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Angourie Rice on Her ‘No Way Home’ Easter Egg and “Heartbreaking” ‘Mare of Easttown’ Scene

The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter
 2021-12-30
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Angourie Rice began 2021 on HBO’s Mare of Easttown , one of the most critically acclaimed shows of the year, and then she closed out the year with a cameo in the pandemic era’s biggest blockbuster, Spider-Man: No Way Home . As a native Australian, Rice was grateful to be able to shoot Mare and No Way Home during the same trip to the States since each journey home, at the time, required a two-week hotel quarantine. Rice has played Midtown High newscaster Betty Brant throughout the Tom Holland -led Spider-Man trilogy, and as of No Way Home , her character is an intern for J. Jonah Jameson’s The Daily Bugle . She even helped promote the movie in character via the Daily Bugle ‘s official TikTok account, which she shot remotely in Australia.

While she only appeared in one sequence of No Way Home , Rice got to carry on the rich tradition of saying, “Go get ’em, tiger,” which is a callback to what Mary Jane “MJ” Watson called Peter Parker in the 1960s Spider-Man comics. It’s also a reference to the concluding line that Rice’s The Beguiled castmate Kirsten Dunst said in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 . Even Rice herself didn’t catch the Easter egg until after the fact.

Rice tells The Hollywood Reporter : “I didn’t pick up on it, but I love that! There are always so many Easter eggs, and sometimes I miss them until I actually see the film in cinemas. And then I’m like, ‘Ohh! I see what they did there.'”

Rice is also looking back at her most grown-up role to date as Mare of Easttown ‘s Siobhan Sheehan, the daughter of Kate Winslet’s Mare Sheehan and granddaughter of Jean Smart’s Helen. While working with Winslet and Smart, Rice realized that commitment and kindness are not mutually exclusive.

“Kate and Jean have been working in this industry for a long time and really know what’s up,” Rice shares. “They know how to do their jobs really well while still being kind and open. When you work with people who are professional and committed to their roles — but can also have a really nice conversation with you when they call cut — that’s a really special quality. So I loved watching them work. They’re just incredible.”

In a recent conversation with THR , Angourie Rice (pronounced “Ann-gourie,” like “floury”) also explains why she had to wear a wig during her No Way Home scene. Then she discusses how the pandemic changed the musical side of Siobhan’s role on Mare of Easttown.

So you’ve bookended 2021 with one of the most beloved shows of the year in Mare of Easttown , and now, the biggest movie since the Before Times in Spider-Man: No Way Home . And I say that while admiring the bookshelf behind you.

( Laughs .) That’s a clever way of putting it. It’s been a crazy year for many reasons.

Starting with Spider-Man , did you get a courtesy call at some point that explained the focus of No Way Home , which meant that Peter Parker’s high school teachers and classmates would basically only have cameos?

Yeah, the pandemic disrupted a lot of things and has affected everything in the world. And it also affected the preproduction of Spider-Man and all movies that were being made, post-2020. So it was that thing of, “We want Betty to be in it,” and I wanted to be in it, of course. It’s been a huge part of my life, and I really wanted to be a part of it. So they were like, “We want you to be a part of it, too,” but obviously, it’s hard with travel. And, of course, with the story focusing on Peter’s bigger-scale journey, they tackle a lot of big existential questions about what it means to be a hero. So it was really fun to come in, do my bit and work with people who I know and like working with. And then to see it on the big screen, it’s this huge emotional, dramatic blockbuster.

Did they only send you the sides for your scene?

Yeah, but that happened on [ Spider-Man: Homecoming ]. I got to read the script on [ Spider-Man: Far From Home ]. They’re very secretive about everything, which is fair.

Betty says the line, “Go get ’em, tiger! Or should I say spider?” which is a callback to the comics and your former co-star Kirsten Dunst’s line in Spider-Man 2 . Did you realize this at the time?

No, I didn’t pick up on it, but I love that! There are always so many Easter eggs, and sometimes I miss them until I actually see the film in cinemas. And then I’m like, “Ohh! I see what they did there.”

