Clad in a midi metallic gold frock at Sydney’s swanky Shangri-La hotel Rose Byrne was cool, calm and collected despite her hometown’s sweltering temperatures on Wednesday morning. “We wrap up here at 3,” she told me, “so hopefully I’ll be able to get to the beach this afternoon with mum.”
At a junket kicking off her global I Give It A Year press tour, the Balmain-born beauty sat patiently amongst a legion of camera specialists, relentless lighting and a swarm of clipboard-carrying PRs, while the on-call beauty stylist fixed a hair – literally, there was only one – that had fallen out of place before she spoke candidly with TheVine.
Though the Damages actress initially started her career as a more serious dramatic artist – Byrne played galvanizing roles in Wicker Park, Marie Antoinette and, of course, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones – her status has reached meteoric heights since her audacious ‘Jackie Q’ role opposite Russell Brand in Get Him to the Greek (2010), and her successive Bridesmaids appearance. (Byrne told us that she found the former role “liberating”).
Now though, Byrne has upped her excellence from film’s essential bridesmaid, if you will, into a leading lady in Dan Mazer’s I Give It A Year.
For a rather innocuous, personable and softly-spoken star, Byrne brings tension, conviction, and of course, laughs, to the film’s cardinal character. Nat is a middle-class, loveably uptight Brit attempting to navigate her way through a (highly dysfunctional) first year of marriage. Things between her and husband Josh (Rafe Spall) start off well, until Josh’s old flame (Anna Faris) and Nat’s dishy new colleague (Simon Baker) come into the picture, all while the newlyweds attempt to disavow their parents’ warning that “the first year of marriage is always the hardest”.
Though the 33-year-old is yet to tie the knot (we hope a secret ceremony is on the horizon for her and Boardwalk Empire boyfriend Bobby Cannavale) she shared her thoughts on marriage, being the central character for the first-time and what, exactly, makes a winning film.
You’ve played a range of roles on both the small screen and the big screen. Is displaying range something that’s been important for you over the course of your career, or is it something that just happened organically?
Oh gosh! Well, I always wanted to try more comedy as I’d done so much drama [and] dramatic stuff so I was just really lucky to finally get the opportunity in my later twenties to do it.
When you were approached for the lead in I Give It A Year did you have any hesitations? Or did you connect with the role instantly?
I really loved the script – I thought it was really strong and had some great comedic set pieces and Dan Mazer [director] had some great comedic pedigree, coming from working with Ali G/ Sascha Baron Cohen. But it’s hard after coming from doing a comedy that was so celebrated, like Bridesmaids, to embark on another one – I just wanted it to be good, you know, after doing something that was so beloved. But I’m really proud of it… it’s a different sort of comedy, too. It’s a romantic comedy.
Did you channel any personal experiences into the role? I think everyone’s been in a situation where they know a relationship is not quite right but they do anything to try work it out…
I mean, yes and no. I’ve never been married but I’ve obviously had relationships and understand the dynamics in that. [Experiences] I’ve had in my own life, whether it’s with my family or my friends or my boyfriend [influenced the role]. I think that’s what’s nice about [I Give It A Year] – it’s quite relatable.
Were you and the cast a close group?
Oh we really were! It was such a fun set. I love Dan Mazer, our director so much. And me and Rafe [Spall, who plays the movie’s male lead, Josh] really hit it off so that was… I think we hit it off too much almost! We remain friends, and he’s lovely! Dan was always like “don’t get along too well because you’re supposed to be dysfunctional”. And Minnie [Driver] was wonderful, and Steven Merchant and Simon [Baker]; and Anna Faris, I’ve always admired – so we were so lucky to have her.
If you were Nat, who would you have chosen? Josh (Rafe Spall) or Guy (Simon Baker)?
Well Nat was perfectly suited for Guy, so that should’ve been… that was a case of a really great match coming along. I think she was very lucky to have met him, in a way. For me [personally] I think my personality type would be more suited to the Rafe character, weirdly. His sense of humour and… he’s sort of an annoying character but he has a sweetness to him.
Do you think it’s true that the first year of marriage can be an absolute disaster?
That’s what I’ve heard. And that’s what Dan [Mazer] our writer-director was saying – that the first year is notoriously difficult, and I had heard that before from friends, so I do think it has an element of truth to it.
The movie doesn’t exactly end like you’d expect it to, being a romantic comedy and all. Is offering fresh or unexpected stories something that’s important to you as an actress, or do you think entertainment should always be of prime importance?
Well, in comedy it’s sort of what gets a laugh, wins, essentially. But the ending’s quite old fashioned. When we were filming, it was hard to find the tone initially, and then Dan was like, there’s a really old fashioned ending to it. There’s crossed paths and crossed lives.
How did being the lead in a movie differ from being a very present supporting actress, like your role in Bridesmaids? Did – or do – you feel like there’s more responsibility resting on your shoulders?
I mean there is and there isn’t. There was Rafe and I [together] so that was really lovely, it was very much a two-hander between us so I guess I hung onto that more than anything else. There was an element of more pressure though. It felt a lot more like Damages [where] it was always Glenn [Close] and I together, so this was sort of Rafe and I. It was exciting, I felt ready to try that after having done Get Him To The Greek and Bridesmaids. It was good to step into the shoes of a leading lady.
What were some of the challenges filming the movie?
Well the accent was actually really difficult. I hadn’t done an English accent for years, so that was something I worked really hard at, but was really nervous about because it’s a very specific sound of this middle-class British girl Londoner so that was a really specific sound I needed to get.
What was your favourite scene to shoot?
My favourite scene… the wedding sequence was really funny. Everybody was there, and I loved the novelty dance bit – that was really funny. And then the charade scene was really funny to shoot – that was hysterical, we laughed a lot that day.
I loved when you guys were at Christmas at Nat’s parents, and your holiday photos (which displayed essentially pornographic content) came up…
That was really funny too! That took us by surprise! It was actually technically quite difficult to do, but once we got it, oh my gosh, we were laughing the whole time.
Same. So what are your plans for the future otherwise?
I’m headed back to America, I’m doing a sequel to a horror film I did – Insidious – so we’re doing a sequel to that, and we start next month.
Awesome! Well thanks for chatting with us today. It was lovely to meet you.
My pleasure, you too.
I Give it a Year comes from the same directors as Notting Hill, Love Actually and Bridget Jones’s Diary and hits Australian cinemas February 28th.