How Margot Robbie Completely Transformed Into Barbie

Greta Gerwig's "Barbie" is officially the movie of summer 2023. In its opening weekend alone, it brought in $155 million at the box office. The live-action doll movie stars Margot Robbie as Stereotypical Barbie, who travels from Barbieland to the real world and discovers what it means to be human. She's accompanied by her slightly dim boyfriend, Ken, played by Ryan Gosling, who discovers, well, the patriarchy. 

As Barbie, Robbie is unlike anything we have seen from her before. From her perfectly coiffed blonde wig to her deadpan doll expression to her perfect high-arch Barbie feet, it's almost as if she really were made of plastic. And that's not the only transformation Robbie underwent while filming "Barbie" — she also let the doll into her psyche as well. In fact, when asked by Australian presenters about the double meaning of the word "barbie," the Aussie forgot that in Australia, a barbie is, of course, a barbecue. "Oh!" she said as she realized. "I'm so Barbie now I can't even."

The actor's transformation into the Mattel doll we all know and love was certainly remarkable. Here's how Robbie and the "Barbie" team made it happen.

Margot Robbie chose the project as a producer before being cast

In hindsight, it's hard to think of anyone else playing Barbie but Margot Robbie. However, there was a time when Robbie only planned to be a producer on the project. "[Director Greta Gerwig] was always who I wanted to make a 'Barbie' movie with," she told Teen Vogue. "I said to her when she [came on board], 'I don't have to be in the movie, you know, I'm very passionate about making this as a producer, but I don't have to play Barbie or be in the movie in any capacity."

In fact, Robbie initially had another woman in mind to play the titular character. "Gal Gadot is Barbie energy," Robbie told Vogue. "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." However, Gadot was ultimately unable to star in the film.

Luckily, Gerwig was convinced that Robbie would be the perfect Barbie — and so she wrote the script with Robbie in mind. "She wrote me an amazing part and I'm very grateful," Robbie told Teen Vogue.

Robbie had to do quite a bit of prep work

Getting into the Barbie mindset before filming required some preparation on Margot Robbie's part. "I suppose I mentally began becoming Barbie as soon as I read the script," Robbie told Teen Vogue. Then, she started researching, heading to the Mattel headquarters to find out about the history of Barbie. "I also did watch, you know, Barbie documentaries, did read about the creator, Ruth Handler," she said. She even watched a few of Barbie's vlogs on her YouTube channel.

To get in the Barbei mindset, Robbie also decorated her trailer with lots of girly, pink decor and sentimental items to keep her mood positive (and Barbie-like) throughout the process. "I went all out for this character of Barbie," she said. To complete her transformation, Robbie chose a Barbiesque perfume. "That's always the final thing for my character. As soon as I put my character perfume on ... then I was like, 'Okay, ready,'" she recalled to Teen Vogue.

Robbie changed her voice to play Barbie

In order to play the famous doll, Margot Robbie had to shake her natural Australian accent and her (relatively) husky voice. In the film, she speaks in a bright, high-pitched voice with an American accent. "General American accent. It's called GenAm," Robbie told Vogue, explaining that they wanted Barbie to sound like she could be from anywhere in the United States. The actor worked with a dialect coach to perfect the Barbie accent — and fans loved it. As soon as people heard her Barbie voice, they were, as Tyla noted at the time, "obsessed." "Omg Margot Robbie's Barbie voice actually sounds so good," one fan tweeted.

Robbie also made sure to slightly change Barbie's voice throughout the film. In the beginning, Robbie explained that "everything is very definite." She continued, telling Vogue, "There's no second thought. There's no hesitation." However, as the character learns more about the real world and begins having more human thoughts, Barbie's voice deepens and becomes less self-assured.

Margot Robbie had to perfect the Barbie feet

One of the first clips we saw from the "Barbie" movie was the now iconic shot of Barbie stepping out of her heels only to stay perched on her tip toes — after all, Barbie's heels never touch the ground. Fans were mesmerised by the shot. Even Chrissy Teigen tweeted, "I need to know everything about this shot. How many takes, if she held onto something, was she harnessed, is the landing mark sticky, are they her feet, who did the pedicure, really just a documentary on this shot."

Greta Gerwig confirmed that no computer-generated imagery was involved. "There was a big discussion in the beginning," Gerwig explained on "The Project." "Everyone said, 'Are you going to CGI all the feet?' And I thought, 'Oh, god! That's terrifying, no! That's a nightmare.'"

As Robbie admitted to Fandango, though, filming the scene wasn't exactly easy. "I walked up, we had little sticky bits on the floor, like, double-sided tape for the shoes so they wouldn't come off so I could get my feet out of them and I was holding onto, like, a barre, but that's it, it wasn't, like, a harness or anything like that," she said. Altogether, the shot only took around eight takes. 

