Before Barbie, Margot Robbie was labelled 'box office poison.' That's not the full story.

Margot Robbie might be the biggest movie star in the world right now, riding high on the success of Barbie, but it was only mere months ago that critics decided the actor was in her flop era.

Barbie has now grossed over $1 billion at the global box office, but it wasn't always smooth sailing for the Australian leading lady

Before Barbie, Margot had a history of starring in movies that flopped in recent years. She made her debut in Hollywood with critical and commercial hit The Wolf of Wall Street before solidifying her status as a powerhouse playing Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad

But Margot's more recent casting decisions haven't resulted in much success. In 2022, the actor starred in Babylon and Amsterdam — both movies had Oscar buzz before lacklustre reviews sent the films spiralling down. 

First came Amsterdam from director David O. Russell, a movie about little-known attempted coup against the US government starring Robbie, Christian Bale, Rami Malek, and Anya Taylor-Joy. 

The dark comedy grossed a mere $32 million despite costing $80 million. 

Then along came Babylon. From La La Land director Damien Chazelle, the movie relived Hollywood in the 1920s and starred Robbie alongside Brad Pitt and Diego Calva. 

The film's budget was almost $80 million yet Babylon only grossed $63 million. 

One would assume that the responsibility for these movies failing would befall their directors. After all, David O. Russell had previously directed Academy Award-winning films like Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle.  


However, the blame was seemingly laid upon Margot's perfectly-shaped feet. 

A Sydney Morning Herald article from December 2022 was titled 'Two flops and you’re out: The internet declares Margot Robbie so over'. While a New York Post writer penned that Robbie was "drawn to box office bombs like flies to rotting meat," they wrote in May 2023.


"Can Barbie prevent Robbie from earning that dreaded old industry moniker 'box office poison'?"

On Twitter, the overwhelming consensus was that Margot was the common denominator in these bad films, rather than the directors, her male co-stars, or just the films themselves being flops.  

Brad Pitt, for instance, has also starred in a string of box office disasters, and he has several extra decades of experience and arguably more star power than Robbie. 

Before Babylon, Pitt starred in 2019 movie Ad Astra which barely broke even at the box office, drawing $127 million worldwide on a budget of just under $100 million. 

Then there was Pitt's 2017 disaster of a film, Netflix's War Machine, which cost the streaming platform $60 million and received abysmal reviews.  

According to research compiled by PartyCasino, which analysed box office numbers from 1980 to 2017, Brad Pitt was literally named the least profitable actor in Hollywood. The star returned only 10 cents for every $1 spent. 

But alas, Babylon's downfall was Robbie's fault, right! 

Quick! Listen to The Spill's host discuss this very topic. Post continues after podcast.


The criticism of Margot as some kind of cursed entity also ignores the fact that the actor makes other movies through her own production company, LuckyChap Entertainment. Since 2014, the company has produced award-winning women-led films, including I, Tonya, Promising Young Woman and, of course, Barbie.

LuckyChap also produced Netflix miniseries and novel adaption Maid, which became the streaming platform's most watched limited-series upon its 2021 debut.

“I’m a producer and that definitely gives you the ability to make change,” Robbie told Marie Claire Australia in January 2023. 

“There’s only so much you can do as an actor... As a producer you get to be a part of the conversations about who is being hired, and in what roles and how much they're getting paid." 

It was Margot who recruited Greta Gerwig and convinced Mattel and Warner Bros. to make Barbie, telling the companies she predicted the film would make $1 billion — and she was right. 

As Barbie shows little sign of slowing down at the box office — already breaking the record for highest-grossing movie by female director — it's not half bad for 'box office poison' in her flop era.

Feature image: 20th Century Studios + Paramount Pictures + Warner Bros. 

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