Rose Byrne has mastered the art of the scathing look.
We’ve seen it in Bridesmaids and now, we see it again in Byrne’s latest project I Give it a Year.
Fortunately, it’s not a glare she appears to use in real life.
Tucked into a couch at the Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney, Byrne is petite, polite, and genuinely friendly.
This is a far cry from her character Nat in I Give it A Year, whom Byrne herself describes as “not the warmest person” and “slightly humourless”.
On the receiving end of Nat’s glare in the film is her new husband Josh (Rafe Spall) whose boyish sense of humour and casual attitude to his writing career is glaringly at odds with Nat’s ambitious and neurotic personality.
I Give it a Year follows their first year of marriage, kicking off where most romantic comedies end, on their wedding day. Throughout the subsequent year, the pair, who rushed into nuptials after only seven months of dating, tries to hold onto what is obviously a rapidly disintegrating relationship while avoiding romantic temptation from outside characters (Anna Faris and Simon Baker).
Written and directed by Dan Mazer (best known for his work on a number of Sacha Baron Cohen projects including Borat and Bruno), I Give it a Year differs from traditional romantic comedies in that it encourages the audience to barrack for the lead couple to break up.
For Byrne, it was an interesting challenge and part of the reason she was initially drawn to the script.
“I loved the concept of it. I thought it was interesting to examine the first year of marriage, which I have heard is actually really one of the hardest years, so I really liked that. Dan was really intriguing coming from his background, and then I met with Rafe and just loved him – just thought he was so fun and brilliant,” she says.
In fact, Byrne and Spall got on so well, Mazer had to ask them to tone it down – once again going against the grain of the requirements of a conventional rom-com.
“Rafe is a really great guy and super funny, so that was lucky that we hit it off,” Byrne says. “But in a way we didn’t want to have too much chemistry on screen because, you know, the couple obviously breaks up. So Dan was like, ‘Don’t become too good a friends!’ Because we wanted to create that kind of tension, and I think we did.
“Normally (in a romantic comedy) it’s like they want you to get together or kind of find the chemistry,” she adds. “So it was odd like that, they didn’t want us to have it.”
The chemistry for Nat in the film comes in the form of a charming American – who is actually played by fellow Aussie Simon Baker.
“Yeah, Simon!” Byrne exclaims. “He was wonderful! I’ve known him socially for years, but it was great to work with him, and he was so perfect for the part. He was really great and really deadpan and kind of played that very arrogant, smarmy, smug guy, but still with a bit of a twinkle in his eye, and still making a character like that appealing, and a heartthrob, and (had the audience) wanting them to get together.”
One of the film’s most memorable scenes is when Baker’s character, Guy, confesses his feelings for Nat with the assistance of two unruly white doves.
It was a scene Byrne found particularly challenging.
“That was amazing you know,” she laughs. “Simon Baker would have the doves landing on his head repeatedly and he wouldn’t blink. He was impenetrable. He would continue saying his lines and doing the scene and had no reaction. It was amazing. And I was… underprepared for how physically hijacked I would be.
“Literally, the first half of the day I couldn’t get through the scene. It was like an acting exercise, it was like, ‘do this scene while being absolutely physically paralysed by a force of nature that you can’t control.’ The crew were dying laughing. The fear! On my face! The scene turned out being about me being scared of birds because I was petrified! I’ve never had that before. It was really bizarre. It was wild. It still scares me. When I see the scene now I still get jumpy.”