A Barbie sleepover and 'movie church' were parts of the process

In the runup to filming, Greta Gerwig, Margot Robbie, and the rest of the "Barbie" team got into the Barbie zone with a Barbie sleepover. As Robbie told Vogue, the party was at Claridge's Hotel. One rule — the Kens were allowed to come to the party, but they weren't allowed to sleep over. After all, as Barbie herself says in the film, "Every night is girls' night." On "The Kelly Clarkson Show," Robbie confirmed the event "was as fun as it sounds." She continued, saying, 'It was Greta's idea; I can't take credit." Apparently, the women had the ultimate Barbie slumber party — sharing beds, ordering room service, and playing games. 

In an interview with BuzzFeed Celeb, Robbie explained how Ryan Gosling sent a very strange gift instead of stopping by. "Ryan couldn't make it and so instead, he sent a singing telegram for us." Robbie recalled answering the door to an older man wearing a kilt, who then performed a scene from "Braveheart" and played the bagpipes. "It was hilarious," she said. 

Robbie went on to explain how the cast also attended "movie church" every Sunday, where they would watch one of Gerwig's Barbie influences on the big screen. Was this a film or just a long party? Because we are super jealous!

Robbie learned to portray a character with no 'interior life'

When Margot Robbie was preparing to play Barbie, one of the key things she had to work on was figuring out how to portray a living doll. You may have noticed that Barbie doesn't seem to have a lot of complicated emotions or thoughts at the beginning of the movie, almost as though she were ... plastic? That's all thanks to Greta Gerwig, who recommended that Robbie listen to an episode of the "This American Life" podcast about a woman who has no introspection. "You know how you have a voice in your head all the time? This woman, she doesn't have that voice in her head," Robbie told Vogue.

Gerwig went into more detail in an interview with Rolling Stone. "Margot and I talked a lot about finding this place where it's not that she isn't smart, but that she doesn't, at the beginning, have an interior life," the director explained. "Finding that sort of transparency as an actor was the baseline of where Barbie started. And then the discomfort of feeling disconnected from the environment, from feeling something coming up inside of you that's not the same as everyone else."

Margot Robbie looked to dancers to learn how to move like Barbie

Becoming a plastic doll didn't just mean changing her voice and her thought process — Margot Robbie also had to change her movement. "Embodying Barbie actually helps — when you're wearing heels, you already start moving differently because your center of gravity is in a different place," Robbie told Teen Vogue. But heels weren't the only thing that helped Robbie find Barbie's physicality.

"Everyone in Barbieland who's not one of the main actors, like a speaking role actor, were all dancers," Robbie explained. Greta Gerwig encouraged Robbie to watch the dancers on set as well as some old "soundstage musicals" because, as Robbie explained, "They stand with incredible posture, and they just — they're poised. It's like they're ready for anything." That kind of poise, Robbie revealed, means that Barbie's doing everything with intentionality. There's no hesitation or awkwardness to the movement. To play Stereotypical Barbie, Robbie learned to embody that quintessential dancer's poise.

Robbie worked with a specialist to get Barbie skin

You may have noticed that Margot Robbie looked flawless as Barbie — almost as though she really were made out of plastic. This was, of course, intentional. Robbie worked with a skincare and gut health specialist, Jasmina Vico, to get her skin looking as perfect as possible for the shoot. 

As Vico told Harper's Bazaar, Robbie's regime included lymphatic drainage, LED therapy, cold laser treatments, Vico Glow Laser treatments, pressure point massage, and a gut health program. "Margot was ... eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir, all kinds of bitter foods, and berries," Vico said, adding, "Margot is very disciplined,"

While Barbie might wake up like this, clearly, it's not so easy for human women. Vico put it best herself: "We always want a magic wand, but good skin is a journey. They're not living dolls — and nobody is. You've got to do the work!"

Margot Robbie's makeup called for looking a little less human

Next up came the cosmetics. "Makeup we just tried to make as beautiful as possible. Greta really liked the look in these old technicolor movies, where they had this creamy sort of look to their skin," Robbie explained to Teen Vogue. "Like this flat look."

The film's hair and makeup designer, Ivana Primorac, told The Credits, "Each Barbie represents the best version of herself. So every actor had to be turned into the best version of themselves, and that would turn them into a doll." In fact, most of the Barbies used their own makeup to ensure they looked as naturally beautiful as possible. "And then on top of that, a little bit of sparkle and a glitter in the corner of [the] eye so the sun catches it," Primorac told Nylon.

Primorac also wanted to make the actors playing Barbies look less human, so makeup was used to flatten the knees, elbows, the area behind the ear, and the heels. As she told Byrdie, "The skin is all even — it's the same behind her ear and her knees and her heels. Everything is just perfect. It wasn't in the amount of makeup, it was in choosing the best makeup for everyone."

