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Rose Byrne is no stranger to comedies or movies about weddings (see a little something something called "Bridesmaids") but the subject matter she tackles in this week's "I Give It a Year" is still something new for her: A failing marriage.
In the film, Byrne plays Nat, a somewhat frosty woman who marries a man (Rafe Spall) she's known for less than a year. The title line — "I give it a year" — is uttered by a guest at the couple's wedding. The story that follows, written and directed by Dan Mazer of "Borat" and "The Dictator" fame, is of the couple's struggles, triumphs, and accidental broadcast of nude photos to their parents in that first year. The film will hit selected theaters today, and is already available on VOD.
NextMovie sat down with Byrne in New York City ahead of the movie's theatrical release, where she talked to us about being afraid of comedy, "Bridesmaids 2" and why you really want her on your charades team at your next game night.
What first drew you into the project? The director, Lee Mazer, had also written "Borat." What did you think of his background?
The screenplay was really funny. I just was laughing and related to some of the things in there and the ideas, and I loved that it was from this very traditional stable of Working Title, which are responsible for all those great films I grew up watching and, I was intrigued.
Had you seen his previous work, like "Borat" or "Da Ali G Show"?
I did, yeah, and of course, Dan's comic pedigree was very intriguing as well to see if he could bring that sensibility to a pretty conservative genre.
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Were you worried at all? Were you nervous about whether this guy could pull off a romantic comedy?
Yeah, of course. With comedy I'm always a little bit nervous and scared. I think you always start like that, and then it's amazing what happens when you get on set and you'll do anything for a laugh. There's something that just becomes unhinged in comedy that's very exciting and scary, and you know, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but it's that feeling of like, being in the danger zone, which is always exciting.
There's a memorable scene involving live doves and a ceiling fan that definitely seemed like Mazer's pedigree. Was there anything that you were worried about doing?
Oh, totally. There were a few things that didn't make the film that were scary, but like I said, there's that atmosphere in a comedy where you get quite… You go in with a certain, "I'm not gonna do this," and by the end, you're just so determined to get people laughing that there's something that unhinges in you, and you just sort of, ahh, it's a strange drive.
This definitely isn't your typical rom-com. What genre would you classify it under?
I think it's more of a comedy, more than a traditional romantic comedy. Just because romantic comedies… It is romantic, but it's not a traditional romantic comedy, and I'd say it's more of a comedy than anything else. I think it's going more for that.
You're Australian – is an English accent hard for you, since it's closer to your own accent?
I did training. I had a great vocal coach, and I hadn't done an English accent for years, I think since "Troy", so I was 24 or something. And she has a very particular middle class British, very highly educated woman, a Londoner, which is very specific. But in Australia, culturally, we have a lot of touchstones together with the English – obviously we're a colony, and we have the UK, and we share politics and sport, and culturally we have a lot more similar touchstones, where they're really in touch with Australian culture, far more than America is. So I think that makes it a shorter hand in terms of assimilating into a film.
Plus, dummy Americans can't tell the difference.
No, no I don't mean that. I think just culturally here you guys have other touchstones with different countries, but for England and Australia, obviously it's a very strong link.
Are there any words in particular that you had a hard time saying?
There's a few words that I really struggled with. "Sorry" is a really hard one, I found that very hard to say. "Sorry." I sounded really too posh, so it was about knocking it back and making her sound more like a Londoner and not like she was from the seventeenth century.
Between this role and "Bridesmaids" and other things, you seem to often get cast as not an entirely likeable person. Do you think there are reasons behind that? Do you have fun playing the villain?
Yeah, of course. It's always the characters that are the scariest that are the most fun, I think, as an actor. The ones that terrify you and you're not sure if you can pull them off. And ["I Give it a Year's"] Nat on the page is very chilly and cold and un-empathetic, so I had to find some good reference points for her. But in a way you don't just wanna reduce it to your own experiences, you know? You want to make it something more than that.
Like, "I only play nice girls."
Yeah, I mean, that's pretty dull.
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Bad girls more have fun, or so I've heard.
Or blondes do, don't they? (Laughs)
There's a really funny charades scene in the movie. Are you any good at charades?
I have a dear friend here in New York, and he has some epic charades nights. We usually start around the end of summer and we'll go through 'till end of winter.
I know that you're an actor and all, but when it comes to charades, are you a better guesser or actor?
