HEAT VISION

'Spider-Man' Actor Angourie Rice on 'Far From Home,' 'Black Mirror' and 'The Nice Guys'

The Australian actor looks back at her memorable scenes as Betty Brant and her collaboration with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe.
Angourie Rice   |   CHRIS DELMAS/AFP/Getty Images
The Australian actor looks back at her memorable scenes as Betty Brant and her collaboration with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe.

[This story contains spoilers for Spider-Man: Far From Home.]

It’s been three and a half years since Angourie Rice’s star-making turn alongside Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in The Nice Guys, and the 18-year-old Australian actor continues to amass an impressive body of work that includes two Spider-Man films, a Black Mirror episode with Miley Cyrus, Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, a starring role in Orion’s Every Day and the upcoming HBO limited series Mare of Eastdown (Rice will play Siobhan Sheehan, the daughter of Kate Winslet’s struggling small-town detective, Mare Sheehan, in the Gavin O’Connor-helmed HBO series).

When Rice — whose latest blockbuster, Spider-Man: Far From Home, is now on Blu-ray and digital — was first cast as Betty Brant in 2016’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, her breakout role as Holly March in Shane Black’s 1970s-set crime caper The Nice Guys had yet to hit theaters. So, it’s no surprise why she received an expanded role in the Homecoming follow-up, which included even more of the fan-favorite news segments featuring Rice’s Brant and Jorge Lendeborg Jr.’s Jason Ionello.

Oddly enough, Midtown High’s news reports had a lot in common with Far From Home’s biggest surprise — the return of J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson — as both news programs were shot in nondescript rooms with bare-bones setups that included a green screen, a desk and chairs.

“It would often be a small crew because it was second-unit,” Rice tells The Hollywood Reporter. “So, we definitely got some time to play around, but really, it is the writers; they have so many alts for us. And then, Jon [Watts], the director, might just say, ‘Oh, maybe try saying this.’ It was set up in the hotel we were staying in. They were like, ‘Let’s just set it up here,’ and that was great because it meant that I didn’t have to wake up early.”

In a recent conversation with THR, Angourie Rice (pronounced "Ann-gourie," like "floury") also discusses working with Gosling on The Nice Guys, the particulars of shooting her Black Mirror episode in Cape Town, South Africa, and the unexpected popularity of “Night Monkey.”

How does the future look from where you’re sitting in Australia?

I can tell you that the future looks very bright from here. (Laughs.)

After Far From Home and Black Mirror, are you utterly terrified by holograms?

Yes — a little bit. It’s kind of terrifying what technology — and our phones — can do now.

Are you someone who was already wary of technology?

Kind of. My relationship with technology has definitely changed as I’ve gotten older. It’s something that I don’t want to get too attached or invested in. It’s good to put your phone down for a second and take a breather. I feel so connected all the time, and it can be very overwhelming. So, I do try and manage how much time I spend on my phone.

Far From Home also corresponds with the emergence of deep-fake technology. So, we technically have the ability to do some of what Mysterio was doing, which is quite disconcerting.

Yeah, definitely. That’s why I love the story, really. It’s set in a world with superheroes, which we don’t have, but it’s still so relevant. I really like how believable that aspect of it is.

You live in Australia as we established up top, and while your career is going very well, is it difficult to navigate Hollywood from afar?

Kind of. I love living in Melbourne because in my mind, it really separates work life from home life. I like to keep those aspects of my life separate. When I was going to school, I was really passionate about school, passionate about finishing school and being dedicated to schoolwork. So, I like that these two places are separated not only in my mind but also geographically. It also makes it easy to wind down when I come home, but it can be difficult corresponding with the U.S. and working out time differences. The journey across the world is not an easy one; the jet lag is pretty nasty.

I presume you do lots of self-tapes and Skype meetings?

Yes. Everything is done online now. It’s great that I live in this time and am able to do that without having to move and leave my friends and family. Technology allows me to live here and work overseas at the same time. It’s really nice.

THR reported your Spider-Man: Homecoming casting in July 2016, and The Nice Guys had just come out two months earlier. Since castings usually happen well before they’re reported, had you been cast in Homecoming before The Nice Guys hit theaters?

I don’t remember! (Laughs.) Isn’t that terrible? Actually, I think [Homecoming] was in development, and we were working it out while I was doing press for The Nice Guys.

