Ever since Angourie Rice broke into The Nice Guys as Ryan Gosling’s on-screen daughter, she’s been destined for big things.
Adept at a pithy retort as well as a moving moment, Rice’s career has seen her work with big names in front of and behind the camera.
At only 21, the Melbourne actor has already taken his place among Kate Winslet and Jean Smart on The Easttown Marealongside Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Sofia Coppola in seduced him and alongside Miley Cyrus in black mirror. She also made her mark in ensemble castings, like Betty Brant in Spider-Man: Far From Home and as ingenue Lisa in ladies in black.
honor society is her first starring role, exactly the challenge Rice was looking for. The teen rom-com features her as Honor, a high-achieving student who decides to beat her academic rivals in hopes of getting into her dream school, Harvard.
One of these rivals is embodied by stranger things‘ Gaten Matarazzo.
On paper, Honor isn’t a likable character given her storylines, but in Rice’s hands, she’s charming and relatable — and her plotting fourth-wall breaks keep audiences engaged in her journey.
Rice spoke to news.com.au about the challenges of her first starring role, staying grounded on set and how she connected with Honor’s instinct to protect herself.
Is it surreal to keep going back to high school? How long do you think you’ll be content to continue playing teenagers?
I was graduated [from high school] a little over three years ago, so it’s very fresh in my mind. Also, because I didn’t go to college, [these high school characters] are like the last education experience I had.
But there are definitely some really exciting scripts that involve young people that aren’t set in high school or college, and I’m glad to have more of those for sure.
Are you happy to keep extending this ride a little longer?
Honestly, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that no matter how hard I try, I can’t control anything in the film industry. Whatever happens, we’ll see.
This character has so many fourth wall breaks – she always speaks to the audience. Was it intimidating to play someone who so deliberately tries to connect with the audience?
I was nervous to have so much dialogue and to be so excited in these scenes.
Honor brings the audience in by talking to them, making them part of her plan. She rolls them up. Then the camera and the audience become his consciousness. She feels judged by them because she makes questionable choices.
She kinda reminded me Election‘s Tracy Flick in that she’s a bit intense but not nearly as intense or as unsympathetic, even though her plan is a pretty heavy sabotage of her peers’ future. What were those conversations with the filmmakers like to keep audiences on Honor’s side?
It was important to me. I thought she must be charming and the audience must want to be part of her plan. Honor should speak to the public like “let me tell you a little secret and we’ll be a team against everyone else”. What’s exciting about her is that she’s charming, she’s funny, and she has a sense of humor.
And she’s able to learn and apologize, admit it when she’s wrong.
Each role you choose looks different. What was new or difficult about the Honor Society?
Speaking on camera was definitely a new and exciting challenge for me. Playing a lead role – I really wanted to do that. And to fully map out a character’s arc. She’s in scene 1 and scene 100 and all the scenes in between.
We see her, we see her whole arc and I really wanted to do that. I wanted to show this character that he was changing, growing and learning.
What was the experience of playing the lead role? You are the first person on the call sheet, you are almost in a way responsible for setting the tone, energy and work ethic of everyone below you on the call sheet.
It was nerve wracking and very scary. I felt pressure. But what really made it possible was that my sister was there with me the whole time.
She came on set three or four times a week, and it was great to have her there as an emotional support person.
It really helped me to have someone, when you’re so in the world of [a character] and obsessed with something, to have someone in your house, who is there to remind you to drink water and stop talking about yourself, go home and watch movies.
For honor, the book The Handmaid’s Tale is like his bible. i know you have The community librarya podcast that talks about books so what is your bible that you take with you?
This is Pride and Prejudice. I usually travel with a copy just in case I need it. It’s like comfort food to me. I know the story so well, I’ve read it so many times. Every time I dive back in, it’s like coming home. Every time I read it, I find new things to laugh at or new things to learn.
How many times do you think you’ve read it?
Maybe seven or eight times. I’m reading it again right now.
Have you ever imagined yourself playing Lizzie Bennett?
Absolutely! I feel like every Jane Austen fan did. Every time you read Pride and Prejudiceno one says ‘I want to be Mary’.
There’s a line in Honor Society that really struck me. It’s at the beginning and it’s obviously part of where the character starts before she continues her arc. She says, “To survive, I hide within myself.” Is it something you’ve ever done as someone with a pretty high profile job and a public figure?
Absolutely. It’s something that I really connected to the character because she puts up this facade to protect herself from people who know who she really is, because what if they don’t like her?
I really relate to that.
Yes, as someone with a public profile but also as someone who goes to high school, anyone who has social media, anyone living a teenage life.
That’s what being a teenager is, hiding who you really are because you’re so anxious that people won’t like you, and changing who you are to please some people. It’s one of the main things about the movie that really struck me when I first read it.
Honor Society is streaming now on Paramount+