AUSSIE ACTRESS ON HER GRADUAL RISE TO THE TOP
Rose Byrne, judging by posters in cinema foyers, is the busiest actor in Hollywood. Or she was when she filmed the three movies now screening in Australia; Bad Neighbours 2, The Meddler and X-Men: Apocalypse.
The New York-based Australian must be aching to take a break?
“Oh no,” she replies quickly. “I had a long break for six months, I’ve been pretty chilled. It’s funny having them all come out at the same time, which is never planned that way, but all of a sudden they’re everywhere. But it’s very much out of my control.”
During the break Byrne also had her first child, Rocco, with American actor Bobby Cannavale and announced the formation of an Australian production house, the Dollhouse Collective, with some friends. You can take the “pretty chilled” with a wink.
What the three films in quick succession have done is elevate Byrne further up the Hollywood food chain. Her assured, witty performances on any number of American latenight talk shows in recent weeks show just how far she’s come from the quiet teen costar who appeared opposite Heath Ledger in Two Hands.
The three films also showcase Byrne’s broad range and marketability.
In the mainstream adult comedy Bad Neighbours 2, Byrne was elevated to lead status with Seth Rogen after arguing her character should be as loud and as outrageous as any of the male characters. In the romantic comedy
The Meddler, Byrne holds her own opposite Susan Sarandon, who plays a widow clinging on to her daughter. And X-Men:
Apocalypse is the big superhero blockbuster any actor needs on their resume if they consider themselves a contender.
Byrne doesn’t have the reputation of a calculating careerist, though her views on the focus on Hollywood’s male roles at the narrative and commercial expense of women shows she’s not naive.
So, she admits the wave of films coming out simultaneously is “a weird thing” that “can be frustrating”.
“But it’s a tough market, and with television as well, it’s so much more competitive,” she says. “It has come down to a science really about when is the best time for these things to be released to get their optimum audience.”
Comedy is challenging, which is why she gravitates towards it, she says. Yet she deflects much of the credit.
“I think I’m lucky to work with people like Seth Rogen and Melissa McCarthy, people who really make it look effortless,” Byrne says.
“But I’m always intrigued, though, when a traditionally comic actor gets cast in something dramatic. I always find that an interesting choice as a viewer and I love to see what they do. I love diversity, and most actors would probably think that.”
The Meddler is an interesting stop in that diversity, a romantic comedy for adults rather than an adult comedy. “It was incredible to work with Susan Sarandon on this beautiful little intimate story with great dialogue that means something and is relatable. I hadn’t done something like that for a while,” Byrne says.
She deflects attention from her casting opposite Sarandon, noting she is not quite as much in demand as it seems.
“There’s still things that come my way and things that don’t come my way,” she says.
“But I’ve been lucky to have great relationships with people and studios, like Nick Stoller, the director of Bad Neighbours 1 and 2 and Get Him to the
Greek. That relationship has been wonderful and I love to work with people again. It’s great because you have a shorthand and dialogue and you can explore things further, so I love doing that.”
And now Byrne has the big comic-book franchise on her curriculum vitae: X-Men.
In X-Men: Apocalypse she makes her second appearance, in what is a six-film series , as Dr Moira MacTaggert.
She’s delighted to be part of this well-resourced, heavily promoted Marvel Comics film series because the X-Men films have shown themselves to be “a little more sophisticated” than most comic-book films. “Yet they can be fun, when they’re done well,” she says.
“When they come together, they do capture something of the imagination you had when you were a child, but bring a real intensity and intelligence that transcends the genre. You can take them seriously.”
Susan Sarandon and Rose Byrne in The Meddler.