Interview: Rose Byrne

Anna Tsekouras
marie claire

It looks like you're having a ball on set. What was it like working alongside some of Hollywood's biggest comedy queens?

Rose: It was hilarious! A lot of the time I just had to focus on keeping a straight face because the girls cracked me up all day long. Especially Melissa McCarthy, she's a comic genius. It got to the stage where all she had to do was say my character's name and I'd start laughing. Everyone was trying to be as funny as they could.

It was pretty intimidating for me in the beginning, because all of the girls are from The Groundlings Theatre and Upright Citizens Brigade, which are two very esteemed improvisation schools here in the U.S. Some have also featured on Saturday Night Live, so they're highly skilled comedy chicks. I was fairly daunted by that but they made me feel nothing but welcome.

You play an uptight, uppity character, who borders on being perfect. Was it a challenge?
Rose: Absolutely. I don't have much in common with my character so it was really cool to do something completely different. I love immersing myself in a the character, just like when I played Jackie Q in Get Him to The Greek. My character, Helen, is lonely and tragic at times and is as much of a mess as Annie is – but you just don't see it.

How did you prepare for the role?
Rose: I know Helen, I'm sure you do too. Everybody has a 'Helen' in their lives. I had plenty of material to draw on and would make notes on their behavior and the psychology behind their actions. The look of Helen was also a really important factor. She has status, which is very different from me. I'm not somebody who wants to come into the room and dominate, but she is. That's how she validates herself and that's something I really had to discover.

Also, Judd [Apatow, producer] really concentrates on what the actors can bring to the films and encourages improvisation and lots of discussion about our characters

Which scene was the most fun to shoot?
Rose: The scene with [U.S. female band ] Wilson Phillips. It was such a special night, singing and dancing with the girls. All of the ensemble bridesmaids' sequences were also really special. There was an excitement and an anticipation in the air when we were all together. It was quite electric and I think that comes across on the screen.

Some people have dubbed it the female version of The Hangover. Do you hope it reaches the same level of success and critical acclaim, despite being an all-female cast?
Rose: You want the film to win but I don't think it's like The Hangover. I think they want to say that because The Hangover was such a massive critical and commercial success. But it's something else! It's Kristen Wiig's film and she is brilliant. Being a bridesmaid is the catalyst for her downfall and suddenly all her failures catch up to her.

You laugh every five minutes and that's how I think it should be pitched. It's a constantly funny and very observational piece on these rituals in women's lives. Kristen really wanted to write good strong comedic roles for women because they're hard to come by in Hollywood and they succeeded.

How did you get involved?
Rose: My agent sent me the script and I just loved it. I thought it was hysterical. I am a big Kristen Wiig fan from her Saturday Night Live work and I had worked with Judd Apatow on Get Him to The Greek. I rang my agent and said, 'Look I just love, love the script. I'll go in for anything'.

They initially wanted me to go in for Lillian's character [played by Maya Rudolph] and I said, 'Absolutely, but do you mind if I go in for Helen as well?' He said, 'You want to have a crack at the bitch?' I did, and I was cast as Helen. It was a project I would've killed to be a part of.

Do you dream of a having a lavish wedding?
Rose: Strangely, I've never been someone who's fantasized about it. I've never been one of those girls. I don't know maybe I will, maybe it's something about getting older.

Would you ever propose to your boyfriend?
Rose: I don't know. I mean sure, why not? I guess I'm just anti-establishment at heart. I just don't see why I have to marry to prove that I'm committed. I think some kind of anarchist in me just holds on to that rebellious quality, which is probably really childish.

The film deals with sabotage, female 'frenemies' and the delicate art of competition amongst women. Is that an apt description of Hollywood?
Rose: Hollywood is certainly competitive. There are so few roles and so many actresses. Luckily, I've never had someone sabotage me or badmouth me -well as far as I know.

You've said that you're heartbroken if you don't get a part that you really want. Is it the same when you receive reviews? How does it affect you?
Rose: Yes. I choose not to read them now because even the good ones are never good enough. I generally get badly reviewed so I think it's better not to do it for my own mental health.

Do you really think you get badly reviewed?
Rose: Yes, I probably shouldn't say that. It's very negative but I do.

Bridesmaids (Universal) is out now.