“Bridesmaids” actress Rose Byrne was in Manhattan recently to promote her new horror thriller “Insidious: Chapter 2,” which opens Friday, Sept. 13, 2013.
Fellow cast members Patrick Wilson and Lin Shaye, producer Jason Blum and screenwriter Leigh Whannell (“Saw”) also joined her at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for the press event. The hotel was an appropriate spot since it was built on top of a gravesite for New York’s poor some 150 years ago.
Demons, Stunt Doubles & Horror Movies
Chapter 2 of “Insidious” picks up where the last one left off; the family is still struggling with malignant spirits bent on possessing them. The demons follow the Lambert family to another creepy house where the family tries to uncover the childhood secret that has left them connected to the spirit world. To their terror, they discover it’s not the house that’s haunted; it’s them (don’t ask).
Unlike Byrne’s character of Renai, who looks so washed out and stressed, the actress sailed into the dark room looking cheery in a bright, floral patterned dress designed by Thakoon.
Someone remarked on how much more the “Damages” star gets knocked around in this sequel, which Byrne described as “kind of an action film.” Although she had a stunt double for a segment where a bookcase fell on her head and Wilson’s character roughed her up, “a bunch of it I did myself,” Byrne said. “I’m one of those actors, who after I hit someone with a frying pan, I go, ‘I’m so sorry. Are you okay?’”
She added, “It’s a different kind of workout. It’s draining, and at the end of the day, you’re pretty tired from the physical stuff, but it’s fun too because you get out of your head.”
As for whether she personally believes in ghosts and spirits, “I’ve never had an encounter so when it happens, I’m well up for it and ready,” the Aussie actress winged it. “I like horror movies, the good ones. I like a good scare.”
Rose Byrne on Working With Babies
I asked how difficult it was to shoot the scary scenes with the baby. It turns out there are three different babies in the movie. “They were pretty tricky,” Byrne said. “The one, she didn’t want to be there. She was screaming relentlessly. And then other two, one was pretty good and the other one was 50-50, could go either way. That was the biggest challenge, with the babies. That was pretty crazy.”
The versatile “Damages” actress has been doing a lot of comedy recently, which she said is harder than drama. “I’m still pretty new to it and that’s a different sort of energy you have to keep up all day of improvising and a different part of your brain you have to access.” But acting in comedy and horror films has a similar dynamic, she said. “Is it funny and is it scary? It’s very authentic in the reaction. You can hear it straight away if it’s working in both genres.”
In “Insidious,” Byrne plays a mother focused on protecting her family. To play her role persuasively, she also has to buy into the notion that her husband Josh (Wilson) is possessed by demons. “It’s like Josh is having an affair, and that’s what possession is, so it was sort of grounded in that. She knows there’s an element that’s out of her control and she has to trust her husband and his access to that world.”
Filming in a Dusty Mental Facility
As for what gave the actress the most chills to shoot, it was the scene set at an actual long-closed mental facility. “The dust is what kills us at the hospital. That dust is intense and everyone’s coughing. You can’t see anything and that gets a little rough,” but “yeah, the Lambert house is also pretty creepy. They’re not my cup my tea, but they are just really atmospheric, and it’s pretty potent.”
So what did she do to relax from the strain of all the scary stuff?
“Just a lot of heroin,” the 34-year-old actress joked.
It turns out there wasn’t enough time in between set ups to chill. “We would retreat into our corners and recharge a little bit and have your space and then you go back into it again. But it was great because the pace is fast so there wasn’t too much waiting around. I didn’t really do heroin.”
“Bridesmaids” and “Neighbors”
In the wide range of roles she’s played, she said the movies her fans most identify her with depend on their age demographic. “People just usually think they know me and then my accent, I think, throws people off. But usually it’s ‘Bridesmaids.’ That was such a successful film seen by a lot of people.”
She added, “’Insidious’ is really popular with young kids, really, boys. They love the genre. My boyfriend’s son is a big fan of ‘Insidious.’” (Byrne’s boyfriend is “Blue Jasmine” and “Nurse Jackie” actor Bobby Cannavale.)
When asked which of her future films she’s looking forward to, she singled out “Neighbors,” about a young couple with a baby forced to live next to a fraternity house. The film, which will be released next year, reunites her with “Get Him to the Greek” co-star Seth Rogen and director Nicholas Stoller. She played Jackie Q in that film, a character that she said “was so flamboyant and bizarre and narcissistic, wildly different to me.”
Confirming the “Annie” Rumors
Talking about future projects, we asked about rumors that she would have a starring role in the Will Smith-Jay-Z remake of the musical “Annie.”
Last February, Columbia Pictures announced that Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) would star in the title role of the feisty orphan. Jamie Foxx has been announced to play Benjamin Stacks, the Daddy Warbucks character, and Cameron Diaz has been cast as the boozy kid hating, Miss Hannigan. (The film is slated for release Christmas 2014.)
For the first time, Byrne confirmed the rumors were true. “Yes, I think I can say that. I got a part in that,” she said softly. She said she will play Grace, Stacks’ kindly secretary, who is also a possible romantic interest.
No one has yet heard her sing, including Wilson, a two-time Tony nominee, who told me she never even hummed on set.
So I asked the actress how the singing was going.
“I’m just dipping my toe into the whole thing, so it’s really just starting. I’ll see how that role unfolds,” she replied. “But yeah, yeah, it’s really exciting, very exciting.”
But back to making scary movies, if there is an “Insidious: Chapter 3,” which seems likely, the demons move on to another family to torment, so neither Wilson nor Byrne will probably reprise their roles. What advice would she offer the next family?
“I wish them the best of luck, and I can offer them a good marriage counselor,” she laughed.