bollywood? I’ve been there a few times and I’ve hung out with some of the best. I was there I think four years ago when Big B wasn’t feeling well and everything shut down and I was like this is how actors are supposed to be treated! He wasn’t feeling well and people were at the hospital and everything was shut down to make sure that he was ok so we could learn from the Bollywood treatment of actors.

MR: I would be so up for it.


You have played a lot of funny young characters so what was your challenge here? And Margot, as a woman why do you think Jess forgave Nicky for being such a loser in the beginning?

MR: I think it took her a while to forgive him. She kind of punished him for a while, I think eventually she realised that sort of thing didn’t matter and she didn’t want to play the game anymore and if he was willing to give it his all she as to.

WS: I think with this character it was really great and with these directors it is never straightforward funny. It’s dead serious then they manage to figure out how the situation makes it funny and that’s very different from me. I’m from the American sitcom school so you know for me you do not make people have to guess whether it’s not its funny, you go really hard at it. So it was a little bit of a different tonal quality for me that was to play and it felt like I wasn’t doing anything.


I know you’re involved in charity work would you like to say a few words on that? And have you bought house yet?

WS: No, I was involved in with the 466/64, Nelson Mandela’s foundation, and we launched MTV on the continent of Africa about 12 years ago with Nelson Mandela’s foundation and that was one of the most fantastic experiences of my career. I found house there, we shot Ali and I was with Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali in South Africa. So Mandela on one side and Ali on the other so it was like absolutely certain that I’m nothing. I was sitting there with them and I had found a house in Durban, I think it was 2000 it was right before 9/11 and just after 9/11 I thought that as an American that was a bad time to be moving so we never got the place down there.


Last Night Edith Bowman asked Margot if she had ever see Fresh Prince of Bel Air and she said no, how does that make you feel?

MR: Don’t bring it up again

WS: I think this is a fantastic time to discuss it

MR: We’ll talk about it after

Christmas present Will, the box set.

WS: Definitely


Who is a better dancer Alfonso or Will?

MR: Will is the greatest dancer there is.


Margot, Will was just saying about your instincts on set, there is such a shortage of female directors in Hollywood, would that be something you would be into?

MR: Definitely, that is something I want to do down the track.

WS: Yeah, she directed a big part of this one.

MR: I swear I’m not bossy in any other aspect of my life it’s juts on set.


It’s about your chemistry. How much are you guys looking forward to reuniting for Suicide Squad? How are your characters and chemistry different in that film from in in Focus?

MR: I’m really looking forward to it

WS: I’m looking forward to it but I don’t know what it’s going to be like character wise.

MR: Yeah, we don’t know what the character’s relationship is going to be.



Do you have a script yet?

MR: It’s ever changing

WS: It’s really cool. The way that David works is all images, all ideas and he holds the screenplay and he just keeps sending you things about your character. He just wants you to be prepared for anything.

MR: I think we’re going to be allies for sure

WS: Definitely allies

MR: We’re not being secretive we actually don’t know.

WS: He only sends you your character stuff so you don’t know what’s going with the other characters. I think he wants it to come alive on set.

When do you start that?

WS: Middle of April


I don’t want to admit this just having said my name but I almost stole a record magazine from the front. I was just wondered either of you have a similar story in your past?

MR: I have the bug and I can’t shake it. No, I’ve never stolen anything.


Why do you think that we still have a sympathy for con artists as audiences?

WS: That’s interesting; we were talking about that a little bit.

MR: It’s kind of easy to find empathy with the protagonist of a story because you are hearing and seeing everything from their perspective. I think that as well in particular that a lot of the fascination with con and heist films is because there is something dangerous about it and perhaps it’s our way of living vicariously through someone else.

WS: I there is also the idea that in these films if you’re going to steal something you’re stealing something from someone who has a lot and most times it’s someone who would be unwilling to share. So I just think inside of all of us everyone kind of feels like the Robin Hood sort of feeling and you love when someone gets their comeuppance. Don’t anyone use comeuppance in this, impetus and comeuppance are mine for the day.


Will, you finished the movie and it’s out and it’s successful and everyone waits for a movie that is even as good or bad, how do you find a story that you trust? Also in movies you always have the most beautiful partners, don’t you have problems at home?

WS: That is very brave. The first part of that question is that you’re always trying to top what you did last time. I have stopped doing that, that was a thing for me, I was in really competitive place for a good part of my career where everything had to be number one and everything had to do half a billion round the world and all of that. It stopped being fun, it was a whole lot less fun, and now I’ve sort of settled into a place emotionally where I just want to create. I want to be with great people, I want to have fun and not concern myself with the outcome of the movie. Less goal oriented and more path oriented. The other question, it’s funny when Jada found out that Margot was doing the movie and we went on the internet to see pictures of Margot she looked at Margot and she said ‘you better get in the gym.’ She said: ‘Do not embarrass me with that girl, get yourself together.’