So. Much. Hair.

"Barbie" is all about the hair. "The key look for Barbie was this impossible amount of hair," Margot Robbie told Teen Vogue. "I cannot think of a movie that had more hair than the 'Barbie' movie, because everyone had wigs with 10 times the amount of hair a wig would normally have in it." Robbie's hair was, of course, the perfect shade of blonde and hit her mid-back. Her hair was often styled with big bows, sweeping bangs, and plenty of bouncy curls. 

Hair and makeup designer Ivana Primorac told Byrdie that Robbie actually had 18 different wigs along with 30 hair pieces over the course of the film. "I wanted it to be like the best hair day every day," she said. "No one was allowed not to have the best hair."

However, as the film goes on and Barbie becomes plagued by human thoughts and human problems, she also has to deal with human hair. You'll notice that her hair gets flatter and flatter. "It becomes less of Barbie volume, it becomes a human in volume," Primorac revealed.

Robbie's Barbie costumes were all about intentionality

What would Barbie be without all her epic clothing? As kids, we all loved choosing Barbie's outfits — and naturally, she always looked amazing. Well, that's exactly what the production team wanted for Margot Robbie's Stereotypical Barbie, too. "The key thing about Barbie is that she dresses with intention," Jacqueline Durran told Vogue. "Barbie doesn't dress for the day. She dresses for the task." Indeed, you'll notice Barbie wearing an adorable pair of anchor-shaped earrings while at the beach and a neon workout ensemble when rollerblading. 

As Durran explained to E! News, she found most of her inspiration in old Barbie catalogs. "I tried to do a comprehensive sweep of different Barbie looks," she said. "One example was all the white and gold Barbie costumes from the '60s to the '90s for the block party. I chose the strongest looks with the best hair ornaments and lots of frills, particularly ones that were uniquely Barbie." She continued, saying, "What was hard was narrowing down all the options and making sense of all the possible looks we could go for." In the end, Robbie reportedly wore at least 30 outfits throughout the course of the film.

Robbie had to learn to keep a straight face

Another important part of Margot Robbie's Barbie transformation? Learning not to laugh at her hilarious co-stars! "Every day was the best day ever — every day was hilarious," she recalled to Teen Vogue. "There was so many funny actors in this film." Robbie found it almost impossible not to laugh at Ryan Gosling, whom she labeled "comedically gifted." Kate McKinnon presented a challenge, too, as "nothing can prepare you for what is ever going to come out of her mouth," Robbie said. "Greta [Gerwig] herself is a brilliantly comedically gifted actor so the lines she would give you were always so funny," the actor added.

Robbie confessed that she had a hard time keeping a straight face during Gosling's Ken scenes. In fact, she explained, she ruined quite a few of his takes. "His barometer was to try and make me burst into laughter," Robbie said, "which he succeeded at almost every single day!"

While filming, Margot Robbie gave Ken a new present every day

Barbie would be nothing without her other half, Ken — or should we say, Ken would be nothing without Barbie? Either way, Margot Robbie tried to get into character as Barbie by building a super strong relationship with her co-star, Ryan Gosling. Her method? Sending Gosling a Ken-themed gift every single day. As Robbie explained to Heart, it was initially her way of convincing Gosling to come on board as Ken. "I said, 'If you do do this movie with us, I'll buy you a present every single day." And that's exactly what she did.

"She left a pink present with a pink bow, from Barbie to Ken, every day while we were filming," Gosling explained to Vogue. "They were all beach-related. Like puka shells, or a sign that says 'Pray for surf.' Because Ken's job is just beach." As Gosling explained, he felt that Barbie was trying to help Ken understand his role in Barbie Land. It seems that, by this point, Robbie really was completely enmeshed in her character.

By the end, Margot Robbie had essentially gone through an 'existential crisis'

By the end of Margot Robbie's transformation into Barbie, not only did she look more like a doll than a human, she also felt and thought like Barbie, too. And for those of you who have seen the movie, that doesn't just mean she felt happy and positive all the time — in fact, quite the opposite. In the film, Barbie was forced to grapple with some pretty big questions. "As funny and silly as this movie is, it's also very clever. ... I took a lot from it. I've never had so many conversations about the meaning of life as I have with Greta making this movie," Robbie told British Vogue.

Robbie later reflected to USA Today, "I didn't know this character was going to get down into my bones in this way. I just didn't ever expect to have so many big, profound conversations about the meaning of life or what true happiness is. I mean, we joke about an existential crisis, but it all did become very existential."

Ironically, transforming into a Barbie doll pushed Margot Robbie to feel more human than ever before.