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Rose Byrne – Returns to a Place That Is Insidious

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

Rose Byrne

Returns to a Place That Is Insidious

by Jay S. Jacobs

Australian actress Rose Byrne has done just about everything in her young career – TV, movies, comedy, drama, period pieces, blockbusters, indies, horror – but Insidious: Chapter 2 is the first time she has revisited a character in a sequel.

It's rather shocking that an actress who is so young has been working for almost 20 years and done well over 40 roles, including such diverse smashes as Bridesmaids, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, Troy, The Interns, The Place Beyond the Pines, Get Him to the Greek, X-Men: First Class and the popular TV series Damages.

However, the tiny 2011 horror film Insidious has become one of her most beloved films and has now sparked a reprise. Insidious: Chapter 2 starts where the first film left off, with Byrne as Renai, a wife and mother trying to save her family from a demonic force which is haunting them and has possessed her husband (played by Patrick Wilson).

A couple of weeks before Insidious: Chapter 2 hit the multiplexes, we sat down with Byrne to discuss the film and her career.

Your character got knocked around a lot more in this sequel. How much was it stunt doubles and how much was it you?

I did have a stunt double for a few things. Like when the shelf falls over with all the tools in the basement. A couple of things I can think of. Patrick pushing her. Then a bunch of it I did myself. I’m one of those actresses who hits with the frying pan and then comes over and says, "I’m so sorry!" They are like, "I’m all right." But this movie is like an action [movie]. Particularly for Renai [her character] and the kids it was. About half way through the shoot we started doing that whole sequence. It was a different kind of work out. It’s pretty draining by the end of the day. You are pretty tired from the physical stuff. But it’s a lot of fun, too, because you get out of your head. It’s more intuitive, because are running, which is always fun.

Do you believe in ghosts and spirits?

I’ve never had an encounter. When it happens, I am well up for it and ready. But, I’ve not seen them around me. I like horror movies. The good ones, I'm a fan of a good scare.

What’s your favorite horror movie?

Gosh. The Shining is probably the classic that terrified me when I was little. Then, I liked Nightmare on Elm Street, the original. Silent Night, Deadly Night. Old school, when I was growing up. I used to love that stuff.

Did you find yourself ever getting too scared by horror films?

I was pretty good. No. Anything too out there. It’s more of those films about serial killers. Or this Australian film called Snowtown, which is based loosely on a true story in Adelaide, Australia. That’s probably the scariest film I’ve ever seen because it’s based on a true story. It’s about these murders in Australia. It was terrifying. (laughs) I actually couldn’t watch it. I turned it off. That was the scariest film I've ever seen.

It’s a bit of a surprise to hear your Australian accent. I knew you were from Australia, but in the movie you don’t sound like it at all. You never get a chance to use it in a movie.

Yes, true.

What’s it like doing this movie with an American accent? Does it come easily for you?

It does. I love doing the accent. I’m a fan of it. I did a television show for five years [Damages] and so that was really great training in terms of getting more natural with it. It helps getting into character. And to distance myself from myself. Yeah, I like it.

With such an intense shoot what are you doing off-camera and off-set to relax?

Off set? Just a lot of heroin. (laughs)

Seriously, though. Were you listening to music, watching movies…

Well, the pace is so fast, so we would just retreat into our corners and re-charge a little bit and have your space. Then you go back into it again. It was great because the pace is fast. There wasn’t too much waiting around. What leads to frustration sometimes on a set is the waiting. I did the TV series for years and that pace is fantastic. You get used to working like that. It was a quick shoot, there wasn’t a huge budget, so we kept a pretty fast clip. Yeah. I didn't really do heroin. (laughs again)

Talk about working with the baby girl in the movie, who plays your youngest child?

There were three different babies. Man, they were tricky. One didn’t want to be there. She was screaming relentlessly. The other two; one was pretty good and the other was like 50-50. Could go either way. That was the biggest challenge. The babies. That was hard. That was pretty crazy.

Lately, you’ve been doing some lighter comic work, so how is it different doing a film like this or even a drama like The Place Beyond the Pines, compared to the lighter work? Do you find comedy easier or harder? Or drama easier?

I think comedy is harder for me. I’m still pretty new to it. That’s a different sort of energy that you have to keep up all day, of improvising. A different part of your brain that you have to access. For me it’s still new. So to me comedy is really hard. It’s like doing a drama and then on top of that you have to get a laugh. Really, comedy and horror are sort of like... when you see a horror film or you see a comedy and you are talking with friends you say, "Is it funny?" or "Is it scary?" That’s what matters.

They're both trying to get emotional reactions...

Yeah. It’s very authentic in the reaction. You can hear it straight away if it’s working in both genres. Hard comedy and hard horror films, they have that same thing. But yeah, I think comedy is really hard. I admire actors who are so effortlessly comedic. They make it look easy, but it’s actually very hard.

One of the things I think people will like about this movie is that it goes beyond the horror movie clichés, the subtext is the story of mothers. You are playing someone who has a child who was possessed in the past; Barbara Hershey plays the mother of a child who was possessed. How did you approach the character in this sense? How she deals with the problem within the family?

