We're looking back on some of our favourite big reads from TimeOut this year. Today, we revisit George Fenwick's interview with Ryan Cooper, the Kiwi star of Rough Night.

When Ryan Cooper was a teenager at Avondale College in Auckland, his father dragged him out of high school theatre, telling him to "get a real job." Fast-forward to 2017, and the carpenter-turned-model-turned-actor is starring in a blockbuster comedy film alongside Scarlett Johansson.

Born in Papua New Guinea to an Australian family, Cooper grew up in Vanuatu, Australia and New Zealand, with his adolescence spent in Auckland. He worked as a carpenter after he finished high school, and in 2008 he was discovered by a modelling agent and moved to New York.

He shifted from modelling to acting in 2013, and last year landed a role in Rough Night; a dark comedy that follows a bachelorette party (lead by Johansson) who accidentally kill their hired male stripper (Cooper).

Ryan Cooper says his role in Rough Night was a
Ryan Cooper says his role in Rough Night was a "dream come true." Photo / Gavin O'Neil

Cooper describes the part as a "dream come true," with his pivotal role in the film (for much of which he plays a dead body) allowing him a front-row seat to some of Hollywood's top comedic talent.


"You just pinch yourself every morning and go, 'hi!' It was incredible. I really got to learn a lot from each of the girls, especially how they work, what they try, what they play with, the way that they approach the material.

"I laughed my head off every single day and they were up for everything. I said to Scarlett [Johansson], 'do you have any safe zones or no-go things you don't want me to do when we're doing the stripping scenes?' she goes 'No no, go for it.'

"I got to be literally carried through the movie by these comedians and legendary actors. It was fantastic."

Although Cooper speaks glowingly of his costars, he was able to lend some of his own expertise on set: Kate McKinnon, who plays an Australian in the film, came to him for accent tips.

"She was asking Australian colloquialisms, and asking if anything was kind of off with her accent as well, and the writer and director were asking for other slang and where they could put it in," he says.

Cooper landed the role after an audition lead to a discussion with writers Paul W. Downs and Lucia Aniello (who also directed the film). The pair initially thought he was too lean for the role ("they wanted a bit more of a buff body boy from the beach in Miami"), so Cooper put on 11kg in two weeks.

"It was a lot of pasta and ice cream before bed and heavy weights. It was a time in my life that I thoroughly enjoyed."

Cooper certainly looks every part the "buff body boy", but when I ask how he feels about potentially being the sex object of the film, he dances around the question in a very Kiwi way.

"If people find me the sex object of the movie then I'm flattered, I really am. I think being beside those beautiful women, to even potentially feel that limelight - I'm flattered.

"I don't know if it's possible, but it'll be an interesting release and very interesting to see how it's received and how I'm viewed. And if that's it, then bring it on."

Rough Night is released in New Zealand on June 15.