Did you get a heads up that you’d have an expanded role in Far From Home before you read the script?

Kind of. Everything is so secretive with Marvel, and I completely understand it. It’s such an expansive universe, and there are so many people dedicated to the story. So, it is sometimes hard to figure out what’s going on when you’re on set because they’re so secretive about it. But, when I read the script for the first time, I was really excited by the role and to be more involved in the action. That was really exciting because I got to travel around with the cast. It was a really fun shoot, and it was really nice to be more involved in this one. We traveled around together for four months, and it was just a lovely adventure to have over summer.

I know that the Skrull component wasn’t scripted, based on a conversation I had with Cobie Smulders, but did your script have any of the film’s other secrets, such as Mysterio’s true motivations or J. Jonah Jameson?

I read an early version, so I don’t really know if they added those things in later or if they redacted them. It was funny because I read it so long ago that I’d actually forgotten most of the stuff that happens. So, watching it in the cinema at the premiere, which was the first time I saw the film, was really exciting because I was watching stuff I wasn’t in thinking, “Oh, that’s right. I remember this!” It all came back to me as I watched it.

Since you didn’t interact directly with Jacob Batalon on Homecoming, did your time together on Every Day come in handy in terms of building chemistry for your storyline in Far From Home?

I loved working with Jacob on Every Day; it was so much fun. He is such a delightful person and getting to work with him three times has actually been so lovely. It was really nice to see him in between Spider-Man films; we also did press together for the film in New York. Getting to work with the same person multiple times doesn’t happen very often, especially actors, unless you do a sequel. I’d never experienced working with the same people again, and it was really nice because you’re familiar with how everyone works and how you work well together.

Because they’re markedly different characters in the comics, I presume you opted not to read any of the comics involving Betty and Ned’s relationship?

No, I didn’t. My dad is super into comics — the Betty and Veronica comics from the ‘60s and 70s. So, I grew up reading those. But, when I first got cast, he tracked down one of the first comics that Betty Brant appears in. So, we do have a late ‘60s comic with Betty Brant in it, which was very exciting for me, actually. I don’t know if Ned appeared in that one. (Laughs.) [Editor’s note: He doesn’t.]

Your Midtown High news segments with Jorge Lendeborg Jr. are hilarious. How long did it take for you guys to develop that interplay?

The news segments are so interesting; I’ve never done anything like that before. It’s kind of a mixture of improvisation and comedy, and I haven’t really done improvisation before. I also don’t consider myself a very comedic person; I will just deliver the lines that are there. The writers write this really funny dialogue, and while it’s definitely all there in the script, Jorge is really funny as well. He would just think of something and say it, and then I’d play with that. It would often be a small crew because it was second-unit. So, we definitely got some time to play around, but really, it is the writers; they have so many alts for us. And then, Jon [Watts], the director, might just say, “Oh, maybe try saying this.” So, it’s a really fun collaborative thing, and it’s definitely one of my favorite moments.

Apparently, Watts shot the J. Jonah Jameson cameo with the same setup as your news segments, which were shot in nondescript rooms, right?

(Laughs.) Yeah, it was set up in the hotel we were staying in. They were like, “Let’s just set it up here,” and that was great because it meant that I didn’t have to wake up early.

What I liked about this film is that it actually felt like we went somewhere — versus being on soundstages or backlots with green screen the majority of the time. When you’re shooting on location — such as the Ferris wheel scene in Prague — do you get the sense that your performance benefits from a real environment with real energy?

For the Ferris wheel scene, for sure. It definitely helped that Jacob and I were actually stuck on top of the Ferris wheel. The only way we were going to get down was if someone pressed a button down on the ground. That definitely added this level of excitement. It was also really fun because, usually, when you film a scene, you are taken out of it for a new setup or because there are lots of people running around and moving things. But, if you’re stuck in a little passenger car on a Ferris wheel, it’s actually really chilled out because there’s nowhere to go and there’s nothing to stress about — you’re just sitting in the same spot. So, it was really nice because I don’t think you get that on productions a lot. I always find location filming stressful because it’s a new environment, but filming in those magnificent location spots in Prague and Venice was just incredible.

I thought it was a nice touch how Betty, Midtown’s news reporter, made the news in Prague.

(Laughs.) Yeah, it was really sweet.

She’s going to have a lot to say in her next news report.

(Laughs.) That would be very fun.

When you first read the name “Night Monkey” in the script, did you expect it to be as quotable as it’s become?

No, I didn’t. I thought the idea of a European ripoff version of Spider-Man was really hilarious. That was actually a phrase I had trouble with in an American accent, and it always happens when you yell. If you start yelling in an accent, that’s usually when it drops out. So, I remember the dialect coach coming up to me and saying, “You sounded super Australian when you said that.” So, I think I was just concentrating on saying it properly. But, I think it’s a really funny joke, and I’m glad that people like it.

Since you have a rather strong American accent, are you at the point where you no longer feel self-conscious about performing with it?

I think so. There are certain words and phrases that always trip me up, and I always ask people, “How would you say this? How would you read this?” I’ve now done it a few times while working, and I would hope that it comes naturally and doesn’t feel as forced. That’s really the standard accent that I’ve done. I’ve worked pretty much only in American and Australian accents. Other than my natural accent, it’s the one I’m most confident with, I think.

Did you and the rest of the cast have enough time to be tourists in Prague, Venice and London?

Yes, I definitely made time. I like going to museums and wandering around. Prague was incredible; we were staying really close to this beautiful church called Vysehrad. They had this renovation in the 1920s, so the interior was painted with beautiful art deco design. I also loved walking around Venice. I don’t think I’ve ever been to the same place twice in Venice because I just get lost all the time. But, that’s kind of the magic of it. So, I love wandering around and doing tourist things.

Did you get to choose your weapon for the Tower of London scene?

I learned what it is it’s called a halberd. The more you know, right? (Laughs.) I didn’t choose it. They said, “We want you to run here, and you’re going to pick it up from this suit of armor.” But, I was excited to have it. It’s super heavy! I remember my arms getting sore from holding it. I definitely felt very powerful carrying that around.

When Betty was confessing her sins with the drone right in front of her, did you perform a bunch of different confessions, or was it always the fake ID line?

Oh, no, there were so many fun ones like “I rode a motorbike… I stole a hundred dollars from my mom…” There was all sorts of crazy stuff. It was so much fun.

Your Black Mirror episode says a lot about fandom and how it’s exploited by big business. While you don’t seem like someone who’s ever been an overzealous fan like your character of Rachel, did you channel one of your own interests into your performance to somewhat understand where Rachel was coming from in terms of her Ashley O devotion?

Yeah, definitely. I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter. It’s kind of different because Harry Potter is a world rather than a single person. I guess it is all just J.K. Rowling, but it’s a world with characters, setting, books and movies. So, it’s more abstract than a single person. When I was reading the script, I definitely understood it. I have friends, and I know people, who are fans of certain people, musicians and actors — not at that crazy level. I think it was really interesting for me to get in the head of someone who’s obsessed with a celebrity. I loved playing that role, and while I might not have been at that level of loving a celebrity that much, I definitely understand it because I have a similar relationship with the world of Harry Potter. That’s my thing. (Laughs.)

I read that you were cast just a week before shooting. Why did your casting happen so last minute?

It was about two weeks, but it was stressful. They emailed me and said, “It’s happening at these dates. These dates are fixed, and if you can’t do them, we’ll find someone else.” So, I don’t know why it happened so quickly, but I was just happy and excited to do it. I wanted to finish the year with a bang, I guess. It was a really intense shoot that took me up to the first of December [2018], but I was really happy with it. It felt nice to finish it in December, and then go, “Okay, this is relaxation time now. This is my summer, and it’s time to unwind from the crazy year.” I was happy to jump into it.

Could you hear Miley Cyrus’ dialogue during the scenes with the Ashley Too doll, or was that added later?

That was added later, but we did have a reader on set who would read the lines off-camera for us. So, that was nice.

The scene at the school talent show was so hard to watch because we cared about your character. Even though you were acting, did you feel the same stage fright that your character was feeling, since dancing in front of a group of people is about as uncomfortable as it gets?

Oh, my gosh — I was terrified that day. I was so scared. I never got stage fright in terms of acting, but I used to do dance; I did dance for maybe seven to eight years. I did a solo competition, and every time I practiced in front of the rest of my class, by myself, I would freeze up and forget my dance. So, I was terrified of that happening again. … Thankfully, it didn’t happen again because we had the choreographer there, and I was practicing over and over in my head. I was like, “I’m not going to forget it … I’m not going to forget it.” But, I actually was really terrified, and they had all the extras there for every shot. They were there just watching me, and it was terrifying.

