‘Spy’ star Rose Byrne: The gay interview

SPY-01220.CR2Rose Byrne is up to no good again.

After driving Kristen Wiig further into cupcake-consuming meltdown mode during 2011’s Bridesmaids, the Australian actress goes full-on diva in Spy, which reunites her with director Paul Feig and co-star Melissa McCarthy. As McCarthy’s dead-serious, fashion-challenged Spy foe, Byrne — also known for roles in Neighbors, Damages and the X-Men movies — stars as the wickedly divine Raina Boyanov.

During our recent interview, Byrne talked about how her onscreen bouffant caused a hairy situation with the studio, the disparity between women and men in Hollywood films (“It’s discrimination”) and her caveat when it comes to playing gay.

Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: I know lots of queens who’d kill for your Raina hair in this movie. Who was your drag queen consultant?  Rose Byrne: [Laughs] I’m very honored and flattered you say that. As long as I have their approval, I’m done! [The studio] didn’t actually want my hair like that. Paul and I really had to fight for it. We had a specific idea of where she was from and what she looked like — a lot of money, no taste and very Eastern European. Very Marie Antoinette. And it’s a spy film, so style is such an important element of it … even if it’s bad style!

I’m glad everyone could agree that bigger is better in this case. How did you convince the studio to see it your way?  Once it was all together and we were on camera. It just all came together: the costume, the makeup, everything. And it just needed a little more. She’s quite still as a character, and I think [the hair] says a lot! It was the stronger choice! That’s how we convinced them.

What did it feel like on top of your head?  It felt… good! I mean, it was heavy. It would move a lot, too. Oh my goodness. It was constantly shifting because it was so big, and if I was waiting around, it would start to, like, deteriorate. Sarah Love, the hair designer on the film, did a brilliant job, because it was a lot.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

TWO for the money

Solo Voice of Pride vets Angie Landers and Robert Olivas finally hit their stride as a team

BRIDESMAIDS NO MORE | Landers and Olivas found two really is better than one, as their duo Spare Parts won the Voice of Pride group competition. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

Always bridesmaids, never brides: That has been the case for Voice of Pride veterans Angie Landers and Robert Olivas. Frequent competitors in the annual “Oak Lawn Idol” competition, they’ve never taken the top prize.

So of the many magical moments at this year’s finale — Kristen Phillips belting out Tina Turner, Dru Rivera’s winning take on Aerosmith, Steven Patterson’s charming stage presence in both solo and group competitions — none was perhaps more special than the announcement of Spare Parts as the best duo. The flood of emotions displayed by Landers and Olivas touched everyone.

“This was very important to us. It was so awesome,” Olivas says a few days after winning. “We really did work hard to represent well and I still can’t unscrew my smile.”

“It just worked out great,” Landers adds. “I think we know each other so well now that I don’t think we could have been as before. It’s like a marriage but not a marriage.”

As M.C. Richard Curtin announced them as the winners, Landers hopped with excitement while Olivas stood with a look of complete disbelief. The $2,500 in prize money was barely on their minds; after years as also-rans, they finally walked away winners.

As a team, they pulled out that little extra in each other. Their first number was a powerhouse, singing Jason Aldean’s “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” which killed the crowed with both drama and chemistry.

“After that song, I wasn’t worried about winning,” Landers says. “We knew our next song well and it was something nobody would expect from us.”

With rousing applause, Landers’ confidence was well justified. But at the very end, they tripped up the lyrics. Although they laughed it off onstage, backstage was another story.

“We didn’t wanna go down in books being balladeers,” Olivas says on picking the song. “We had two songs in which we could show our versatility.”

“I was afraid it would come off cheesy, but it was more about our stage personalities and that we could entertain you outside of putting you to sleep,” Landers says. “But when we missed the vocals, I knew we had just given it away. I hoped the judges surely wouldn’t take points away for that but I was feeling the panic.”

The bobble was only that, and it added charm to their performance. Now, Spare Parts prepares for their first Pride performance together at the Lee Park festival.

The way Landers and Olivas interact, you’d think they had known each other for years. They act like brother and sister or even a very happy husband and wife. Truth is, they just met in 2008 during the VOP competition and soon started singing karaoke together. Their voices harmonize, so pairing up made sense. All that remained was the question of what to call themselves.

