Interviews & Profiles

Lady Bird’s Saoirse Ronan: Coming-Of-Age

By Alec Deacon

‘‘It has always been up to me. I’ve never been in something that was decided for me.’’

It is supposed to pronounced Sairsha but can be said like Sersha or Seersha as well, clear? Well never mind close enough. Originally managed by her parents Saoirse Ronan has stated she has never felt pushed or forced into any of her roles. She is a strong independent young woman who does what she feels she needs to. Ronan is also very open about making mistakes, she has said she would rather be judged on a bad movie she chose herself, rather than one she felt contractually obligated to appear in.

American by birth, Saoirse Ronan was born in the Bronx, New York City in 1994, the only child of Irish immigrants Paul and Monica Ronan, who then moved to Dublin in Ireland when Saoirse was three years old. After small appearances on Irish television and the mostly forgotten Michelle Pfeiffer romance, I Could Never Be Your Woman, directed by Look Who’s Talking’s Amy Heckerling, Ronan had a failed audition for Luna Lovegood in Harry Potter And The order of The Phoenix. Saoirse eventually, at the tender age of 13, landed her big break as Briony Tallis in 2007’s Atonement. Ronan’s standout performance showing ability beyond her years in Atonement gave the young only just a teenager an Oscar nomination and put Ronan in a very exclusive club for young Academy Award nominees.

Next came Death Defying Acts where Saoirse played Benji the tom-boy pick-pocket daughter of psychic con-artist Mary McGarvie (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who plan to swindle the great Harry Houdini. Untimely the film was not the best and Saoirse does what she can but her character is not given time she needs to develop.

Two more family genre movies followed with Saoirse starring alongside Bill Murray, Tim Robins and Martin Landau in fantasy adventure City Of Ember and then voicing the titular character of Arrietty in an animation by the world famous Studio Ghibli. Showing she had an ability to jump between any genre with ease, was starting to get Ronan noticed but all this hard work was nearly derailed when the buzz around the adaptation of the Alice Sebold novel The Lovely Bones, by Lord Of The Rings director Peter Jackson, failed to live up to it’s hype although critics once again praised young Saorise for delivering above what was given to her in the script.

For The Way Back Ronan took on a supporting role in a true life drama of human endurance, depicting an alleged escape from a Siberian camp during World War II and the 4,000-mile walk to freedom in Nepal. Saoirse easily out acts all involved as orphaned Polish refugee Irena and saves the film from too much over the top melodrama.

Ronan took on a highly physical action thriller in 2011’s Hanna. Carrying a revenge genre piece all on her own is something spectacular to watch. What if John Wick was about 12 year old girl assassin and had layers of meaning and intrigue? What if Jason Bourne made sense? Hanna will show you.

After playing a vampire in Neil Jordan’s 2013 horror film Byzantium, Jordan, best known for making Mona Lisa and The Crying Game, had this to say about Ronan’s performance having a ”stillness”. ”When she begins to act she is so totally possessed that it’s quite spooky.”

The Host and How I Live Now followed Ronan’s Vampire drama, two stories that fitted the teen angst mold set against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic near future. Ronan is fully aware of the failing of these movies but admits she was less concerned about how they would be perceived and knew the ‘‘money men’’ cared more about the box office performance than she did.

Saoirse’s next two big screen outings of note however were a gear change once again, first playing the doomed baker-outlaw-romantic Agatha, a wide-eyed fairy tale like character in 2014’s highly acclaimed quirky Wes Anderson flick The Grand Budapest Hotel, and then in 2015, the New York-born, Ireland-raised Ronan drew on her dual roots to portray an Irish woman who emigrates to New York in the film Brooklyn, which earned Saoirse a second Best Actress Oscar nomination.

Saoirse Ronan at just 23 years of age, is already a motion picture veteran and has her sights set high, expressing to fellow child star turned actor and director, Jodi Foster that she would be interested in directing one day. By way of The Muppets, an Ed Sheeran video and a Broadway production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, she has built up a huge portfolio of talent from 13 years of credits acting alongside many big stars in Hollywood and starring in movies by established directors.

Saoirse’s latest release Lady Bird, from director Greta Gerwing, has given Ronan her third Academy Award nomination for Best Actress and with good reason. Utilizing her talents of, but not limited to, both act with just a look from her eyes, or go completely physical without missing a beat, juxtaposed with her deft ability to appear young, innocent, mature and worldly wise all at the same time.

Lady Bird plays like a bookend to Saoirse Ronan’s last 10 years growing up on screen, a semi-auto biographical love letter to her coming-of-age that began with Atonement and a little girl that is very good at telling stories.

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