The show feels off-kilter as a viewer. Does it feel that way on set as well?

It definitely feels different. As much as the show is about technology, it also integrates technology into the way that it’s made. We had a working doll there. She could spin around, roll across the floor, turn her head and move her arms. It’s incredible to me that I can have a scene with a robot. So, it definitely felt different to any other set that I’ve been on because you’re making something about technology, but you’re also making it with that same technology. 

You shot in Cape Town, South Africa, even though the fictional setting was California. How was that experience?

When I was there, Cape Town felt very Australian, actually. So, it’s funny seeing it onscreen and how they transformed it into L.A. I loved traveling to a new place. I’d never been to the continent of Africa before so that was really exciting for me. It did feel closer to home than California. It definitely had an Australian vibe about it.

Well, who has the better high tea between Cape Town and Melbourne?

(Laughs.) I loved the Cape Town high tea. Supposedly, the place that we went to had the third-best high tea in the world, and I’m not surprised because it was amazing. But, I think the main rival is England. They have a really good high tea — like, really good.

You flew out to L.A. for the final round of the Nice Guys auditions. What do you remember about the scene you performed with Ryan Gosling? Did he try to disarm you a bit since he likely knew you’d be overwhelmed?

I don’t remember anything specific. He’s a very calming person, and I think there are certain people who are just so nice and generous in general that you will feel at ease. And I think he’s one of those people. He didn’t actively try to intimidate me at all. He has a very calm demeanor and is very nice and welcoming. He was genuinely excited to read the scene, and he was interested. So, I just think there are some people who have that calming presence. But, I was still so scared the entire time. (Laughs.) My heart was beating in my chest.

Since the two of you were playing father and daughter, did you get a chance to build any rapport away from set?

Yeah, we hung out for an afternoon. I had a family friend chaperoning me, so we hung out with Ryan and his assistant. It was really nice to just chat and have a general conversation. It’s nice because when you’re on set talking with people, they’re often whisked away. It’s a very frantic environment, and it’s hard to get to know people in that environment. So, it was really nice to just sit down, have a normal chat and get to know each other. I think that definitely helped.

Did you have your performance ready to go by the time you arrived on set, or did it evolve since there are so many variables that you can’t account for ahead of time?

I think it was definitely [the latter]. It was my first feature in America, and I didn’t really know what to expect. Once again, I was really terrified. The first feature that I had done was a small independent Australian film, and the atmosphere was quite different. So, I was adjusting to how things are run on an American set. The fantastic thing was that everyone was so nice to me, so welcoming, so willing to answer my questions and help me out. Being in that environment and being with Ryan and Russell [Crowe] — who are the core of the film — definitely helped my performance and helped me find out who Holly was as a character.

I’ve talked to a number of seasoned actors who believe child actors are able to flourish because they don’t have the inhibitions or baggage of older actors. Since you seemed unfazed by the bowling alley scene, while sitting alongside Gosling and Crowe, do you think that theory remotely applies to you?

That’s interesting. Possibly, I don’t know. I remember being pretty terrified. (Laughs.) I think my brain went into this mode where I was like, “I was hired to do a job, and I have to do it.” So, I just had to do the scene. I think it was one of my audition scenes so that also helped. I was familiar with the lines and the arc of the scene. I knew I couldn’t get in my head because that would be bad. My brain just goes into this mode of “just do it.” You can’t stress out about it, otherwise, it won’t be good.

In the scene where Holly and Holland (Gosling) are talking about the fallen palm tree, Holland commented that he “never trusted it,” and it seemed like you responded with a genuine laugh. Is that the case?

Yes, it was genuine because I don’t think that line was in the script. Ryan was great like that. He would just come up with lines on the spot that were just hilarious. I admire people who can do that because it’s not something that I can do. It’s great when something catches you off guard because I think it’s really hard to fake a laugh.

Can you tell me about The Community Library?

Yeah, my podcast is called The Community Library. It’s a book club and discussion space. I love making it because I love books and sharing stories. It’s very similar to my love of movies. It’s all about experiencing a story and experiencing a point of view that you might not have known about before. I just love making it, and it’s fun because I do it with my friends. They guest on the podcast, and it’s really nice to catch up and chat about books.

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Spider-Man: Far From Home is now available on Blu-ray and digital.

  • Brian Davids
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