Poised on the edge of adulthood, the Irish actress Saoirse Ronan still lives at home with her parents, but is coming into her own with an Oscar nomination, films with Wes Anderson and Ryan Gosling, and a budding friendship with Patti Smith.
Through the windows of stained and frosted glass, light from the city streets streams in, dusty and mellow. Conversation swells across the paisley carpet and the worn velveteen booths. Watching over it all, as he has done for the past 40 years, is the wry, white-bearded barman, Tommy Smith, a collector of rare books. On the wood-paneled walls, a ramshackle gallery of local artists; on the stools, a mixture of old-timers and Dublin hipsters (much like the Brooklyn variety, except they get their bikes stolen more often). There’s nowhere in the world quite like Grogans, this much-loved pub. If you’re looking for out-of-work Dublin actors, people say, this is where you’ll more than likely find them.
And here, it seems, is another of their number, strolling in from the street in the middle of the afternoon, her Dublin drawl ringing out proud and lively and her vivid blue eyes lighting up as she scores us a corner booth. In her plaid shirt and skinny jeans, she could easily be one of the local hipsters, but — don’t tell the other actors — that’s actually an Oscar nominee in the corner. And don’t blame me for introducing Saoirse Ronan, Ireland’s first honest-to-goodness Hollywood ingénue, just 19 years old, and with the most flawless skin I’ve ever seen, to Dublin’s most notorious bohemian bar. This was her father’s idea.