The Irish newcomer on movie genres and acting megastars.
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A rising star with a helluva talent (he arrived in London aged 18 to study at RADA), Irish actor Rory Fleck Byrne had been cutting his teeth in B. Welby-Delimere shorts before he was tapped to star alongside Jackie Chan in last year’s action flick, The Foreigner.
A Martin Campbell feature (him behind Casino Royale), the film, which sees a grieving father seek revenge for the death of his daughter who was killed in a terrorist attack, elsewhere stars Pierce Brosnan and Katie Leung, putting the newcomer in some pretty solid company. Next up, Byrne will appear alongside Gemma Arterton later this year in Vita and Virginia, which explores the relationship between Virginia Woolf and her lover.
Intrigued to learn more, we grabbed five with Rory to hear his thoughts on human behaviour, big name stars and more.
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What first made you want to act?
It was definitely something I wanted. It’s like I always knew in my gut, that that’s what I was gonna do. I didn’t think about it or question it too much. I did go to drama school thankfully, and I’ve been able to work, but it wasn’t until drama school that I actually established why I wanted to be an actor. I think before I just knew I loved it. I guess the reason why is because I’m very curious about human behaviour, and why people do things…and I found myself asking that question a lot; why is the character saying that? Why is the character thinking like that, behaving that way? So I think it’s just a fascinating way of learning more about humanity.
So, you would rather have a role where there’s and you can explore more?
Totally. I’m all about the three plus dimensions, you know… none of this two-dimensional stuff. And I feel like I’m getting to a stage in my career where now I can hopefully be a bit more firm in my selection – the journey I take in my career – and not just take anything. And obviously I have been very lucky in what I have been involved in so far, which is great.
You’ve explored a lot of genres so far. Which has been your favourite?
That’s such an interesting question. I have to say, The Foreigner was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I don’t think I’ve ever dreamt of being an “action guy” or that I’d fight Jackie Chan – that was so random! But yeah, that has been one of the most challenging experiences I’ve had. Because I had to train with a stunt team to fight martial arts which I’ve never done before. And then obviously getting into the mind of a hit-man, like I’m a big fan of the Bourne films, so that kind of thing really interests me; playing a character like that.
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Is there any genre that you haven’t done, that you’d particularly like to venture into?
I mean I’ve done comedy before, but I don’t think I’ve really fully been able to let loose. That’s something I’d like to do. And also, I would love to do something like Moulin Rouge, a Baz Luhrmann kind of film, where you get to sing. Oh my god, I’m a big singer, I love singing. In all honestly, I probably wish I was a front man of a rock band, rather than an actor. That’s a big dream of mine.
You mentioned Jackie Chan, what was he like to work with?
I’m still a bit like, pinching myself that that even happened. It feels like a blip.
Did he teach you anything?
Yeah, so much! I think it’s just his general nature, even watching him at the premiere in front of the cameras and stuff. He emanates peace! I mean the work ethic of this guy and his team is so inspiring. They’ve got each other’s back. They’re there, they keep just grafting away, you know they just keep moving. They’re not self-conscious, they’re not egotistical, it’s just like “let’s get the work done”. If he’s not involved in a shot, he’ll be up cleaning something, or helping somebody do something!
Are there any people that you’d love to work with that you haven’t had the chance to yet?
Yeah, I’d like to act opposite Michael Fassebender! Directing wise, Xavier Dolan, and then you’ve got Martin Scorsese, or people like Peter Jackson, working out in New Zealand. I love New Zealand, and I would love nothing more than to go and spend six months out there shooting something with him.
And what other projects are you working on currently?
I just came off a lovely project called Vita and Virginia which is set in the 20s about the affair between Vita and Virginia Wolfe, and we have Gemma Arterton playing Vita and an amazing actress who was in The Great Gatsby, Elizabeth Debicki who plays Virginia. It’s directed by an amazing director called Chanya Button, so that was cool. It’s just a beautiful story about these two minds coming together. I play a guy called Jeffrey Scott that is Vita’s lover – they’re all very fluid with their lovers and genders – and it’s just a beautiful piece. And it’s incredible for me to think about what we’re going through now in relation to gender, all these people were already so advanced, in a way, why haven’t we progressed? Why is it only in discussion now? I guess you’re lucky when you’re living in artistic circles, where things are more fluid, and things are more experimental, and people are more in touch with themselves.
And finally the big picture, what’s the Rory F Byrne dream?
Ok, I’m gonna be bold, my main goal is that I become a bankable name, to finance projects!
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