Rose Byrne: Heath Ledger Was ‘Instrumental’ in Getting Me Roles in the U.S.

"Being Australian, you’re outsiders, aliens, so you’ve got to band together," Byrne shared. "Heath was a real champion of that."
Rose Byrne, Heath Ledger
Rose Byrne, Heath Ledger

Rose Byrne is reflecting on late Heath Ledger’s lasting legacy, especially for fellow Australian actors.

Byrne, who co-starred with Ledger in 1999’s “Two Hands,” told The Independent that Ledger was “instrumental” in jumpstarting her career stateside.

“It was a whole mix of us: actors who got work, actors who didn’t,” Byrne said. “Being Australian, you’re outsiders, aliens, so you’ve got to band together. Heath was a real champion of that. He left early and started to get work here. He was so instrumental in helping me and a lot of people get work, and get into rooms.”

Byrne likened her coming up in Hollywood to an adventure with friends: “Just all of us driving to Joshua Tree, or staying at Heath’s [house] in Los Feliz,” Byrne explained. “We were all in our late teens or early twenties, and there was such fervor to it all.”

Ledger died at age 28 in 2008.

Looking back on her own acting choices and style, Byrne opened up about her ability to “vanish into parts” and also not quite land the “instant gratification” that Hollywood craves onscreen.

“I definitely don’t fall into that category. I probably fall into the category of character actress, which is not [me] trying to humble-brag or anything, it’s just a hard business to place yourself in,” Byrne said. “I definitely was not a confident 20-year-old or even a confident 28-year-old, you know? It’s taken me a long time to feel more in my skin. It’s dull of me to say, but I do always feel grateful to have consistently been a working actress. It’s not easy. It’s a tough business, and people tend to fall in traps or rely on other things to get [them] through it.”

She added, “I’ve done my fair share of parts that didn’t have agency, that weren’t that interesting,” before noting that 2014 comedy “Bad Neighbors” was a turning point for her career.

“Our early conversations once I got the part were about how I’m just not interested in playing a nagging wife,” Byrne explained. “That’s about as interesting as a piece of toast. So it was always about making the two of them just as destructive and irresponsible as one another.”

And now leading series “Physical,” Byrne sidestepped any notion of Method acting or personal anecdotes relating to character. “I’m not particularly interested in dredging up my own personal experiences,” Byrne said. “If the script is good, then it’s all there.”

Byrne isn’t the only one remembering Ledger as of late: The posthumous Oscar winner was applauded by former “Brokeback Mountain” co-star Jake Gyllenhaal earlier this year for shutting down homophobic quips about the neo-Western love story.

“There were many jokes being made about the movie, or poking fun at, things like that. And [Ledger’s] consummate devotion to how serious and important the relationship between these two characters was — it showed me how devoted he was as an actor and how devoted we both were to the story and the movie,” Gyllenhaal stated. “We were poking fun at each other before we go on, and then the profound realization of — the profundity of this thing washed over us. It happens constantly to this day, and I can’t really express how proud I am of it.”

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