I'd say I'm an even split. Maybe a better performer, usually. I'm not particularly quick, I don't think, with my guesses. I'm always at home and then I'll figure it out, "Oh that's what I should've said!" Whereas I'm better on my feet.
So you'd be a key charades teammate, is what you're trying to say.
That is what I'm trying to say. (laughing)
I'll put out a call on the internet: "Rose Byrne would like to play charades with you."
Yes, key member. FYI. Thank you very much.
I'm always curious when I watch wedding movies -- is it weird to put on a big wedding dress, or no weirder than other costumes? It just seems like such an iconic thing.
I know, but then it's weird to put on a weird robe from ancient Greece and wear a wreath on my head and make out with Brad Pitt, like, that's pretty weird.
You don't do that normally?
(Laughs) Like, if you think about any of it too much, it's all very strange.
Do you feel that "Bridesmaids" opened the door for more female comedies?
I don’t know, Hollywood is such a strange beast, and these things don't change overnight. But then, look at things like "Sex and the City". Wasn't that a watershed, you know? There's all these sorts of... And I only hope that it only has helped. And I think you see, like "Bachelorette Party" and "Girl Most Likely" or "The To Do List" – all great films with funny, great female characters.
There's obviously been a lot of talk about "Bridesmaids 2" – will it happen? Would you been on board?
I think it's been discussed in the press that it wouldn't happen, yeah.
People have shot it down, but there are always the diehards.
The diehards! Oh, I miss the girls. But it's such an iconic film – well, not iconic – but it's just something like that is so beloved, you know? Like, doing a second one potentially wouldn't be as good.
Yeah, Sandra Bullock said that about a possible sequel to "The Heat" – "I don't know that I would do it because the sequels don’t quite catch up." Is there any other movie you've done that you think deserves a sequel?
I shot "Insidious: Chapter 2" and that did feel good because we ended on such a note with the potential of a sequel, with Patrick [Wilson]'s character, that I was really open to it, and after talking with James [Wan] and Leigh [Wannell] and hearing their ideas on it, I was excited to do it. And it wouldn’t have worked unless we could all come back, and we all came back and we all did it. And that's a testament to James Wan, because he's such a great director.
What question do people ask you most often? Press or normal humans.
With the press, it's usually something associated with "Bridesmaids". (laughing) But it's alright – I'm happy, I'm proud to be a part of it.
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Between comedy and drama, do you have a genre that you strongly prefer?
For me, comedy is so challenging because it's still new, and I just revere comedic actors. I think it's incredibly hard, but it's different for everyone. For me, diversity has been brilliant. To be able to do something like "Insidious" or "Damages" and then something like this is great. I feel very lucky to have been able to do some diverse things.
Do you get the chance to see a lot of current movies?
Hmm, what did I see lately? I saw "The Bling Ring."
Did you like it?
I did, yeah I did. I worked with Sofia [Coppola] years ago. I had a part in "Marie Antoinette." I probably watch series more. I'm quite a series watcher. I've seen all of "Girls" and "Mad Men" and "Homeland" and I really like "The Mindy Project".
Are you a Netflix binge watcher?
I don't have Netflix, I just have HBO on Demand.
How do you live?!
I know, I don’t know! (Laughs) I'm not sure how I've managed to. But I'm a big series watcher.
If you do karaoke, what is your go-to?
I'm not much of a karaoke girl, but I think the last time I did it, I sang "You're So Vain," and that was pretty great.
Have you ever seen a ghost?
No, I haven't.
Do you have tattoos? If you got one, what would it be?
I don't. I just wouldn't get a tattoo. I had a belly button ring very briefly, and it just didn't suit me. Didn't suit me.
What made you decide to take it out?
A really gross, pus-y infection. (Laughs) That's the trick! Weirdly, that did the trick. Like, "I think it's time. I think it's time to take it out. Take this puppy out."
If you could steal one person's career, who would it be?
There's so many people, I'm overwhelmed with choice! Gregory Peck was a pretty amazing leading man, yeah.
What are you a geek about?
Fashion. I'm a bit of a fashion geek.
Do you have favorite labels or shows?
I presented at the CFDA Awards just a few months ago, and yeah. It's such a fun and a privilege to be at those sorts of things. I went to the Chanel show recently in Paris, and I very briefly met Karl Lagerfeld, but that was totally geeking out at such a legendary figure as him.
Using the formula of your first pet and the street you grew up on, what would your porn name be?