Hollywood libertine revealed in new Margot Robbie film, Babylon

Babylon - Margot Robbie plays Nellie LaRoy in Babylon

Babylon – Margot Robbie plays Nellie LaRoy in Babylon (Image: Paramount Pictures)

Scantily clad in a stunning flame-red gown with a slit-waist neckline, Margot Robbie maneuvers through an orgy of writhing bodies, mountains of cocaine, and a giant elephant that topples tables and chairs in the wildest party imaginable. .

The debauched scene sets the tone for things to come in the Australian star’s latest film, Babylon, co-starring Brad Pitt and Tobey Maguire. A Jazz Age homage to the decadence of Hollywood in the Roaring Twenties, opening in the US next week and in the UK next month. Babylon is an epic three-hour, eight-minute show and an early Oscar nominee from Damien Chazelle, the fearless director of La La Land and Whiplash.

Set in a Prohibition-stricken Hollywood undergoing a cataclysmic change with the advent of sound in motion pictures, with many silent-era stars failing to make the transition, reckless hedonism and decadence gripped the film industry of 1920s.

“There’s a dizzying amount of debauchery,” says Robbie, 32, who plays the fiercely ambitious movie star Nellie LaRoy.

“One of the most disturbing and chaotic scenes I’ve ever witnessed is in this movie, and it involved a fight with a snake. I won’t tell you who wins or loses that fight, but trust me: it’s crazy.”

By starring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed 2013 hit The wolf of Wall Street Robbie saw grotesque scenes of sex, drugs, wild parties and even dwarf tossing, and says, “I remember being on set and thinking, ‘I’ll never be in a movie as crazy as this again.’ and then i did Babylon!”

margot robbie

Margot Robbie as Aspiring Star Nellie LaRoy (Image: Paramount Pictures)

Yet depravity and excess flaunted in Babylon all have roots in the riotous revelry and real-life debauchery of the early days of Hollywood.

“A lot of it is based on real people or an amalgamation of several people,” says Robbie.

Murders, rapes, and scandals rocked Hollywood in the 1920s, earning it the reputation of modern Gomorrah.

“There was this wave of suicides, deaths that could have been suicides, drug overdoses, kind of merging into the drug epidemic that was going on at the time,” Chazelle says.

“Hollywood in the 1920s was truly a cesspool of vice, arrogance, and excess. We tried to put that on screen. All of it.”

The reality of Hollywood a century ago was as sordid as Babylon portrays

Margot Robbie with Diego Calva

Margot Robbie with Diego Calva as movie assistant Manny Torres (Image: Paramount Pictures)

Comedy star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, appearing in more than 150 films, when his career collapsed after a lawless three-day bacchanalia: a sex and drug-filled party that culminated in with the rape and death of the actress. Virginia Rappe, 30 years old, in September 1921.

Arbuckle, who has mentored Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Bob Hope, went out partying at a San Francisco hotel with friends and a group of beautiful women, including the star Rappe.

Arbuckle was accused of raping Rappe, whose death four days later was blamed on Arbuckle’s extreme weight.

After two trials ended with a split jury, Arbuckle, then 34, was finally acquitted in his third trial.

“I think I’m in for a comeback,” Arbuckle declared, but his reputation could not be saved, his films were banned and his career was over.

Spiraling into alcoholism, he died 12 years later at age 46.

As the Arbuckle trials progressed, Hollywood was rocked by the murder of popular director William Desmond Taylor, who was shot in the back at his Los Angeles home in February 1922.

mary miles minter

mary miles minter (Image: Bettman/CORBIS)

Investigators found an abandoned wife, lovers, secret love letters, and an embezzling valet. Suspects included comedian Mabel Normand, a frequent co-star of Fatty Arbuckle, and former child star Mary Miles Minter, caught in a love triangle.

Police found a love note from teenager Minter to Taylor, 50, along with her nightgown in her bedroom.

It was also revealed that Minter’s protective mother threatened to kill another director who tried to seduce her daughter.

Decades later, director King Vidor claimed that Minter had admitted that his mother killed Taylor, but charges were never filed and the case remains unsolved.

Months later, Hollywood silent movie heartthrob Wallace Reid died of morphine addiction. he had been shooting valley of the giants in 1919 when he suffered deep lacerations to his head and arm in a train accident.

Doctors gave him morphine to help him complete filming, he became addicted and died in 1923, aged 31.

Hollywood beauty Barbara La Marr, a young wild party girl (she said, “I take lovers like roses, by the dozen”), was given heroin by doctors to keep filming the pain after spraining an ankle and, like Reid, got addicted

He died of an overdose in 1926 at just 29 years old.

Clara Bow was Hollywood’s original “It Girl,” a short-haired petite beauty with wide eyes and Cupid’s bow lips who became cinema’s first sex symbol, despite a tragic past.

Raised in abject poverty in New York, she was abused by her alcoholic father and tormented by a schizophrenic mother who threatened to kill her.

“I never had clothes, and for a long time I had nothing to eat,” he recalled from his childhood.

Bow then spiraled into schizophrenia, retired from acting in 1931, and fell into obscurity.

Margot Robbie reveals that her Babylon the character Nellie LaRoy is based on Bow.

“I would say a lot of it is inspired by Clara Bow,” says Robbie.

“I took a lot from the true story of Clara Bow, which is the worst childhood anyone can have.”

Robbie found the role “exhausting”, saying, “It just demanded everything, physically and emotionally.”

The death of producer-director Thomas Ince in November 1924 added to Hollywood’s scandalous reputation.

He was allegedly shot by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst by accident.

He had been targeting Charlie Chaplin, suspected of having an affair with Hearst’s mistress, Marion Davies, who was 34 years his junior.

clear bow

clear bow (Image: Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty)

Ince, known as the “Father of the West,” made more than 800 movies and was partying aboard Hearst’s luxury yacht off the California coast when tragedy struck.

Chaplin’s valet, Toraichi Kono, claimed to have seen Ince “bleeding from a gunshot wound” to the head.

los angeles times reported: “Movie producer filmed on Hearst yacht.”

But Ince’s doctor signed the death certificate citing heart failure, and his body was promptly cremated. No charges were ever filed.

Charlie Chaplin’s fondness for young girls shocked much of Hollywood. He was 29 when he married 17-year-old child actress Mildred Harris and, after her divorce, he impregnated 15-year-old child actress Lita Grey. She married Chaplin, 35, and had two children with him before divorcing, all while she was still in her teens.

To cap off the era’s self-destructive streak came Peg Entwistle, a British actress who went to Hollywood to find fame.

He appeared on stage with Humphrey Bogart and on screen in the thriller thirteen women with Myrna Loy and Irene Dunne, but then her career faltered.

In September 1932, he climbed to the top of the “H” in the famous Hollywood sign and plunged 45 feet to his death.

“I’m sorry about everything,” he said in his suicide note. “If I had done this a long time ago, it would have saved me a lot of pain.”

His death cemented Hollywood’s notoriety as a contemporary Babylon.

Faced with mounting criticism, Hollywood created the Hays Office, under the impeccable direction of Postmaster General Will Hays, to police depravity on the screen.

He prohibited the exhibition of sex, profanity and other vices. Offscreen, the debauchery continued, but out of the chaos came movie magic.

Adds Chazelle: “Hollywood back then was a place where, out of the most depraved animal behavior, came these works of art that were so beautiful and alluring.”

And also shocking and fascinating, as Babylon.

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