A new interview of Saoirse for the website Telegraph has been released. She talks about her family, her co-stars and, of course, her career. Read the complete article below:
Spend time with Saoirse Ronan and you will hear an awful lot about her parents, the family pet – and some of the biggest names in film.
We are talking about how she keeps in touch with home (a small village in County Carlow, Ireland) when she is away on set and she has just admitted to Skype-ing her border collie. ‘Mam doesn’t really like Skype because you have to do your hair. She’d prefer to chat to you on the phone. She sends me like five photos a day of the dog: Sassy eating toast, Sassy sunbathing, Sassy going for a walk, things like that.’
That Ronan’s speech is also peppered with casual references to ‘Pete’, ‘Mick’ and ‘Ryan’ – as in the director Peter Jackson and actors Michael Fassbender and Ryan Gosling – takes a little getting used to. ‘The thing is, I forget about people I want to work with and then suddenly, thank God so far, they’ve kind of popped up,’ she says brightly.
Recently Stephenie Meyer, the author of the bestselling Twilight trilogy, ‘popped up’. Meyer flew to Dublin to talk to Ronan about the lead in the film based on her 2008 sci-fi novel, The Host. After meeting the film’s director, Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, The Truman Show), Ronan couldn’t refuse. ‘I think it could be one of those films,’ she says. ‘A lot of people are saying it is going to be the next Twilight. I don’t know if it is, to be honest, because that was so huge, that took over from Harry Potter, and it’s going to be a while, I think, before that kind of thing has such an impact again.’
This is new territory for 18-year-old Ronan, who claims that people only know her name in Ireland (her first name rhymes, ironically, with ‘inertia’). Overseas, she’s still ‘the girl from… ’
Is she prepared to join the ranks of Twilight’s Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson in the public’s rabid affections? Along comes another sensible pronouncement: ‘If you’re in a place you’re going to get that kind of attention it would be too much, but I think because of where I live… hopefully it will be OK.’
Ronan first rose to prominence at 13, when she was Oscar-nominated for her role as the young Bryony Tallis in Atonement, the Joe Wright adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel. Lead roles followed. She was the murder victim Susie Salmon in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lovely Bones and the kick-ass assassin in another Wright film, Hanna. Yet to describe her as a former ‘child star’ sounds wrong. Her work is mature, timeless, unflashy – always has been.
We are breakfasting in the Corinthia Hotel, London, her pit stop between filming The Graham Norton Show and flying to Glasgow for the première of another project, the Neil Jordan vampire film Byzantium. Ronan orders soft-boiled eggs, which arrive with soldiers stacked like Jenga pieces. I half expect her to crack open the eggs with a pointy retractable thumbnail, as used by her Byzantium character, Eleanor, to dispatch her victims. She smiles sweetly and reassures me. ‘I was a good vampire, I only killed old people.’
Pale and pretty, Ronan is the type of girl you might walk straight past in Topshop. Or Urban Outfitters, to be precise. ‘I’m a bit of an Urban girl,’ she says, pointing to her chunky green jumper and short A-line skirt, worn with River Island brogues. Yet on-screen there is something otherworldly about her. To achieve this, she avoids pyrotechnics. It can be more interesting, she says, when you don’t overtly express yourself. ‘It’s more about the thought and the stillness and what comes out through [your] eyes.’
The Host presented a unique challenge: playing two parts in one body. Set in a not-too-distant future, it is about an alien race, the Souls, who displace humans from their bodies and erase their memories. Ronan plays both Melanie Stryder, an invaded human, and Wanda, an invading Soul. The two clash, before bonding and attempting to save the entire human race.
Ronan recorded a Melanie voiceover that played in her earpiece so that she had something to react to, as Wanda. She did her own stunts, too, including jumping off a balcony (winning one of the crew a $50 bet in the process). Then there was the love triangle. Just to make things extra complicated, Wanda and Melanie have different beaux. ‘There was a lot of romance in it, so that was something I had to get used to,’ she says. Not least because her father, Paul, was on-set during her final clinch with Max Irons. She made her dad turn away so that he wouldn’t see any snogging.
It helped that she knew her two leading men. Jake Abel had appeared inThe Lovely Bones and she had met Irons at an audition. As the scion of the Cusack acting dynasty (son of Sinéad and Jeremy Irons, grandson of the late Cyril), he was practically destined to meet her at some point.
She says that Irish actors are a close-knit bunch. Recently she attended the Irish Film & Television Awards where ‘everyone knows everyone. Like, it’s great to see the likes of Domhnall Gleeson doing so well… and Mick Fassbender is doing amazing.’