“We wanted to do something with my knee replacement and the hip replacement that he needs,” Landers says, so they started a poll to name the group on Facebook.

“If it hadn’t been for all that stuff, we would have had our name!” says Olivas.

Both are strong soloists with a solid presence and great pipes. Together, they strike a chord that tends to balance both their strengths. Now they get to show it off much more.

“We want to do something more with the title and take it above and beyond what any other winner has before,” Olivas says. “I think that it’s created a strong environment of competition that people are so dedicated to it and passionate about it. I think Voice of Pride can be a great thing.”

With each competition comes a rush of controversy in the community, members of which comment publicly (and harshly) about the results online. Landers hopes she and Olivas rise above that, even though both have been on the receiving end of mean barbs.

“Sometimes the hype and money gets in the way of what it’s really about,” she says. “I think that negative energy going around could be harnessed and focused for the better rather than knocking down contestants. Voice of Pride is a great springboard for Pride.”

For the team, the title is also a privilege, reflected well by last year’s solo winner Mel Arizpe, who also won with her partner in the group category.

“I am honored to be an advocate,” Olivas says. “Mel was a great advocate; she’s out there, she’s doing benefits. The way it should be done.”

The victory means that next year, they are frontrunners in group and solos… well, not necessarily. “I plan to [compete],” Olivas says, but Landers doesn’t know yet. “It wouldn’t be because I didn’t win; I’m just not sure right now,” she says.

Until that decision, Spare Parts will perform at Pride and then work to pull a band in and continue to book gigs around DFW and make their own name for themselves.

“Angie and I have every intention of performing for fundraisers and we’ve been approached by some venues already,” Olivas says. “I feel like we have the talent to do that. And maybe even get discovered.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Potty mouths

Bad behavior gets rewarded — in different ways — in ‘Hesher’ and ‘Bridesmaids’

JESUS, JOSEPH | Gordon-Levitt shirtless is a settling point of the dark comedy ‘Hersher.’

Fans of the F-word will hear as much of it dropped in Hesher and Bridesmaids — as in a five-minute conversation with the average teenager. It’s mostly spoken by men (especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in Hesher and by women in Bridesmaids, where producer Judd Apatow tries to show us that chicks can be as potty-mouthed as the dudes in his other movies.

Hesher (Gordon-Levitt) is kind of a guardian devil who follows adolescent T.J. (Devin Brochu) home and moves into his garage uninvited. T.J., his father (Rainn Wilson) and grandmother (Piper Laurie) are dealing with the death of T.J.’s mother two months before. Dad’s depression has made him a vegetable and granny does what she can with her failing health.

T.J. is also dealing with a bully at school — not because of his perceived orientation, just because the bully’s an asshole. He’s rescued from a fight by Nicole (Natalie Portman, who really needs to make more movies — we never see her anymore), a supermarket checker who is later helped out of a bad situation by Hesher.

All you really need to know about Hesher is that Gordon-Levitt goes through most of it without a shirt on, even though he has scruffy Jesus hair, chain-smokes and wreaks havoc (sometimes with positive results) wherever he goes. If you need more, it’s an off-the-wall dark comedy that bodes well for first-feature director and co-writer Spencer Susser, with a strong cast doing good work.

Hesher could be called a feel-good movie about grief, and it makes about as much sense as that description, but don’t let that scare you away.

Bridesmaids, by contrast, is more run-of-the-mill, a series of sketches with the same characters, moving toward a wedding. Maya Rudolph plays Lillian, the bride-to-be, but the main character is her maid of honor, Annie (Apatow veteran Kristen Wiig, who also co-wrote the screenplay). Wiig is great at self-deprecating humor, humiliating herself in one situation after another, but eventually you may start to feel as I did that Annie doesn’t deserve anything better from life than she’s getting.

Melissa McCarthy (Mike & Molly), acting dykey though not lesbian, steals scene after scene until she just about steals the movie. Rose Byrne is good as Annie’s nemesis and Chris O’Dowd provides welcome masculine relief as a hot cop who brings romantic potential into Annie’s life. Jon Hamm gets shirtless in an uncredited minor role and Matt Lucas, the gay half of Little Britain, plays one of Annie’s abusive roommates. Ho-hum.

You’ve seen just about everything in Bridesmaids before, but now it has more bathroom and bedroom humor.
— Steve Warren

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 13, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas