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Beyond Birds of Prey: LuckyChap’s Fantabulous Future

Beyond Birds of Prey: LuckyChap’s Fantabulous Future

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The four founders of LuckyChap Entertainment couldn’t be much closer. All are former roommates, and the two women, Margot Robbie and Sophia Kerr, grew up together on Australia’s Gold Coast. The men, Josey McNamara and Tom Ackerley, both British, worked together for years as assistant directors. Robbie and Ackerley are married.

All four are united in a mission to make female-focused films, ones that provoke you and make you laugh even as they recalibrate old societal expectations around gender.

But you may wonder: How united can they be? What do they do, for example, when the Oscar nominee in the group—the one on the billboards for Bombshell and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and Birds of Prey—wants to do a project and the others don’t like it as much as she does?

The solution is simple, Robbie explains: “We don’t take on the project.”

Margot Robbie

Margot Robbie, above. Feature image: Tom Ackerley, Sophia Kerr, Josey McNamara and Margot Robbie in the kitchen of the LuckyChap office. All portraits by John Russo.

If some of them believe in a film or TV idea and some of them don’t, they all make their best arguments for and against it—until everyone is all in, or all out.

“Do we love it enough to spend the next couple years of our lives on it? Because if it’s not a yes, then it should be a no,” says Robbie.

“If it’s not a fuck yes, it’s a no,” adds Kerr. “That’s the general rule,” says Robbie.

“Margot said that to me very early on,” Kerr volunteers. “I know it’s probably not the most polite way to put it.”

“No, my mom wouldn’t like that saying,” Robbie agrees. “But that is the company motto: ‘If it’s not a fuck yes, it’s a no.’”

Sometimes, when they talk about the recent past, it’s hard to keep track of which big moments took place at the London flat they all used to share, and which took place around the LuckyChap office’s kitchen table. The four of them sat around that table on a recent Sunday night, to talk with MovieMaker about their company’s story and their massive plans for 2020.

THE PINK NEON SIGN

The LuckyChap office is tinged at night with the pink light of a neon sign, hanging on the wall, that announces their company’s name. No one remembers exactly how they chose LuckyChap—it has something to do with Charlie Chaplin, the heel-clicking screen icon who once started his own production company, United Artists, with his friends. As the LuckyChap founders try to explain the name’s origins, they complete each other’s thoughts.

“There’s no big explanation to it whatsoever,” says McNamara. “It was drinking—”

“Drinking,” Robbie says, at almost the same time as McNamara. “No one remembers how we got to LuckyChap. We remember getting to LuckyChap, we just don’t remember how—”

“—The logo was going to be—” chimes in Ackerley. And then he, Robbie and Kerr say at the same time: “the clicking heels!”

Kerr and Robbie’s Aussie accents intermingle so completely that it’s difficult to say which one adds: “I remember all of us drunkenly trying to click our heels.”

“The chap was like Charlie Chap-lin,” adds Ackerley, who then turns serious for a moment: “And then, you know. We’re all lucky and blessed to be doing what we’re doing. And then the logo was going to be the heels, but it was just too hard.”

If the source of the name is a mystery, the source of the sign is not. Chap sounded very male, which didn’t necessarily make sense for a company devoted to female-centered films. A comical fight ensued over how to make the logo more feminine. Kerr and Robbie won.

“We were like, the logo’s going to be pink,” Robbie says. “And we landed on making it neon, because our first film, Terminal, had a lot of neon elements in it, and so it was kind of like an ode to that. And then we got [the sign] made, and we stood back and looked at it, and we were like, ‘My God. It looks like a strip club. It’s a pink neon sign called LuckyChap. We look like a strip club.’”

“Or like we produce porn films,” adds Kerr.

No one would make that mistake. Though Terminal was the first film they produced, I, Tonya made it into theaters first. It was nominated for three Oscars, including one for Robbie in the Best Actress category.

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