By Sari Anne Tuschman | June 29, 2018 | People
It’s Rose Byrne's world... we just live in it.
It’s difficult to say when the world fell in love with Rose Byrne. It could have been when she starred as a young lawyer opposite Glenn Close in the drama Damages, a role that scored her two Golden Globe and two Emmy nominations. Or was it when she played the uptight, competitive nemesis to Kristen Wiig in the hilarious Bridesmaids? Then again, it may have been when she held her own comedically with Seth Rogen in Neighbors. Whenever it was, Byrne has a knack for winning over audiences as one of those rare talents who can deftly execute both serious and funny roles.
“I had been a fan of Rose’s for years and was always amazed at how she could handle both comedy and drama,” says Rogen of working with Byrne. “I remember pushing very hard for her to get the role when we were casting Neighbors and then being adamant about her using her actual Australian accent. It provided many wonderful jokes at her and her countrymen’s expense. I was constantly blown away by how talented she was and felt lucky to work with her.”
The duo’s chemistry helped make the film—and its sequel—a critical and boxoffice success. “We have similar comedic sensibilities and both really understood the tone of what we were doing,” says Rogen. “We played characters that were very similar. They were supposed to be a great, strong couple who were on the same page and whose comedy didn’t come from conflict between them. It was enormously creatively gratifying to get to portray that dynamic with Rose.”
This summer Byrne will undoubtedly win fans once again as Annie in Juliet, Naked, a comedy based on a Nick Hornby novel (High Fidelity, About a Boy). In it, Byrne plays the girlfriend of her Bridesmaids’ co-star Chris O’Dowd, who is obsessed with a reclusive cult rock musician played by Ethan Hawke, with whom she strikes up a romance. “I loved the novel when it came out, nearly 10 years ago,” says Byrne. “I heard it was getting made through Judd Apatow’s company, and I was dying to play Annie and bring that character to life. The tone of the movie is so specific. I think everyone knows the humor and genre of the comedies Hornby creates. These films don’t get made that much anymore. I feel really lucky and grateful that it did. Hopefully we’ve done the book justice.” Byrne had met Hawke previously through her fiancé and father of her two kids, Bobby Cannavale, but they had never worked together before. “I’m such a fan of his work,” she says of Hawke. “I think he’s a wonderful actor—even more wonderful when you get to work with him. He’s kind of magical and has so many great ideas. It’s a very hard character that he plays because it’s difficult to be empathetic to him. I am even more of a fan now than I was.”
Starring alongside her other co-star, O’Dowd, was an equally enjoyable—and funny—experience. “[Chris] is Irish, and I’m Australian, so we’re so similar culturally already,” says Byrne. “He just feels very familiar. He’s smart and witty and quick and fun. In Bridesmaids, we didn’t really have anything to do together, so it was fun to finally do some comedic stuff with him.”
On the subject of Bridesmaids, Byrne admits she had no idea of the massive hit it was destined to become, nor the conversations it would start. “I knew it was a unique experience because there were so many women,” says Byrne. “I was with women every day, and they were the best days ever. At the time we had no idea it would become what it did—I think it took everyone by surprise. I was very naïve, and I didn’t know it would be a controversy and a whole narrative of, ‘Wow, women can be funny!’ Did they ever say that about the cast of The Hangover? It was a double standard. It never occurred to me that a successful female-driven comedy would be an exceptional thing.”
If Byrne’s run of successful movies has gone to her head, you wouldn’t know it. She seems to make friends with everyone she collaborates with. “She’s inspirational, kind, chill, creative and really funny,” says Penny Lovell, Byrne’s stylist for the past nine years. “It doesn’t get better. It’s a joy to work with someone who trusts and collaborates the way she does. It’s less common than you would think, and it frees me up to be creative. I truly adore her.”
In terms of how Byrne has seen the entertainment industry change in this groundbreaking year defined by Hollywood sexual-harassment scandals and the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements, she says the shift is palpable. “It’s definitely got a long way to go, and there are still things that need to change, but it’s so firmly in people’s consciousness now,” says Byrne. “I don’t think there’s any looking back, and that’s exciting. It’s all about pushing forward and keeping the momentum up and these changes evolving and happening. But the studio heads and executives are the ones who have the power to write the checks to get things made and make the changes. I hope they’re being held accountable and following through.”
Born and raised in Australia, Byrne has called New York City home for more than a decade, since moving here to film Damages. “It’s the greatest city in the world for me,” she says. “I feel like the possibilities are endless. I love that everyone is from different walks of life, and I appreciate that there is less of a focus on the [movie] business here, as opposed to L.A. [New York] is just stimulating and thrilling.”
Byrne had her second baby with Cannavale late last year, which prompted a mini move from Manhattan to Brooklyn. “It’s been a total adjustment for me because I was such a city girl,” says Byrne of their new neighborhood. “I was like, what do you mean we can’t get something from the pharmacy at 11 o’clock at night? But when you have a family, you need more space. I am looking forward to settling into the neighborhood and discovering it.”
When the family of four wants to get out of the city, they often venture out East, staying with friends and walking or biking around. “It’s great when you can get out of the city to enjoy the beach and escape the rat race for a bit,” she says. “We have spent time [in the Hamptons] and really love it. We have friends with beautiful homes, so we just buckle down in the house when we’re there. The beaches definitely remind me of growing up in Australia.”
As for what’s next, Byrne has Instant Family coming out next year, in which she stars alongside Mark Wahlberg. The film, about a couple that adopts three foster children, is loosely based on the writer and director Sean Anders’ life. “It’s incredibly moving and touching and challenging,” she says. “I was drawn to it immediately when I spoke to [Anders], and he told me about the story and his kids, and he and his wife’s experience. This is his most personal film to date.”
Instant Family is set for an early 2019 release, but as for right now, Byrne’s biggest focus this summer is her family. “I’m Australian,” she says when asked about her family’s summer plans. “I grew up in the ocean, so it’s important for me to get my kids in saltwater.”
Photography by Mike Rosenthal