[Director] James [Wan] was really helpful in that sense. I kept asking him, "How are we going to ground this in reality?" He said it \was like Josh [who is possessed] is having an affair. If anyone has seen the last film they know this is what's happening in this film. So it was grounding it in that. Slowly realizing that. Obviously her children being her main focus of protection and keeping the family alive and all that. Trying to protect them. She does allow [her son} to go in and save Josh. There was a moment I was asking James, "What is the rational decision-making she is doing here?" And he said, "It is a risk, but she is doing it to save the family in the long term." Because of what they had just been through she just knows there is an element of this that is out of her control. She has to really trust him and his access to that world.

I liked the scene that you had with Barbara Hershey. That was really great.

Oh, thanks. Yeah, she is great. Barbara, I don't know if you've ever interviewed her, but she is really dynamic and really smart. Such as cool actress to work with.

Which of the sets in Insidious 2 gave you the chills the most? The guy’s house, the hospital or your house?

None of them are like a palace I got to tell you. (laughs) They were all pretty [bad]. The dust is what kills us at the hospital. That dust was intense. You are just coughing and everybody is coughing. You can’t see anything. That gets a little rough. But, yes, the house is pretty creepy. They scout these most incredible locations. These houses they find are just wild. They are so... just strange. Not my cup of tea. Just really atmospheric. The hospital was pretty strange. It was also in a strange part of LA which added to it. So, I think the hospital was a little bit weird. And there is something about a hospital which is like "Whoa, what has been through here?" So many lives and deaths. It is pretty potent.

Given you have been in so many movie and TV projects, when fans come up to you what are they talking about? Damages? Bridesmaids? Something else?

It depends on the age demographic. (laughs) It really does. People usually think they know me. Ask "Do I know you?" and my accent throws them off. But usually it’s Bridesmaids that was such a successful film that was seen by a lot of people. So statistically that’s the highest one. But Insidious is really popular with young kids, really. Boys, it’s huge. They love this genre. My boyfriend’s son was a big fan of Insidious. It’s nice. I’m always flattered when people know me for my work.

Do you get stopped by fans differently in Australia than America?

Not really. I’ve been lucky I think that I’ve been generally under the radar. Within certain circles in Australia. The industry is certainly smaller. And obviously the population is a lot less. But I’ve always been pretty under the radar in terms of visibility and people instantly knowing me. I live a very normal life. I don’t get followed around or any of that stuff. That’s when people become super recognizable and stuff that’s when that happens.

I loved your character in Get Him to the Greek. Was that a fun role to play?

Oh, thank you. It was so much fun. I just loved playing Jackie Q. It was really fun. She was so flamboyant and bizarre and narcissistic. (laughs) Kind of wild, and wildly different to me. It was great fun. Really fun. And it was a comedy, which was very exciting to be a part of. It was one of my first ones.

Do you have a project you are looking forward to doing?

I just wrapped a film called Townies opposite Seth Rogan. I worked with Nick Stoller, the director of Get Him to the Greek, so that was great to be reunited with Nick. That comes out in the new year, so I am excited to see that. About a young couple and a baby. I’m excited to see that.

Is there truth about the rumor of you being involved with the film re-make of Annie?

Yes. (laughs) I think I can say that now. We are starting [soon]. I am playing the role of Grace, who works with Benjamin Stacks who is Jamie Foxx’s character.

How is the singing going? I think people will be looking forward to that.

I am just dipping my toe into the whole thing. So I’m just starting. We will have to see how that all unfolds. It’s very exciting.

They sort of hinted at the end of Insidious: Chapter 2 that they will be moving over to a new family for potential future chapters. So are you glad that your character will finally get some rest? Will it be weird to see a different family in the series?

I wish them the best of luck. (laughs) And I can offer them a good marriage counselor. They should be so lucky. I was so lucky to be a part of these two films. I really was. The first one was a tiny film that we did with no money and no time and it was really successful. It was so encouraging and really inspiring to do another one. I feel really lucky to have been a part of even two of them.

Can you compare your dream of an acting career to the reality that it is today? Did you have a certain mindset back then? A big dream?

I always wanted to act. I wasn’t really sure. You never really know starting out what will unfold and where the road will go. I sort of bungled along a little bit in terms of like coming to America and getting jobs. Small roles in big films and bigger roles in small films. Stuff like that. The ability with acting, if you are lucky enough to be a working actor, [the idea] is to work everywhere. To be a chameleon and try to work in lots of different films or plays all over the world. That always really excited me about the job and the potential. That’s something that’s been really exciting, to have the privilege to work in lots of different places with lots of different artists. That was such an ineloquent, unerudite answer. I apologize. (laughs)

With Labor Day around the corner and summer coming to a close, is there anything else you want to do this summer that you haven’t done?

I would like to go to Coney Island. I haven’t been there for about ten years. I think I’m due a visit. Being a New Yorker and all.

Are you a big fan of the rides?

I do like the rides. I do. I really haven’t been there for a while, so it would be interesting to go down there again.

How about your next time in Australia, when do you return?

For Christmas, hopefully, yeah. I miss it. It’s winter there now. It’s beautiful. It’s really a lovely time of year.

Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved. Posted: September 13, 2013.

Photo Credits:

#1 © 2013 Jay S. Jacobs. All rights reserved.

#2 © 2013 Jay S. Jacobs. All rights reserved.

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#4 © 2013 Jay S. Jacobs. All rights reserved.

#5 © 2013. Courtesy of FilmDistrict. All rights reserved.

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