Interview with Insidious Chapter 2’s Rose Byrne

We sit down with Rose Byrne, star of Insidious Chapter 2, to discuss horror movies, horror sequels and whether or not she may appear in a certain X-centric movie next year.

Like a box office good luck charm, Rose Byrne has had a terrific run over the past couple of years by appearing in a string of overachieving crowd and critic pleasers. Once the Australian ingénue known for standing next to Brad Pitt or Josh Hartnett in studio fare like Troy and Wicker Park, Byrne broke out with a smart and diverse selection that includes Sunshine, Bridesmaids, Get Him to the Greek, X-Men: First Class and, of course, Insidious. The little horror film that helped establish Film District, as well as James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s reemergence as two of the definitive names in horror, it seemed almost inevitable there would be a sequel. The bigger surprise that unlike Wan and Whannell’s last horror franchise debut, Saw, nearly everyone from in front and behind of the camera came back, including Rose Byrne, who was kind enough to sit down with us to discuss the movie. Here is our interview with the Insidious star. How was it revisiting these characters? Rose Byrne: It was fun. It hits the ground running, so it was a little more exhausting in that sense. There were no scenes of domestic bliss or anything like that. It was a lot more action, which I enjoyed. I hadn’t done that much action as an actor. It’s great to get out of your head and do something physical. And James is just a great director. Everyone came back, which is a testament to him. Every crewmember and everyone said, “Because of James,” because he just wants to be there. He’s so enthusiastic, and he’s not smug. He doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder. He’s just really kind of authentic in that way. In that sense, it has always been a really harmonious set. And it was encouraging. We did this little movie for no money and no time, and then it did really well. It was kind of inspiring to do another one. This movie is filmed so quick in 20-somehing days. Is it a relief to do a movie that quick? It is and it isn’t. It’s like television is so fast. And I’ve been used to doing that from doing a series for a few years. You get used to that pace, which I like, because there’s less downtime and you’re working harder all day. Sometimes things are sacrificed like less takes. So, there are shortcomings, obviously. But for the most part I enjoy it. It can be taxing obviously, and you’re definitely burnt out by the end of the shoot, but I’m grateful to be working. I love going to work, showing up and seeing everyone. That’s the overriding experience. Do you believe in ghosts? I’ve never seen one. They’ve never come over me. So, I’m ready. Ready to roll [Punches her palm, laughs]. But they’re not showing up. What do you think it is about introducing a family dynamic, even when it is disjointed in this movie as compared to the first, which resonates with audiences? I think children are always so vulnerable and there’s always an element to that which is endlessly scary. And there’s something sacred about the family unit being divided, and someone being possessed or whatever it may be that adds a far more dangerous [element]. The stakes are higher. For you as well? Are you a fan of the genre? Yeah, I am. Probably less so as I’ve gotten older. But there is always something about a family dynamic that is so precious and jarring that can be so hard to watch. In your first scene in the movie, there’s this great moment where you know Elise has been killed from the last film and you confront Josh [Patrick Wilson] and there’s this great moment of doubt on your face where you look like you’re suppressing it. Can you talk about playing a person who probably knew her husband was having a—condition?  Mmm. James Wan is great, because he just grounded it in a great reality of it’s like he’s having an affair. It’s like he’s stepping out, and you know something’s shifted and missing, and it’s your intuition. Something has changed about the relationship. That was a really good starting point for those scenes in terms of just grounding it in a bit of reality, because it is pretty fantastical and way out there in the world of Insidious. It’s over the top; it’s kind of camp, which is what I love about it. It makes it bold as a horror film, which I appreciate. But that was the good thing in term of the performance to ground it into some kind of reality for our sake. That is kind of where we started from that point. Everyone who worked on this has said there is a validation in making this little film. Is there validation when you get together and put a $2 million picture together that grosses $100 million, as opposed to a tentpole, $200 million movie where the studio expects a large return already? Yeah, it had a great pedigree obviously with [screenwriter Leigh Whannell] and James, which is exciting. It was also exciting because it was the first time they weren’t working under a studio, because I believe they had been, James especially, since their Saw, the original one. So, they’d gone back to their roots. There’s something really exciting about that as filmmakers, and it was really Jason Blum, our producer, who gave them autonomy and gave them final cut, and gave them all sorts of things to make it an authentic Leigh Whannell and James Wan picture. There was a [buzz] on set and feeling that brought a fresh eye and excitement, which there should be. So, that’s great as an artist to have.  It’s very few times a movie actually gets to launch a studio, which this one got to do with Film District. Yeah, exactly. So, it was always very exciting. Have you stayed in touch with the cast from Damages? Yeah! Yeah, I have, and I just miss them dreadfully. But I don’t get to see them all the time. When you get to do a series, you know, they become your family. Is it nice to do something like horror or comedy where you get to be a little bigger with your performance than in something like Damages where it’s a very naturalistic drama? As an actor? Diversity? Brilliant. To be able to do something like Insidious where it’s a little more heightened and campy, and then something very pulled back like Ellen Parsons [character on Damages]. Comedy like Bridesmaids is very arch and high-strung and emotional. As an actor, I think diversity is brilliant. Is there a certain role you gravitate towards? Because you have sort of hit all the different type of roles and been part of a couple unexpected successes. When you have a script sent your way is there a box you like to check before you sign up? To be scared of something is always good. To be like, “I don’t really want to screw this up.” To be nervous I think is always a good sign. Are you open to coming back for another X-Men movie? Uhhh, yeah. Do you want to give them a call for me? [Laughter]. I didn’t get a phone call! I’m waiting for it. [Laughter]. With all these reported cameos in the new one is there something we don’t know about? I’m waiting for the phone call. It still hasn’t come, guys. I don’t know what’s going on. [Laughter]. Well, it was great. A really good job you guys did with that. Thank you. Another big surprise. Yeah, I thought it was really cool.  When it comes to genre movies, even if it’s dark comedy—anything that has an engrained audience—is it difficult to stray and do something a little bit different, because you’re afraid of “Well okay, we don’t want to distance ourselves from the people who came to see this?” Even with Insidious, which is more suspense than outright horror, is there any worry about that? It’s really a question for James and Leigh, being the creators of the films in terms of playing the genre. But as an audience member, I think it’s great to try. To fail? You do. But it’s great to try and be bold. Can you talk a little about your upcoming projects? I have a role in the remake of Annie, which starts shooting in a few weeks. So, that’s my next job. Is that shooting here [New York City]? Yeah, it is! You’ve shot a lot in New York. Do you prefer shooting on location like that? I love New York. I’ve lived here for six or seven years now. New Yorkers are great. They just don’t care what you’re doing. Really ADs have the hardest time. They’re like [in quiet whisper] “Excuse me ma’am, can you please…” [Cuts into thick put-on New York accent] “I AM WALKING HERE! DON’T TOUCH ME! NO!” They’re so—New Yorkers. They’re not here to have a good time. Everyone’s working. So, I love shooting in New York. You really can’t recreate that sense of the city in a 100 percent authentic way unless you’re here. As a woman, have the opportunities in the business been improving recently? I think on television, it’s pretty incredible the breadth of roles available, in particular cable is just brilliant. A lot of the complex female roles are in the cable dramas, which is just so exciting. I’m a big avid watcher of them myself, which I love. Would you go back to doing television? For sure, if it worked out or whatever. Absolutely. Like I say, I probably watch more TV series than I do films. Particularly for women, it’s great. You can just rattle them off, all of these wonderful female roles there are, which is exciting. These cable series are like the new form of storytelling, the golden age of TV, which is very exciting to be apart of. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!