Even though they didn’t send you the full script, you must’ve heard some of the gossip surrounding the film’s many surprises, right?

You know what? I wish I could say I did, but I really did not. I’m not on the Marvel side of the Internet as much as superfans are. I have a friend who’s a superfan and I would just find out stuff from him. He would text me and say, “Is this true?” And I would be like, “Honestly, I don’t know. Stop asking me!” ( Laughs .) I actually took him to the Melbourne screening, and he knew more than me, going into it. He was like, “I’ve been on all the fan sites, I know all the theories.” ( Laughs .)

Since you were mostly able to watch as a fan, what were your other takeaways from watching the film?

I loved the performances and I loved the VFX. The VFX are one of the coolest things about seeing anything Marvel or superhero. You can see the real people doing the stunts on set, but when you see how much work goes into creating a whole world, digitally, after everyone wraps, the visual spectacle of it all is just so exciting. At the screening here in Melbourne, there were a bunch of fans and press people, and one of my favorite things about seeing it was hearing the audience’s reactions. It was like seeing a live theater performance or a musical. Everyone was applauding and screaming and getting into it, so that was really fun.

Did you shoot those TikTok promos around the same time that you shot your scene?

They were done a bit later. They were done remotely in Australia.

So you’ve always struck me as someone who’s a bit of an old soul, and that’s probably because you’re a voracious reader. But TikTok just doesn’t seem like it would be your scene. Is that the case?

( Laughs .) Yeah, I don’t have TikTok. When the Betty TikToks started coming out, people would send them to me, so I would watch them as they were sent to me. And then I wanted to look at the comments, and it was like, “You can only look at the comments if you have TikTok.” So I was like, “Should I get a secret TikTok account to look at the comments?” And I was like, “No, no, that’s a sign. Don’t look at the comments. Don’t read that. Just step back.” ( Laughs .) But the way I see it is that it’s Betty on TikTok, not me. She can do her thing; The Daily Bugle can do their TikTok thing. I’ll just watch from the sidelines without my TikTok account. ( Laughs .)

Betty’s internship with The Daily Bugle probably won’t last very long since she defends Spider-Man against J. Jonah Jameson’s wishes.

( Laughs .) Listen, I don’t know how it’s going to work. I just watch the things afterwards and go, “Oh, that’s cool! They edited it all together. I love it!”

Did you finish playing Siobhan on Mare of Easttown right before you went to shoot your scene?

Yeah, we had to go back to shoot Mare after the worst lockdown. So we went back to shoot Mare in September of 2020, and that’s when I did Spider-Man as well. I just tacked it on at the end of my trip. In Australia, I have to do hotel quarantine before I can go home, so that was good to get it all done in one trip. So Spider-Man was directly afte r Mare , yeah.

I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but I did wonder how Siobhan’s haircut was going to affect Betty’s look in No Way Home . So how did that discussion ultimately go?

( Laughs .) Well, I loved my short hair, and I was like, “Ooh! I hope they use it!” But they were like, “No, we’re gonna do a wig,” which is fair enough. It keeps the character consistent, and I don’t think it’s the type of haircut Betty would get. ( Laughs .)

And little time has passed between Far From Home and No Way Home , so it wouldn’t make much sense for her to have a makeover so suddenly.

Exactly! I was all for it, but I understand why they wanted to keep it consistent.

I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but not too long ago, Jorge Lendeborg Jr. gave me the impression that he was going to be in No Way Home . So did the two of you, as Betty and Jason, shoot a Midtown High newscast that didn’t make the cut?

( Laughs .) I haven’t seen Jorge in a long time, so that’s the answer. I would love to catch up with him, but I haven’t seen him in a while.

We talked previously about how you navigate Hollywood while living in Melbourne, but needless to say, it’s only gotten more complicated since then. So how difficult has it been for you to get back to the States for work and whatnot?

