Who is Tom Ackerley? Meet Margot Robbie’s other half

Entertainment

It’s been a whirlwind few years for Barbie actor Margot Robbie and husband-turned-business-partner Tom Ackerley. From co-founding a production company in 2014, to launching one of Australia’s hottest new gin labels a decade later, the Hollywood dynamos are now reportedly set to take on another role – parents.
Tom Ackerley and Margot Robbie at the 30th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall on February 24, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Variety via Getty Images)

Queensland-born producer and actor Margot Robbie needs no introduction. Amid reports this week that she is expecting her first child with husband Tom Ackerley, it is her other-half who is topping Google’s list of trending topics.

Ackerley and Robbie married in Byron Bay in 2016, three years after meeting on the European set of the movie Suite Francaise. British-born Ackerley was an assistant director on the film, and Robbie played Celine, a supporting character.

LuckyChap Entertainment’s founding four

Months after the pair met, The Wolf of Wall Street premiered, and Robbie became a household name. Robbie, Ackerley, Josey McNamara, and friend Sophia Kerr – who grew up with Robbie on the Gold Coast – hatched a plan to start a production company.

A decade later, LuckyChap Entertainment has succeeded not only in bringing the $2-billion Barbie movie to life, but also in producing critically acclaimed films Saltburn, I Tonya, and Promising Young Woman.

Ackerley executive-produced the Golden Globe-nominated Saltburn and Emmy-award-winning Netflix series Maid.

The 34-year-old cofounder currently has two projects in development and three in pre-production. LuckyChap is reuniting with Maid showrunner Molly Smith Metzler for another Netflix series called Sirens. Ackerley is executive producing the female-driven, dark comedy starring Julianne Moore.

Working with Mattel to get Barbie made

Ackerley was interviewed by the Hollywood Reporter earlier this year. Asked what he learned from producing Barbie, he deflected praise to director and co-writer Greta Gerwig.

“The lesson on Barbie is to trust your filmmaker. It’s something we always did and will continue to do, but this really made us triple down on that. We have an unwavering belief,” Ackerly told the Hollywood Reporter. “I think every time we release a movie or TV show it changes the way we work and the way we are within this industry.”

He also spoke about the process of working with Mattel, the company that holds the rights to Barbie, to get the film made.

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“Mattel was our first meeting – even before taking it to Warner Brothers. We went into the meeting really interested in the property, but not really knowing what we would do with it or how we would crack it,” says Ackerley.

“If I remember correctly, we were either in production or post-production on Promising Young Woman, and we were going to start going into production on Maid, the TV show we did with Netflix. A big part of our job in that meeting was educating Mattel on the company – what LuckyChap stood for, what we believed in, and how we liked to work.”

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 10: (L-R) Tom Ackerley and Margot Robbie attend the 96th Annual Academy Awards on March 10, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

The thesis for LuckyChap, is to support bold projects, the cofounder says.

“As a company, we are always going to try to take risks and support big, bold, original ideas. The second we get comfortable or feel like we’re doing something that we’ve done before, that’s when we’ll likely miss. I’m sure we’ll have misses for other reasons in the future, but as long as we’re supporting the people we really believe in and giving them the belief that they can take a big swing, then we’re meeting the challenge,” says Ackerley.

From an LA production company to a Byron Bay distillery

LuckyChap is not the only project Robbie and Ackerley are working on together. They spoke to Forbes Australia about their gin ‘Papa Salt.’

The couple’s interest in gin goes back to the days they shared a flat in London.

“We weren’t drinking the nice stuff. And not always in the nicest bars.” Robbie says. “I picked up a trick from a friend who was backpacking and came to stay with us, that if you put a vanilla rooibos tea bag in your G&T, even the worst gin would taste fantastic.” 

In 2018, Robbie, Ackerley, McNamara, and friends Regan Riskas and Charlie Maas started researching the gin market.

Margot Robbie Papa Salt
Papa Salt founders Margot Robbie, Tom Ackerley, Regan Riskas Maas, Charlie Maas and Josey McNamara. Image: Papa Salt

“Even in the supermarkets, you could find your big-brand gins, but you couldn’t find anything niche,” Ackerley says. “How do we get the gins we love to drink? Should we just try to make our own? How hard could it be? We knew nothing about making gin. So we called someone who does – Charlie.”

Spirits connoisseur Charlie Maas went to multiple liquor stores to buy every gin on the market to take to Robbie and Ackerley’s LA house and present back to the group. They all seemed to gravitate to the more savoury brands. During the pandemic, Robbie visited Lord Byron distillery in Byron Bay, and ‘Papa Salt’ was born.

The gin is made in Robbie’s home state of Queensland, and sold in the UK, New Zealand and Australia. Maas is now the CEO. It is described as ‘an easy-drinking gin that celebrates the subtle taste of native Australian botanicals,’ with notes of wax flower, hibiscus, citrus peel, wattleseed, pink peppercorn and the minerality of an oyster shell.

“It’s been so much fun. I’m sitting here holding this bottle, I love it so much,” Ackerley says.

“When you make a movie you love, you could watch it 1000 times, and I found out that when you make a gin you love, you can drink it time and time again,” says Ackerley.

Are you – or is someone you know -creating the next Afterpay or Canva? Nominations are open for Forbes Australia’s first 30 under 30 list. Entries close midnight, July 31, 2024.

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