New York’s plush Essex House hotel, with its views of Central Park, is miles away from Aussie actress Rose Byrne’s Sydney abode. Shy and not used to the glare of publicity, Hollywood style, Byrne is recovering from the barrage of questions thrown at her during the crush of mini-press conferences set up to promote the period epic Troy.
The beautiful 24-year old gets to fight – and then bed – Hollywood superstar Brad Pitt in the multi-million dollar epic, playing the tough-minded Briseis to Pitt’s Achilles, yet, one wonders in the relative solitude of a hotel suite, nothing could prepare her for the actress’s first Hollywood junket. “Well today was the first day so it’s still kind of unfolding, but I’m just trying to have fun,” says Byrne. “it’s just surreal you know, to be put up in a fancy hotel and driven around but it’s fun.” She admits to being a tad overwhelmed by the whole press junket experience. “Just before I left I started to get a little bit overwhelmed with all the anticipation, but I think it’s just that: The anticipation of not knowing what is going to happen and feeling a bit nervous and worried that something would go wrong.”
Byrne has always had an unduly modest approach to her career, often maintaining that perhaps each acting job may be her last. As she stands up on her own in Hollywood these days, however, she says she has less trepidation. “Deep down I’d say probably not as much because I’m a little more ambitious than I was, so I’m more determined to fight and work harder if you know what I mean? I’m probably a little more confident now and a little ballsier with the whole thing.”
The imminent success of Troy notwithstanding, Rose realises that calling Los Angeles home means that the success she enjoyed back in Australia may not necessarily be repeated here in Tinsel Town. “Its interesting coming from Australia where people know my work but over here it’s such a different kettle of fish where it’s like being a small fish in a massive pond. So it’s sort of like starting all over again, over here.” Asked how she accounts for this sudden flurry of success of Australian actors working internationally, Byrne pauses reflectively. “I suppose there’s not that much work at the moment, so I think that you have to leave if you want to work. If you have ambitions to work internationally you really have to leave Australia to do that. Or maybe it’s something in the water”, she adds laughingly. Now Byrne is part of that clique of Aussie actors, trying to establish themselves more over here, and for this actress, LA and its lifestyle is challenging, to say the least. “It’s a very vacuous place and superficial and if you’re not too careful, it’s a real vortex. So it’s a challenge, but I’m trying to think of it as a cultural experience.”
Byrne is no stranger to American audiences. She popped up in Star Wars Episode II and won acclaim for her starring role in the Indie British film, I Capture the Castle. But neither experience could compare with Troy. Yet getting the role was relatively painless, thanks to her good friend Eric Bana, who co-stars as Hector in the film. “I mean it took about three months I did three auditions, had one meeting, and Eric did help. As did Brad too who had a lot of say in the casting. So I was fortunate in that sense that he liked me. I’m sure they got sent a lot of tapes, and I think my agent really fought hard for them to look at my tape and consider me to come in and meet, you know? I think the two really put in a lot of phone calls and scammed it, to get them to take me seriously.”
As for working with Pitt, an actor at the top of his game, Byrne said she learned a lot. “Working with him was really fun, in the sense that he’s a real artist. He’s also a great actor, who’s always present in the scene, and always wants to give you what you need to get there. Also, now that I’ve seen the whole picture and seen it in context of the journey of his character, in my eyes I can really see that he knows what he’s doing with that role. He’s really specific, I think, about the idea what he wanted to do with Achilles and that comes across very clearly to me.”
As to her character, Byrne doesn’t think that she is “as tenacious, or as tough, no I think she’s probably a lot braver than I am in a lot ways. I think I am probably rebellious like she is, probably a bit stubborn, and have a lot of pride like she does.”
Acting has become a full time passion for this luminous Australian, a passion that she laughingly recalls, stemmed from the hugely popular Neighbours TV soap opera and Kylie Minogue in particular. “I love that character she played. The mechanic, the tom boy, she’s so cool, she has always got something going on, you know, flying, and had that sexy boyfriend I started taking classes when I was eight and it just was very easy, really natural, and I loved it. It was just what I was supposed to do.”