We caught up with gorgeous Aussie actress Rose Byrne to chat all things X Men: First Class...
How familiar were you with the X-Men universe?
Not really at all. I knew what a juggernaut of a film it was, but no, I’m not that savvy with my comic books. I’m not a comic book reader. It’s been really an education to learn all about it; I think I had seen the first one and that was it.
How did the part come to you?
It came to me late. I think they approached me early on and I was working on another film at the time, so I came in really late in the process and it was all last minute. I didn’t really know how it would unfold. And I didn’t even read for Matthew – he wasn’t even down. Then I got the offer and then I was allowed to read the script. It was one of those jobs that was sorted within a week, which for something like this is pretty unusual. But I think Matthew works on instinct like that and makes up his mind quite quickly.
How did you brush up on Moira MacTaggart?
We had an incredible expert who came in with a whole truckload of Moira stuff. It was awesome. And obviously when I got the role I did research online and stuff like that. This guy came in and gave me this whole binder of comics. It was actually quite exciting, reading it and seeing her, and I felt affection for her because I could see her on the page.
I felt I had to really honour what was in the comic and I could see how exciting it is to bring her to screen. It’s like a character from a novel, bringing that person to life. You have a lot of responsibility in a way.
Do you have to figure out how much of your own stamp to put on it?
Absolutely. We talked about that early on with Matthew too, in terms of how much the comics would be referenced, and it’s pretty loose. The backstories and the plots that the characters go through in the comic are mental and epic. But it was fun to have a read.
How have you been finding this big beast of a comic book movie to experience?
I did a film called Troy, which was a similar big, huge tent-pole film for the studio, and it’s like organising an army – masses of people and schedules and money and timing. It’s a huge, huge undertaking. It had been years since I’d been on a film like this though. But it’s fine – at the end of the day it’s just you, the actor, and the camera. It’s the same thing. But it’s just the process of getting there is a bit different.
How does the period come across?
I think there’ll be a few set pieces that are overtly 60s. We’re throwing in a few ideas. I don’t think they want to alienate the audience by making it too kitschy. It’s a fine balance, but Matthew Vaughn is very well aware of that. We’ve been in situations where, until we get sets or costumes right, we abandon it. He’s very aware of not making it too distracting as a period piece. But I think it adds a new element to it, and gives a new take on superheroes, which I personally would be interested in. It sets it in a different context.
Do the politics of the time play a part?
Absolutely, that’s the really clever thing, the backdrop of the Cold War and JFK and really it’s a hotbed of history, that time. They’ve been really clever making it end up being about mutants! And it’s not confusing or anything, it’s pretty straightforward, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it before.
How has the experience of working with Matthew Vaughn been?
What I love about Matthew is that he’s got this huge studio movie and so much pressure, and yet he couldn’t seem more ambivalent about how much pressure he’s under. I think you have to have that attitude when you have so many people conducting things. It’s like watching Wolfgang Petersen on TROY – they just keep a very level head. You need that. You need to have a certain amount of assertiveness and opinions and I think he picks his battles really well. I just admire that. I see that from afar. And he’s really kind to the actors and he’s sensitive to us. He has a huge task on his plate, but he just carries himself with a real confidence, which I think is very good.
Matthew and Jane Goldman have always sought to bring something new to the projects they’ve done – is there a lot of that in this?
There is. It’s really clever what they’ve done, and they were really open, once we all got in and started rehearsing, to really developing ideas and fleshing things out. With a script like this, the plot is the star and it’s a big action movie, so it’s really up to us to make certain character choices and really try to imbue things with a little bit of heart. They were really open to all of that stuff. It was pretty collaborative, especially for a studio movie. That’s kind of a radical thing. That’s usually not the case.
Are you signed up for sequels?
We are, but I’m in the same boat as you in the sense that I’ve no idea what the future films might hold. But that’s common practice to sign on for a bunch. From what I’ve heard of these things, sequels are a massive undertaking to come together, so we’ll see.
Do you ever worry that signing up to sequels might limit your options in the future?
I do and I don’t. I do a TV show called Damages, and there was a point where I had to sign on, before the pilot was even made, for seven years of my life. I remember I had a massive question of wondering what that would mean. You do think about it, but it’s so philosophical in the sense that you do the pilot and maybe it’ll get picked up and maybe it’ll go for a second season. The odds are always against you working, rather than for you. And I’m getting older. You think about it, but I’m just much more philosophical about the whole thing.
Also starring January Jones, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, X-Men: First Class hits UK screens on 1 June!