Fans eager for a glimpse of what the on-screen combo of Will Smith and Margot Robbie will bring to David Ayer's "Suicide Squad" flick will get a taste of the pair's chemistry in the new film "Focus," where the on-screen duo work in the darkly glamorous world of professional con artists.
Their first film together finds Smith playing seasoned confidence man Nicky Spurgeon, who opens the door to a sophisticated, complex and high-stakes world of calculated manipulation and distraction for young rookie Jess Barrett [Robbie], with the result being Nicky trying to stick to the rules of his trade while wrestling with a magnetic attraction to his new protégée. In a discussion with the press, both actors reveal just how much fun they had, learning how to pull off real con jobs and slight-of-hand tricks while building up the playful chemistry they discovered they share on screen and off.
Meanwhile, the stars continue to play their cards close to the vest when it comes to talking "Suicide Squad" -- he plays Deadshot, she plays Harley Quinn -- but Robbie did tell CBR what she finds irresistible about playing the iconic bad girl. "There are a lot of layers to the character," the actress says. "The idea of playing a super villain -- playing a bad guy's always more fun than playing the good guy! I'm looking forward to that."
On what they discovered about the art of the con:
Will Smith: For me, the huge take-away from this film is how everything is perception -- how reality almost does not matter at all. When you're talking to a person, it only matters what they are perceiving, that you need them to perceive you as a loving husband. [Laughs] You don't necessarily need to be one. I mean, that's always a good road, if you actually are one! But how important the perception, what people are perceiving, will dictate what their life and ultimately what your interaction is.
Margot Robbie: I think it really does kind of go hand in hand with acting, sometimes. It's a lot of that emotional manipulation, and that's precisely what we do to try and evoke an emotion out of the audience members and make them emotionally invest in something. And that just raises the stakes. People care so much more, all of a sudden. If you can achieve that, your conning's going to work out a lot better.
Apollo Robbins (sleight-of-hand-artist/security expert/"Focus" con consultant): They had to be able to pick up the ball and absorb it, and it's very interesting how many scenes and little bits that Margot was able to pick up. They put her in a scene where she's got to wear this tight skirt, high heels, on a cobblestone road with 700 people. We hadn't rehearsed yet, 700 people being around us, and then last minute, lighting got to switch some of these scenes to the other side of the street. "Can you do this left-handed?" She picked it up phenomenally fast. Same thing for Will too -- I just exposed him to what I could during the time that I could, and then they took the ball and rolled with it.
On the stars' own pre-fame experiences with cons and put-ons:
Smith: I've always been a jokester. The things I got in trouble for when I was little was always making a joke. It was always doing something, setting up a prank. Being silly when I should be paying attention. But it was very different with "Focus." I'm so glad I didn't know these things -- Oh my God! I'm really glad I didn't know some of these things when I was young. I think that is my general disposition on life, what's funny about it. When something happens, the first thing in my mind is, what's funny about it? Yeah, it's a little bit different than that when you can have the powers of manipulation.
Robbie: I started working on a TV show in Australia, straight out of high school, so I missed the whole university experience. So I would just go to all the university parties with all my friends, and if anyone was like, "Do I know you?" I'd be like, "Yeah. I'm studying here." And they're like, "Doing what?" "Oh, marine biology." That's the only funny thing I've done, I would just pick a new student I would be every time I went to these university events, so I didn't feel like I missed out on the university experience. It's kind of fun.
On discovering that unpredictable thing called "chemistry" under very unusual circumstances:
Robbie: It was 6 in the morning [in Croatia]. I'd been swimming, and I got the call saying, "Oh, yeah, you need to be doing an audition with Will Smith, like, tomorrow in New York, so your flight's booked for tonight." And I was like, "Tonight? Oh my God!" I asked the lady at the hostel I was staying at, "How do I get off this island? I need to go to the mainland." And she was like, "Oh, there's only one boat a day, and it leaves in 20 minutes." I was like, "Oh my God," grabbed all my stuff -- left half of it, probably, in the hostel -- and grabbed a bus and got to the airport, waited eight hours, and then I went to France, and then I went to New York.
By the time I got to New York, I'd now not slept for, like, well over two days. And they lost my luggage. And my audition was about seven hours away. So I walk into the audition in wet sneakers and denim shorts and a pajama shirt, which was the only dry thing I had before they lost my luggage. I just walked in, and I was like,"I cannot meet Will Smith in my pajama shirt," so I went to Topshop and grabbed this top and then walked in. And still looked horrendous.
Smith: We were ad-libbing, and I'll go off the script every once in a while, so that's a big test. If you go off of the script, what kind of person will go with you? So in the middle of the audition, I went off script. And she ad-libbed back, "Oh, you're such a dick!" And I told her. "I'm Will Smith! You don't say that!" But it was absolute complete fearlessness and complete comfort. You can't create chemistry -- you either have it or you don't -- and when she walked in there, it was really palpable. I've never used that word in public before, but it felt good. But it was the right usage, right? [Laughs]