BY ANDREA MANDELL
Gannett News Service
When you’ve created one of the best makeout moments in recent cinematic history, where do you go?
Deep into the con world, of course.
In “Focus,” in theaters Feb. 27, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa pit Will Smith’s cerebral savvy as a seasoned con man opposite “Wolf of Wall Street’s” Margot Robbie, who plays a scrappy pickpocket eager to learn the game.
“Will said, ‘You’re going to have trouble finding a girl because I kind of have a large personality.’ And he was right,” recalls Requa. “But Margot walked in and just put everybody on their heels. When she walked out of the room, Will turned to us and said, ‘Mmhm.’ ”
“It was the same moment we had with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling when they first read together [for ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’],” adds Ficarra. “Here’s Ryan Gosling, this very desirable male hubba-hubba dude, and Emma just came in and owned him. She didn’t pause for a minute. She just proceeded to insult him.”
“Focus” is a comedy-caper-love story rooted in one basic question: “How do two people fall in love in a world where the truth is like currency?” says Ficarra.
Nicky (Smith) takes Jess (Robbie) under his wing and introduces her to the world of grifting, but they become too close for his comfort. Fast-forward three years and the pair reunite in Buenos Aires — only now Jess is the kind of adversary who could throw Nicky’s biggest scam to date.
Smith is the biggest movie star the pair of directors have signed on to one of their films, but what surprised them most was how normal he is.
“He’s a middle-aged dad who is really cool but is also kind of nerdy and into history and science fiction,” says Ficarra. “We had so much in common with him.”
“He’s like us if we were good-looking and lived in a giant house,” cracks Requa.
The Australian actress has a knack for going up against some of our modern titans of the silver screen. Who can forget how she brashly took Leonardo DiCaprio to task— even throwing water in his face — as a dissatisfied trophy wife in “The Wolf of Wall Street”?
“We actually wrapped ‘Focus’ at 6 a.m. the morning of the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ premiere,” says Robbie, calling in from the “rainy, cold” London set of “Tarzan,” where she’s playing Jane to Alexander Skarsgard’s Tarzan. “So I was filming in the snow, went home and pretty much started getting ready for the premiere that evening. It was a whirlwind.”
On set, both she and Smith studied the art of grifting. Robbie was even tutored by famed pickpocket Apollo Robbins. So watch your wallet around her.
“When I was first in training one of the crew guys came in and [Robbins] told me to steal his phone while he was in the room. I was panicking,” says Robbie. “The guy ended up catching me with my hand in his back pocket and it was as if I was trying to touch his [butt]. It was so humiliating! He avoided me like the plague after that.”