GLOW­ING WITH VER­SA­TIL­ITY

A hec­tic ros­ter aside, Rose Byrne is still seek­ing more se­ri­ous roles for women, writes Michael Bodey

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film -

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 for a break?

“Oh no,” she replies quickly. “I had a long break for six months [so] 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. So you can take the “pretty chilled” talk with a wink.

What the three films in quick suc­ces­sion have done is el­e­vate Byrne even 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 co-star 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 re­quires on their re­sume if they con­sider them­selves a con­tender.

The self-dep­re­cat­ing Byrne doesn’t have the rep­u­ta­tion of a cal­cu­lat­ing ca­reerist, though her out­spo­ken­ness about the fo­cus on Hol­ly­wood’s male roles at the nar­ra­tive and com­mer­cial ex­pense of women shows she’s not naive about the ca­reer ei­ther.

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.”

Byrne is right in the mid­dle of the mar­ket, though, even if Hol­ly­wood is pi­geon­hol­ing her as some­thing she wasn’t known for in Aus­tralia.

Last year, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter de­scribed the 36-year-old as “the most in-de­mand sup­port­ing ac­tress for come­dies”, which, as far as spe­cific de­scrip­tions go, is right up there. What seems to have been for­got­ten is her lead role in the hugely suc­cess­ful In­sid­i­ous hor­ror fran­chise, her lead role op­po­site Glenn Close in the tough TV crime drama Dam­ages (for five sea­sons, no less) and star­ring roles in di­verse dra­mas in­clud­ing 28 Weeks Later, Alex Proyas’s Know­ing and Sofia Cop­pola’s Marie An­toinette.

Then again, Byrne backed up her break­through per­for­mances as the pop star Jackie Q op­po­site Rus­sell Brand in 2010’s Get Him to the Greek with ter­rific comic turns op­po­site Kris­ten Wiig in Brides­maids, Ro­gen and Zac Efron in the first Bad Neigh­bours and Melissa McCarthy in the un­der­rated Spy.

Con­se­quently, pro­files of the dra­matic Aussie tend to mar­vel at how adept she is at com­edy, at least be­yond ex­pec­ta­tions. “Oh thanks, I think,” she stut­ters.

One can’t help but be dis­ap­pointed at how re­cent pro­files of Byrne re­flect amaze­ment not only about her comic chops but how out­ra­geous a co­me­dian she can be. It’s as though do­ing cer­tain things on screen are still con­sid­ered be­yond women’s ca­pac­ity, or at least in­ad­vis­able.

“That’s a good point,” Byrne agrees. “I sup- pose it’s a shame [but] a writer has to come up with some­thing to say, right?

“I’ve worked with Melissa McCarthy twice and she couldn’t be a nicer per­son, so po­lite and en­dear­ing and lovely, and she’s the fun­ni­est ac­tress. Every­body knows that. And the things Melissa comes up with, you just can’t be­lieve it.

“Maybe peo­ple get shocked when you do some­thing else, like break­ing some sort of con­ven­tion and, yeah, I’m happy to do that. That sounds like I’m full of my­self but if you’re a woman and some­how be­ing stereo­typed, well, that’s dull.”

Byrne has made com­edy her own af­ter be­ing ac­claimed for award-win­ning dra­matic roles in Aus­tralian films in­clud­ing The God­dess of 1967 (best ac­tress at the 2000 Venice Film Fes­ti­val) and The Turn­ing (2014 AACTA Award for best lead ac­tress).

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, dis­miss­ing any no­tion a drama actor do­ing com­edy is a big deal.

“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.

Again, 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 re­ally lucky to have some 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 now a six-film se­ries (ex­clud­ing spin-offs), as Dr Moira MacTag­gert.

She’s de­lighted to be part of this well­re­sourced, heav­ily pro­moted Mar­vel Comics

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