After Focus are you still trusting people and is there a trust issue in Hollywood?

WS: It’s funny what I realised what was good and bad in Focus is everybody is running a con and that was one of the first thing that Apollo said. When you’re thinking in these terms every single person is running a con, everyone wakes up in the morning, you choose your clothes, you choose your shoes, what you say you choose, where you say you’re going, you choose everything not based authentically on who you are you choose to have the outcome that you want. You hide he parts of yourself that you don’t like, you accentuate the parts of yourself that do you like and you just make up something to pretend that there are certain things that you’re not to achieve a goal. For in me in that it became very easy to work through trust because you know when you’re starting in the beginning and you meet someone you know that you’re first three or four months of interaction with that person are going to be full of façade.

So you learn to see through and what Apollo taught me, that was really interesting, was that generally the things that people accentuate are the exact opposite of what the truth is. So if a person, for example me I’m really loud and out there and all of that is a sign that there is an insecure side and the more loud and more ripe that a person is the more the five-year-old little boy inside of there is scare and nervous. The more that someone is sexy and does all of that the more that you know that the other side of that there is a part where the truth of the inner psychology is. It starts to be easier, you can trust people more when you are aware of that.


Do you like to gamble now that you have learned some tricks? Obviously is not legal but maybe because of the psychological things you can take advantage knowing now that people are so predictable. This is not a question but I see you on the screen there and please make a baby to improve human evolution.

WS: Well Margot we should get started with that. As actors when you are telling stories a big part of that, if you get to the real core of it and you get to the most human part, that’s what the attempt is. You’re trying to create something that create conversation that creates a new way to look at the world and the basis of the story telling is transfer human ideas and wisdom. At the core of that the attempt is always human evolution.


If you were to pull off the ultimate con what would it be and out of your celebrity friends who would want to target?

MR: You’ve got more celebrity friends than I do.

WS: So pulling off a con, what would the con be? I don’t know what the con would be that I would want to pull.

Trying to convince someone that you’re not Will Smith…

WS: Yeah, that would be a pretty good con but that would be easy, I would just cover my ears. I’m all silhouette, people recognise from around the corner if a little piece of my ear is sticking out. It’s fantastic, it’s an American thing too: Me, Barack, Mickey Mouse. It’s place where people just love ears.


Will you talked bout getting yourself into the studio working with Kanye West, is there the possibility of you doing a world tour or is that even plausible? And Margot, from couple of years ago, no disrespect to Ramsey Street but look where you are right now, do you ever pinch yourself?

MR: I was pinching myself when I was in Neighbours and definitely still pinching myself right now. Equally exciting.

WS: I went into the studio with Kanye a couple of times, I don’t know just exploring, but he’s pushing me a little.

MR: What happened to that record you started writing? Do you remember what I told you that night?

WS: Shhh. So Margot’s heard one or two things.


MR: When we were filming. I’m just curious to hear what it happening because it was really good.

WS: Well, I don’t know what is happening with it. I always record, I never stopped recording, so I always make songs and records and I let Margot hear something, which obviously was a mistake!


You must get such a great reception when you sing?

WS: I know it’s so crazy


Would you do any dates in London or Dublin?

WS: Oh, no yeah I would probably. I want to find something, If want to find that well. It’s really hard because you get rusty so I have thoughts and ideas and I have things I want to say but artistically and poetically I can’t get them to come out of my pen. So if Kanye has his way I will definitely do some recording this year.

Or Calvin, you did T in the Park last year in Scotland

WS: Yeah, I saw Calvin. I was trying to get inspired and I have some people I hang with, I had a couple of weeks out Calvin Harris last year just trying to find that sound.


I have to say props to Jada because she looks amazing. You mention the age gap and I think for a person of your age you look amazing but do you still feel that, yeah there are women who get a lot of pressure to look, but you as a man do you feel that now at your age do you feel there is a lot of pressure on you to maintain your fitness?

WS: Yeah, it gets more and more difficult. I used to be able to eat whatever I want and in six week I could get into any shape I wanted to get into but that’s not the case anymore. We are around the 12 or 14 week mandatory training to do anything but I love it, I enjoy the discipline of it. For me working on your body is the beginning of everything. You know your mind starts to work better; you’re a better husband, better father, better friend and life is just better when you care for you body at the highest level.


There is great love story and a back and forth between yours and Margot’s characters in the film. As someone who has played a date doctor, in Hitch, what do you think Hitch would make of Nicky’s efforts in this film?

WS: Hitch wouldn’t work with Nicky. I think for me that was part of this character. You know I work so hard and so much reading and studying and marriage counselling and parental books and I’m doing all of that to free up in the right way so that to play a character that does it all wrong that just every step of the way the most insane choices. The choice in the middle of the film, no spoilers, with Nicky and Jess is general irretrievable; that is just mistake that you won’t get beyond. Then after that to realise is just dude what are you doing? It was fun for me to play those things but Nicky is mess.



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