Saoirse has recently talked to USA Today about her upcoming film, ‘Brooklyn’, in which she played her first Irish character. We have updated our photo gallery with a photo session that was releasedwith the article, and you can watch her interview below.
NEW YORK — Until Brooklyn, Saoirse Ronan had never played an Irish character in a movie. But what could seem like a major casting oversight is actually no coincidence.
“There’s a phrase back at home, when something is ‘diddly idle,’ ” says Ronan, 21, with a grin. “That’s when someone tries to do this stereotypical Irish film, where everyone’s a farmer and we’ve never seen the big city.
“We’ve done that and seen that and most of the time, it feels quite flat,” she adds. “So I was waiting for something like this to come along.”
In the 1950s-set Brooklyn (opens Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles, before expanding nationwide Nov. 25), Ronan plays a young Irish woman named Eilis Lacey whose older sister, Rose, arranges for her to move to New York in hopes of finding better opportunities. Taking a job at a department store, enrolling in night class and falling for a sweet Italian boy, Tony (Emory Cohen), Eilis overcomes homesickness and embraces her city life — that is, until she’s called back to Ireland under grave circumstances, and must choose between her two homes and suitors (Domhnall Gleeson, as Irish beau Jim, who falls for her when she returns).
Based on Colm Tóibín’s 2009 novel of the same name and adapted by Nick Hornby (Wild), the simple, earnest story is what drew Closed Circuit director John Crowley to the project (initially set to star Rooney Mara, who dropped out before he came aboard). Ronan was Crowley’s first choice for Eilis, he says, given that she’d played teens in Hanna, The Lovely Bones and Atonement (earning an Academy Award nomination for supporting actress), but “had yet to give that performance that would take her from a young adult into a proper, full adult within one performance. This is the (one) that I felt would do that.”
Coincidentally, Ronan had read the book a couple of years before she learned of the film adaptation and was drawn to Eilis’ integrity and agency as a young woman. “Even though she’s wide open to all of these experiences, she knows who she is,” Ronan says. “Eilis definitely grows, but the essence of her never changes. She’s never spoiled in any way and it’s always on her terms.”
By the time shooting started in spring 2014 in Canada and Ireland, Ronan had more in common with Eilis than she anticipated. Months prior, she decided to move out of her parents’ house in Ireland to a small flat in London, where she struggled with friends, relationships and, ultimately, homesickness.
“To play someone whose situation was so close to mine was really terrifying,” Ronan says. “It was like going to a shrink and having them tell you, ‘So this is what your situation is and what you’re feeling,’ and you being completely overcome with the truth of that. Also, I was 20 and your hormones are all over the place. You’re like, ‘What do I feel?’ and ‘What does this all mean?’ ”
It resulted in a performance of “astonishing, emotional vitality,” Crowley says — one that prognosticators at awards site GoldDerby.com think will net Ronan her second Oscar nomination, following the movie’s euphoric reception at Sundance and New York film festivals. (Brooklyn has a 100% approval rating from critics on review aggregate site RottenTomatoes.com.)
Having already navigated the awards circuit when she was just 13 for Atonement, Ronan feels less pressure as this one kicks into gear. “It was a good thing and a bad thing that that happened when I was young,” she says. “I’ve certainly been on both sides of the buzz and hype that comes with certain films, where it does work in your favor and sometimes it doesn’t.”
“It’s a fickle industry — it’s very unpredictable and I know that now. I’m glad this is happening when it is.”