Rose Byrne talks Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter, and working with CGI

'Acting against just a stuffed ball can be pretty funny'

Jack Shepherd
Friday 23 March 2018 13:28
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Peter Rabbit has finally reached cinemas, starring an impressive voice cast, including James Corden, Daisy Ridley, Margot Robbie and Elizabeth Debicki.

One of the few people to appear in person is Rose Byrne - the actor best known for Bridesmaids, X-Men: First Class, and Neighbours.

The Independent caught up with Byrne, who plays the character Bea (short for Beatrix) in the movie.

Your character, Bea, is hinted at being a re-imagining of Beatrix Potter. Did you see yourself as playing the author?

Yeah, a sort of version of her. It was very much a re-imagining of Beatrix Potter, updating it for this modern story. It was definitely a version of her.

Was there anything you learnt about her and her work while researching the role that you brought to the film?

We definitely did research on her. She’s such an iconic figure, not only in the landscape of children’s writers, but also as a woman at the time. She was incredibly groundbreaking. There was an element of wanting to bring the spirit of that to the part — that assertiveness, those sort of qualities.

I think that comes across, as she could have easily been a side character in the movie - but you avoid that. In another interview, you said that you avoid being just a prop for other characters. Do you find yourself being given lots of scripts that have women as props?

Probably less of that now, because I’m less tolerant of it. My agent knows what’s actually interesting and what’s a two dimensional part. They weed it out before that gets to me. The size of the part is normally not the problem, it’s usually the quality of it. That’s the same with male roles, in general. You just have to be more discerning about it. They are mainly underwritten, which is a shame, but it’s improving.

You were working a lot with CGI. Was that quite difficult? I imagine it helped having Domhnall there as a human character on set helped.

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When Domhnall was on set, those were definitely the best days. He’s such fun. When he agreed to do it, I was thrilled because he’s such a great actor. I had seen five films of his in a row, and he’s the best. I was grateful he signed on. They were definitely the more fun days. It was also very hot in Australia [were the movie was filming] at that time. Because he’s Irish, he’s very pale, and doesn’t have much of a tolerance for it. The CGI stuff can be tedious definitely, so you have to keep a sense of humour, otherwise that can be pretty boring. On a regular set there are already lots of heads of departments, but when you’re doing CGI there are, like, four more. So many more people meaning it takes much longer. Then there’s acting against just a stuffed ball, which can be pretty funny.

You must have a very vivid imagination. Also, your accent work is very impressive. It must have been fun to embody such a British icon.

It was, it really was. It’s always incredibly nerve wracking. You want people to respond well to that. I’m more nervous about the British reception because she is such an iconic figure. The accent was a big part of trying to get the right.

Were you a fan of the books? I don’t know if they’re a big thing in Australia, I’m afraid.

They are, they’re hugely popular. I grew up with all of them. I had the soft toys, and even a few pet rabbits. I was one of those little girls who was completely captured by the whole magical world of what she created.

It must be quite strange now, on the press tour, meeting the whole voice cast for the whole time.

It was really funny! Because everybody was so separated, but I enjoyed meeting everyone so much. It’s a very strange experience.

Peter Rabbit is in cinemas now.

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