Saoirse has recently spoken to Backstage magazine about ‘Brooklyn’, and the article has just been released. Our gallery was updated with a photoshoot featured in the issue, and you can read her interview below.
Eilis Lacey is a girl on the cusp of womanhood in “Brooklyn,” director John Crowley’s adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s 2009 novel. Leaving behind her rural hometown in Ireland, Eilis is heading into an uncertain future in 1950s New York. And though the period setting might seem distancing, the story of growth and the nature of home spoke directly to star Saoirse Ronan.
“As you leave home, you’re never able to take that step back,” Ronan says. “The realization that I had is that no matter what, once you have an experience that is separate from your home life and from your family and where you grew up, you will never be the same again. You will never be the person that you’d have been had you stayed.”
Sitting over hors d’oeuvres at Manhattan’s Crosby Street Hotel, Ronan is referring not only to screenwriter Nick Hornby’s script (which charts Eilis’ move to Brooklyn; her first love; and her return to Ireland upon a family member’s death), but also to her own life. When Crowley first approached her about the role several years ago, Ronan was in the midst of planning a permanent move from her parents’ house in Dublin to London. Much like Eilis’ emigration to Brooklyn, Ronan’s move to London was her unequivocal leap into independence and adulthood—one she made just before filming “Brooklyn.”
“I was scared and I felt alone and I was excited and I was doing all these things I hadn’t done before,” Ronan says, reflecting on her early days of life in London. “I was figuring out where I stood in the grown-up world. I would go through stages where I got severe bouts of homesickness, even though I was only across the pond.”
Her longing for home versus her longing for independence had a palpable influence on her performance as Eilis, the first time Ronan has played a character so close to her own experiences.
“Whenever I play a character, a huge part of it for me is to play someone whose situation and character are completely different to me in every way,” Ronan admits. But Eilis, an Irish girl living in a town just 20 minutes from Ronan’s childhood home, could hardly be kept at arm’s length. “Some of the extras that we used in the dancehall scenes I had played basketball with when I was a kid,” she says with a laugh. “To have a character that you’re playing where you’re literally running parallel to each other is so terrifying. It’s like you’re facing a mirror that’s an inch from your face and you can’t look away. I was an absolute wreck the whole time. Every second scene in the film had me in buckets.”
Her filmography since earning an Oscar nomination at the age of 13 for 2007’s “Atonement” has been varied, ranging from Joe Wright’s action film “Hanna” to Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones” to playing the sweet, marred pastry chef in Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Each one is different than the last, but no less entrancing—and the only thing those characters share with Ronan are their baby blues. So what about “Brooklyn” convinced her to play something so close to home?
“I was always very fussy when it came to what [Irish project] I was going to do first,” Ronan says. One look at Hornby’s script, however, and it was clear the ship had come sailing in. “I don’t know how he’s been able to capture our spirit so well. It’s not very often that people are really able to nail it. There’s this cadence and this very specific delivery.”
Authenticity in the way the disparate characters commingle onscreen is of particular importance for a film like “Brooklyn.” It’s a character study—a carefully paced portrait of one woman’s emotional maturity. Eilis remains the film’s primary charm, and it’s Hornby’s ability to capture her and her peers’ Irish spirit that is especially enamoring.