High atop many movie fans’ list of most-anticipated projects for 2023 is the upcoming “Barbie,” starring Margot Robbie. Since news broke that the Oscar-nominee would produce and star as the iconic doll, fans have wondered what a live-action version of the Malibu princess’ world will look like.
After years of speculation, fans got their first glimpse at Robbie as Barbie, when Warner Bros. revealed a first look image at CinemaCon in April. The shot showed the star seated behind the wheel of a pink convertible, flashing a megawatt smile and donning a polka dot headband. It was just enough of a tease to satisfy a curious audience, but effectively gave away nothing about the movie’s plot. In June, Warner Bros. debuted an ab-tastic shot of Ryan Gosling as Ken, with the two-time Oscar nominee sporting bleach blonde locks, a spray tan and an open shirt to show off personalized boxers.
Back in 2019, at the premiere of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Robbie explained why Barbie is a character worth bringing to life. “I think it’s a great opportunity to put some positivity out in the world and a chance to be aspirational for younger kids,” she told Variety’s Marc Malkin.
Directed by Gerwig, from a script the “Little Women” and “Lady Bird” filmmaker co-wrote with Noah Baumbach, the movie is a co-production by Warner Bros., Mattel and Robbie’s LuckyChap Entertainment banner. In an Aug. 2021 interview with British Vogue, Robbie teased that taking on Barbie simultaneously “comes with a lot of baggage … and a lot of nostalgic connections.”
“But with that come[s] a lot of exciting ways to attack it,” she told the mag. “People generally hear ‘Barbie’ and think, ‘I know what that movie is going to be,’ and then they hear that Greta Gerwig is writing and directing it, and they’re like, ‘Oh, well, maybe I don’t…’”
So here’s what we do know about Robbie and Gerwig’s take on the toy tale:
The cast is star-studded
If it seems like half of Hollywood has been tapped to join the cast, that assertion wouldn’t be much of an overstatement, as the movie’s call sheet has grown longer than the Mattel doll’s resume.
The ensemble is led by Robbie and Gosling as Barbie and her longtime boy toy Ken. And with classic couple in the mix, fans continue to speculate about which of their other plastic playmates will appear (What about Skipper? Christie?). It’s rumored that several Barbie and Ken characters factor into the plot, but no details from “Barbie” have been confirmed.
The film’s supporting cast includes Emmy-winning actors America Ferrera (“Ugly Betty, “Superstore”) and Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”), plus Marvel superhero Simu Liu (“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”) in yet-to-be-revealed roles.
In a recent interview with GQ UK, Liu revealed that he decided to audition for the movie (via a self-tape) after a junior agent at his agency told him it was one of the best scripts he’d ever read.
“He literally said this verbatim,” Liu told the magazine. “He was like, ‘If I could stake my career on any one script, it’s the ‘Barbie’ script. I really think you should do it.’”
Other recent additions to the cast include Issa Rae, Michael Cera, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Rhea Perlman, Sharon Rooney, Scott Evans, Ana Cruz Kayne, Ritu Arya and Jamie Demetriou. “Promising Young Woman” filmmaker Emerald Fennell will also appear, reuniting with Robbie after she produced the Oscar-winning movie under her LuckyChap banner. Plus, the movie features three “Sex Education” stars: Emma Mackey — who fans have often noted looks a great deal like Robbie — Ncuti Gatwa and Connor Swindells.
Variety exclusively revealed that trailblazing trans performer Hari Nef (“And Just Like That,” “You”) and “Tick, Tick … Boom!” star Alexandra Shipp have joined the cast in likewise unknown roles. The ensemble also features Ariana Greenblatt and Will Ferrell, who is rumored to play a toy company CEO.
Production is underway
“Barbie” began filming at WB’s Leavesden Studios in London early this year, with a theatrical release set for July 21, 2023.
Other “Barbie” projects have been in the works
In addition to Barbie’s starring roles in her franchise of nearly 40 animated films, other live-action adaptations have been announced over the years. Amy Schumer and Anne Hathaway were both attached to play Barbie when the live-action adaptation was set up at Sony; “Juno” and “Young Adult” scribe Diablo Cody was among the writers tapped by the studio to pen the script.
Barbie’s planned ascent to the big screen ultimately coalesced after Mattel Films teamed up with Warner Bros. to produce the film, with Robbie, Gerwig and Baumbach boarding the project in 2018 and 2019, respectively. In addition to starring in the film, Robbie also produces alongside LuckyChap’s Tom Ackerley, Mattel’s Robbie Brenner and David Heyman for Heyday Films. LuckyChap’s Josey McNamara and Mattel’s Ynon Kreiz are executive producers.