From Harley Quinn to Tonya Harding, Margot Robbie has played several notable roles where her character is less than fully law-abiding and that continues with her new film, Dreamland, which was just released on Digital and Premium VOD and is playing in select theaters. Robbie stars as Allison Wells, a bank robber in the midst of the Great Depression in the 1930s who, while on the run and wounded, is discovered by young Eugene Evans (Peaky Blinders‘ Finn Cole) hiding in his family’s barn.
Desperate to escape, Allison offers Eugene money to get her to Mexico. At the same time, Finn finds himself quickly falling for Allison, even as her history means that tying himself to her, rather than turning her in, could bring him big trouble in more ways than one.
Fandom spoke to Robbie, Cole, and director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte about Dreamland, how Robbie came to produce it, its distinct visual style, and more.
MAKING A WHOLE PRODUCTION
In the past few years, Robbie has quickly become a notable producer on many films she’s starred in, including I, Tonya and Birds of Prey, with the production company she co-founded, LuckyChap, also producing projects like the Hulu series Dollface and the upcoming film, Promising Young Woman.
When it came to Dreamland, Robbie noted, “It was one of the first projects we brought on board at LuckyChap. We found it on the Black List and we were immediately drawn to the potential scope and the cinematic quality to the era and the dreamlike quality that you fall in love with before reality kind of smacks Eugene, and the audience, in the face.”
Robbie added, “It’s a beautiful and kind of complicated love story, which always gets me, but we knew that we needed to find the right director for it, as you do with any project. There was something about Miles’s first film [As You Are]… I think it’s because there were these relationships that I think if you explained them in one sentence would sound really simplistic but when he let it play out on screen, it felt incredibly nuanced and complicated and it kind of hit you in the guts, and that’s what it felt like we needed here.”
DEPICTING THE DUST BOWL
Dreamland has a very strong visual style, vividly depicting the 1930s, open Texan land Eugene lives in – and the dangerous Dust Bowl storms that come with it — while other scenes depict imagined moments in 4:3 ratio, evoking early cinema.
Robbie said that regarding Joris-Peyrafitte, who she is developing a new version of Tank Girl with, “He’s incredibly technically gifted so we knew we were gonna get this stunning cinematic experience, which is, like I said, so exciting about that era in particular. We just hit it off creatively and personally, when we met, I was like, ‘I really like him. I wanna work with him. I believe in him and I wanna be on set with this guy.”
Joris-Peyrafitte told Fandom that approaching Dreamland, “For me, the look of the film or the style of the film is always dictated by where the emotion for the characters is. The visuals are telling the story as well as how the characters are feeling. We knew there needed to be this juxtaposition of bigness and smallness… Of the claustrophobic nature of a landscape that vast and the potential for freedom in it, as well. That sort of dichotomy played out with the different formats and things like that.”
The infamous Dust Bowl storms were caused by the use of mechanized farm equipment and deep plowing the likes of which had never occurred before in the area, and Joris-Peyrafitte remarked, “It was really about the setting, using the landscape to set off the explosion that would be the story and these characters and give it the stakes that feel, honestly, more and more relevant today in terms of the Dust Bowl and this sort of natural phenomena, [this] manmade natural disaster. There was something in there and a love story in there that felt like it needed to have those [visual] dynamics.”
ALLISON + EUGENE
Robbie said that once they locked in on Joris-Peyrafitte to direct, “The next big hurdle was finding our Eugene and Miles and I did chemistry reads with a lot of actors. When Finn came in, that last piece of the puzzle kind of clicked into place and then we kind of knew what we were doing with the story.”
Eugene is quickly entranced by Allison, even though he knows she’s a wanted criminal. As Cole put it, “He’s naive when we first find him and he learns a lot in a very short space of time.” As for how much wariness he played in Eugene vs. him wanting to believe Allison is not using him, Cole explained, “A lot of those beats really come on the day. You can read the scripts as much as you’d like but actually, your chemistry with the other characters in the piece are really how you gauge that and how you then work that into the story.”
Cole added that for Finn, when it came to Allison, “He was just blown away. He thought she was so beautiful and so attractive that I think at that point it was a little bit like he just kind of had to do as he was told and then he saw this opportunity and she was sort of selling him the dream, and manipulating him in such a way that I think he was quite optimistic about the future. But then obviously reality hits, and we have to watch him figure that out as a young man.”
Robbie noted there is conflict within Allison, who certainly sees Eugene as a means of escape, but that still, “I think all the feelings were there, all the intentions were there, it’s just which one was rising to the top at any given moment. I think when she felt most vulnerable is probably when she was most harsh, when she could be most ruthless, and I think once their relationship kind of solidified, that’s what kind of gave her just enough security to really question what she was doing and the kind of person she was in letting this happen to someone else.”
Dreamland is now available on Digital and Premium VOD.