Not only are Ronan’s roles hotting up, but she is gaining a measure of independence in her working life. She has just begun to make films without either of her parents in tow as chaperones, starting with Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, currently filming in Germany, in which she plays a bakery assistant. How is she finding it? ‘We were fine about it, you know. Well, it was weird to begin with,’ she admits. But not without benefits? Yet again, Ronan shows that she has her head screwed on. ‘My mam and dad trust me not to go out partying when I have work the next day, and [to] eat my breakfast and make sure I’m getting good food in me and all that. She’s kind of instilled that in me from the age of 10, since I’ve been working.’
An only child in a Catholic family, Saoirse Ronan was born in the Bronx, New York, where her parents had moved in the 1980s to seek work. Her father ended up as a bartender, her mother, a nanny. Actors from the Irish Repertory Theatre would drink in her father’s pub, and one suggested he audition for a play. He got the part and became an actor – legend has it he took Ronan on set of the Brad Pitt film The Devil’s Ownas a baby.
When she was three the family moved back to Ireland. Her first professional role was alongside her father in the Irish television series The Clinic, and she got her Hollywood break as Michelle Pfeiffer’s daughter in the romantic comedy I Could Never Be Your Woman. But it was Atonement that launched her and changed everything.
At 14, in its aftermath, she left secondary school to be home-schooled. Previous interviews have mentioned bullying. When I ask about this, she is keen to set the record straight. ‘I wasn’t bullied, I was certainly singled out.’ ‘Sorry, “bullied” is the wrong word,’ I say.
Typically, she is then solicitous of me. ‘No, but you didn’t know… I became very well known at home. I wasn’t bullied, but at the same time the kids weren’t great to me. It was a tough decision to do the home-schooling thing. I didn’t want to do that, but because at the time we lived in the country there were only a few schools that I could have chosen from and it just made more sense for me to do it because I was working as well.’
In her spare time Ronan likes to play basketball, surf and swim. She recently took her driving test and says that life is a lot easier now that her peers are in college and more available for hanging out, whenever she has a gap between her two-month filming stints. She has four trusted close friends whom she has known for years. Her ‘best, best friend’ is called Christopher. ‘He’s like my brother. We’ve grown up together and we used to take care of him when his mam went to work,’ she says.
‘We wrestle still. We’ll be in the back of the car with Mam and Dad. We’re like kids when we’re together. He’s like, 16, but he’s huge all of a sudden; he’s just gone on a growing spurt. But we’ll hit each other and pinch each other and just torture each other in whatever way we can because we love each other deep down.’ But not in that way? ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, definitely not. He’s great.’
As for friends in the business, she keeps up with her Atonement co-star James McAvoy, and saw him in Macbeth. ‘James’s version was very current. It’s post-apocalyptic in its setting and the way they spoke the words was very natural, which I prefer. I’d love to do theatre.’
Other ambitions include studying film at New York University, although she would have to sit her SATs first. It’s hard to know when she would find time in her schedule, with a slate of roles coming that demonstrate her incredible versatility. ‘By the time I finished The Host I was sort of desperate to play someone normal,’ she says of her part in Kevin McDonald’s drama How I Live Now. ‘To play someone from New York and have a bleached-blonde wig and piercings was brilliant.’
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the lead in Mary Queen of Scots, following in the footsteps of Vanessa Redgrave, who later played the older Bryony Tallis in Atonement. Ronan hasn’t seen the 1971 film, starring Redgrave and Glenda Jackson, but intends to. ‘It’s an amazing story… she was the leader of two nations really.’
As for her part in Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut, How to Catch a Monster, alongside Christina Hendricks and Matt Smith, Ronan, hitherto the industry pro, suddenly sounds like a typical teenager. ‘I told my friend and she just gripped my arm and wouldn’t let go. I was, like, “Are you going to say something?” and she was, like, “Ryan Gosling!”’ (For the record, she is aware of the bestselling Ryan Gosling colouring book but, no, she doesn’t own one.)
It’s an interesting time to be a young actress, she says. ‘A lot of the films that are being released right now are centred on young women and strong women. I’d love to work with Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone because they are fantastic. I think it is a good time to be in the company of other people who don’t want to sexualise themselves or objectify themselves.’
Being able to pick and choose her roles means that Ronan has avoided some of the more generic fare on offer. ‘There’s a lot of them where I think, “Who’s the actual person, who’s the character?” Would she say she was a feminist? ‘I don’t know if I’m a feminist. Being a young woman myself, I certainly wouldn’t want to take advantage of what I have for the sake of it.
‘I’m interested in good characters and real people, and, knowing a lot of strong women myself, like Susan Sarandon and Rachel Weisz [The Lovely Bones] and Cate Blanchett [Hanna], who are smart and funny and good actresses and mothers and all this kind of stuff, they’re the really interesting women, I think.’
Add Saoirse Ronan to the list.