Growing up in Australia, I’ve always known what you need to travel and what it takes to work overseas in another country. And it took a lot of energy without a pandemic. The time difference is huge, and then you’re calling friends at weird times of the night. The jet lag is also really hard. And now, with the pandemic, there are extra things to consider and do when traveling. You’ve got to get tested, there’s extra paperwork and sometimes you have to quarantine. But to be able to travel during a pandemic and work in Hollywood while still living in Melbourne, it’s a pretty amazing thing in the grand scheme of things. So if I have to do two weeks in hotel quarantine, then I prepare for that and I expect that. In the end, it’s not a huge sacrifice to make in my situation because it means that I get to work in the industry that I love.

You received a ton of praise for your performance in The Nice Guys , and I believe you were 13 at the time of production. So I have to imagine that your celebrated work in Mare means a lot to you since it’s your most grown-up role yet. Yes, Siobhan was still in high school, but she was dealing with things that were well beyond her years. So were you eager to show what you could do in this regard?

Yeah, I really connected with the Mare script as soon as I read it, and I connected with Siobhan especially, because I felt quite similar, actually. The circumstances were very different, obviously, but growing up on set and working in an adult, professional environment, I had to be this little grown-up. And Siobhan also had to grow up really quickly. She’s a mini adult in her family and she keeps everyone together. So I really connected to that aspect of her story, but there were other aspects of her story that I couldn’t relate to, specifically in my life. But I felt very passionately about representing them with compassion and care because she’s gone through a lot in her life. The story was very close to the writer, [Brad Ingelsby], who grew up in a similar area to where Easttown is set. So a lot of the characters are very close to him, and I felt very connected. I could see the truth in Siobhan as a character, and I just really wanted to be a part of her life and be a part of that story and tell it in a special way. So I hope I did that, and I think I’ve been lucky in that every job comes with a new challenge, whether it’s a physical challenge, an accent challenge or a dialogue challenge. And with Mare of Easttown , it was definitely an emotional challenge in terms of playing this character. So everyone on the show was committed and invested in the story.

Did you observe Kate [Winslet] and Jean [Smart] rather closely and pocket some of their traits?

Yeah, definitely. I would hope that I learn something from everyone that I work with, but Kate and Jean have been working in this industry for a long time and really know what’s up. They know how to do their jobs really well while still being kind and open. So that’s a really great quality to have. When you work with people who are professional and committed to their roles — but can also have a really nice conversation with you when they call cut — that’s a really special quality. So I loved watching them work. They’re just incredible.

Your Emmy clip would probably be the scene where Siobhan comes home drunk amongst other things. Did you circle that scene on your calendar from the very beginning? Was that the day you were anticipating most?

Yeah, definitely. It’s the climax of Siobhan’s storyline. We see why her relationship with her mother is so fraught and why she resents her mother for making her grow up so quickly. Even when I read it — and when I think about it now — it just makes me emotional. ( Rice gets emotional .) That moment is so heartbreaking. So it was definitely one I was anticipating and really nervous about. We also ended up shooting it after the pandemic and the date kept shifting. So I was definitely nervous because it was so important.

When Siobhan performs with her band, were those your vocal chops on display?

Yeah! This is another thing that changed because of Covid. Originally, the performances were on a stage with a live audience, and they were playing an actual gig. But post-lockdown, they were like, “We can’t shoot in a room with 200 people packed in really tightly. We can’t do that anymore.” So they moved it. But I recorded three songs for the show and we practiced as a band. We also recorded in a recording studio, which was super fun! I had a great time.

So when the band was randomly jamming at the engagement party in episode one, was that supposed to be a full-fledged gig?

That was still a rehearsal, but later, in episode three, when they’re performing at the radio station and she meets Anne (Kiah McKirnan) for the first time, that was going to be a real show. I’m kind of sad that it didn’t happen, but what can you do in the end? ( Laughs .)

I can’t believe she hesitated when Anne offered her a free ticket to see Boygenius. That must’ve been a tough moment to play authentically.

( Laughs .) She’s committed to her girlfriend (Madeline Weinstein’s Becca)! She doesn’t want to two-time!

If there’s a season two, hopefully the crime happens while Siobhan is home from college for Christmas break. That would not be cool if all the action happens while she’s off at UC Berkeley.

