Heath Ledger Was An Amazing Champion Of Australian Actors Coming To Hollywood, And Rose Byrne Shares Memories Of Their Early Days In LA

Rose Byrne and Heath Ledger
(Image credit: Universal/Buena Vista Pictures)

There are many Australian actors who have made it big in Hollywood, including Chris Hemsworth (who famously eventually left LA), Nicole Kidman, Rebel Wilson, Hugh Jackman, and more. Aussie actress Rose Byrne falls into this category as she appeared in several television shows in the ‘90s as well as a handful of low-budget Australian indie films before venturing to Hollywood. The Golden Globe-nominated actress recalled how she has late actor Heath Ledger to thank for helping to pave the way for Australian actors to make it to Hollywood. She also shared fond memories she had with him during her early days in Los Angeles.

In 1999, Rose Byrne and Heath Ledger were two 20-year-old Aussies who arrived in the Las Vegas scene with no idea what was in store for them while promoting their Australian comedy-crime film Two Hands. In an interview with The Independent, Byrne spoke about how The Dark Knight star was an inspiration for Australian actors trying to make it in Hollywood after he nailed the audition for 1999’s 10 Things I Hate About You.

It was a whole mix of us: actors who got work, actors who didn’t. 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.

Rose Byrne has been a professional actress ever since she was 15 and in her first film role in the black-comedy Dallas Doll. Then, she had small roles in films like Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones as one of Queen Amidala’s handmaidens and Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. And of course we can’t forget her iconic role as Helen Harris in Bridesmaids who competes against another bridesmaid for the bride’s friendship. 

This followed more unforgettable films like when she joined Anna Faris in I Give It a Year as well as landing roles in Neighbors and This is Where I Leave You. The 42-year-old actress has clearly come a long way since her start and it’s nice to know actors like Heath Ledger helped make a name for herself in Hollywood. It has me wondering where Ledger would be now if he'd had the time to have a career trajectory of the same ilk. 

Before all of this, Rose Byrne and Heath Ledger were two outsiders from Australia trying to make it in the tough entertainment industry, the Insidious actress said she felt like living in LA at the same time as Ledger and other Aussie actors was like an adventure. 

Just all of us driving to Joshua Tree, or staying at Heath’s [house] in Los Feliz. We were all in our late teens or early twenties, and there was such fervor to it all.

Hollywood is still leaving plenty of room for Rose Byrne to show us what she’s got. She’s got a starring role in one of the best Apple TV+ series Physical when an ambitious aerobic instructor goes through the challenges of an unhappy marriage and an eating disorder in 1980s San Diego. We see her self-discovery journey grow as she becomes a lady boss in the fitness industry. Byrne will also have another Apple TV+ series in the works where she reunites with her Neighbors co-star Seth Rogen in Platonic where two friends who had a falling out when they were younger reconnect as adults and try to mend their friendship. 

Today, Rose Byrne has lived in the U.S. full-time for quite some time -- though she later moved to New York where she and her partner Bobby Cannavale were during the pandemic. Her story with Heath Ledger shows that it helps to have friends when you are braving your way in a whole new country in an intimidating industry like entertainment can be. Years later, it's clear the fond memories she made with her Aussie pal have stayed with her. 

Carly Levy
Entertainment Writer

Just your average South Floridian cinephile who believes the pen is mightier than the sword.