( Laughs .) Yeah, it’s funny that people are talking about season two because that never crossed my mind while filming it, reading the script or when it was coming out. I thought, “This is a seven-part movie.” So that never crossed my mind, but they did it with Big Little Lies and people loved it.

Do you know what’s next for you?

Yeah, I’ve got a movie coming out next year with Rebel Wilson called Senior Year , and it’s really fun. I can’t wait for people to see that. It’s very uplifting and funny. So it’ll be out on Netflix sometime next year. I’ve also got some other exciting stuff that I’m getting ready for, and while you get this all the time, I obviously can’t talk about it yet. ( Laughs .)

Since you mentioned Rebel, what kind of relationship do you have with your fellow Australian actors? I want to imagine that everyone is part of the same group text.

( Laughs .) Group text? No, but you’d be surprised how many people know each other. It also depends on your generation, but there are a lot of connections and mutual friends. When I worked with Remy Hii on Spider-Man: Far From Home , I had never heard of him before as an actor, but when I met him and found out he was Australian, we were like, “Oh! We know all of the same people!” So it works out like that. And similarly with Rebel, we’ve worked with a few of the same people, which was really nice. I think everyone feels this, but if you meet someone in a strange place overseas and they happen to be from the same country as you, it’s exciting because it’s a little bit of home.

Have you watched anything lately that’s floored you?

So I have an app… Do you use Letterboxd?

Of course!

I just started using it this year because my friend got me onto it. So there are a few on my list. I saw Zola recently in cinemas, and my friends and I were like, “What did we just watch?” It was so captivating and real and exciting and glitzy. I just loved it. I also watched Passing recently on Netflix. One of my favorite books of the 20th century is Nella Larsen’s Passing , and it’s such a faithful adaptation as well. It’s just exciting when you see one of your favorite books become a movie and they do it so well. It looked like it was from the 1920s with the stylistic choices like shooting it in black and white and that aspect ratio. It didn’t feel like I was watching people in 2021 pretend like it was 1925. It felt like stepping back in time. I also wanted to mention Ninjababy , which is Norwegian. It’s about a cartoonist who discovers she’s pregnant and the baby comes to life as a cartoon. So she talks to the baby and it’s so emotional. ( Laughs .) But it’s also very funny. I watched it with my sister [Kalliope Rice] and we both loved it.

Have you seen Nicolas Cage’s Pig ?

No!

It’s my favorite movie of the year, and it’ll break your heart in the best way. It’s also not what you think.

I do really like Nicolas Cage. Moonstruck is one of my favorite movies, and I just got my sister to watch it this Christmas. It’s kind of a Christmas movie, so I was like, “Sit down! Watch this!” ( Laughs .) So I’ll watch Pig ; I think it’s playing at my local cinema.

And I will watch Ninjababy in return.

OK!

And lastly, what’s the latest with your podcast?

Yeah, I have a podcast called The Community Library and it’s mostly about stories in general. I talk about books, movies and music. Some of the episodes are scripted essays where I do a deep dive into a specific topic. Some of them are more chatty and fun, and I bring on guests like my sister a lot of the time. And really, it’s just an exploration of the different ways in which we tell stories and how we communicate ideas and what that means for us and what it tells the world about us and how we process the world as well. So I really love it, and it’s something that keeps me occupied when I’m not working. It’s also really nice to have creative control over something as well. I can make it anything I want it to be.

Did you do lots of podcasting while you were locked inside hotel rooms for two-week quarantines?

( Laughs .) I did a lot of writing. Some of my favorite episodes are like scripted college essays. ( Laughs .) So it takes a lot of planning and writing. Last time I was in hotel quarantine, I did an episode on The Great Gatsby and Lorde’s song “ Green Light .” Everyone thinks that the green light in Lorde’s song is a reference to The Great Gatsby , but it’s actually not. So I just thought it was so interesting that people think it is, so I compared the song with the book, as if they are related. So that was a very interesting one, but it took a lot of research. I had to read the book, listen to the song and look at all these interviews. So that took up a good week during my last hotel quarantine.

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Spider-Man: No Way Home is now playing in movie theaters.

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