In Depth

People In Film | Saoirse Ronan

Saoirse Ronan | A Precocious Talent

In Joe Wright's pulsating thriller Hanna, the eponymous teenager is no ordinary girl: brought up by her ex-spy father in the wilds of Finland, she is trained to fight, to kill, to think on her feet––and, above all, to survive at all costs. Naturally, it took an exceptional actress to play the part, and Saoirse Ronan––an experienced actress, despite celebrating her 16th birthday during the movie's production––was the perfect choice. “She has a couple of qualities that I think a great actor needs,” says one of her previous directors, Peter Jackson. “You’ve got to be ferociously smart and bright, and you also have to be incredibly brave and courageous. She reminds me of a young Cate Blanchett, actually.” Fittingly, it is Blanchett herself who plays Hanna's nemesis, Marissa Wiegler, the ruthless CIA agent out to get her.

Saoirse Ronan | An Un-Hollywood Life

Saoirse Ronan was born in New York City to Irish parents, and has expressed relief that she didn't start acting until “later”––at the age of 8––and managed to enjoy a normal childhood growing up in Ireland. Her father, Paul Ronan, who is an actor in his own right, would sometimes bring his young daughter on set with him. Indeed when he brought her to set on The Devil’s Own, the film’s star Brad Pitt would often play with her. Saoirse, however, told ONTD that she remembered other things, “unimportant things. I remember my dad's friend showing me a little spider in a box that shook its legs, and me getting scared. That, and going to Toys R Us.” For Saoirse––whose name means freedom in Irish––that early experience gave her, as she told Teen Hollywood, the freedom to feel at home making movies later on:  “It did help [in that] it didn't completely overwhelm me when I came onto a set to work for the first time, because I kind of knew what certain things were for, and what people did and stuff..” In 2003, at the age of 8, Ronan began her professional career with a small reoccurring part in the Irish TV medical drama “The Clinic,” followed by an on going role in Proof, an Irish miniseries about investigative journalists. In 2007, she landed her first film role in Amy Heckerling’s comedy ICould Never Be Your Woman. But it would be at the ripe age of 13 that she would blossom as a star.

Saoirse Ronan | Coming of Age With an Oscar Nomination

Director Joe Wright described to how, when he was casting Atonement, he’d got an audition tape from an actor, Paul Ronan, that featured his daughter Saoirse: “We watched it with due diligence and suddenly, it was like a revelation. Then I met her and was like, "Why are you putting on that weird Irish accent?" It was strange. She could just do it, playing Briony, and she's totally unlike Briony in every way. She's very sociable, she's very warm, she's very, very funny. She kind of has a strange intuitive ability to understand what the atmosphere is and what the mood is and respond accordingly to make it better.” Working with Wright on Atonement pushed Saoirse, as she later told, to step up: “I was working with some really top-class people…From that point onward I thought, ‘Maybe this should be my job. I know I can’t give it up now.’” Playing the 13-year-old Briony Tallis, a fledgling writer grappling with the consequences of her own fictions, Ronan more than held her own against such talents as Keira Knightly and James McAvoy. Ronan's exceptional acting inthe movie won rave reviews from the critics––A.O. Scott of the New York Times called her “remarkably poised” while the Chicago Tribune's Michael Philipps lauded her “scarily effective performance”––and it was no surprise when she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs.

Saoirse Ronan | A Love of Literature

Literature is a common thread that connects many of the films that Saoirse Ronan has acted in: for an actress still so young, she has appeared in more than her fair share of movies based on great books. As mentioned above, Atonement was based on the famous Ian McEwan novel, and Ronan's performance in the film drew glowing praise from McEwan, who declared, "What a remarkable young actress Saoirse is. She gives us thought processes right on-screen, even before she speaks, and conveys so much with her eyes." Since Atonement, Ronan has acted in three more notable literary adaptations: City of Ember, from the young adult adventure novel by Jeanne DuPrau; Lovely Bones, Peter Jackson's film based on Alice Sebold's bestseller; and The Way Back, Peter Weir's film version of Slawomir Rawicz's memoir, The Long Walk. Up ahead, she is due to appear in the screen adaptation of Avi's novel The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, and is rumored to be reteaming with Peter Jackson on The Hobbit, based on J.R.R. Tolkien's prequel to his Lord of the Rings books. In 2008, unabashed bookworm Saoirse gave the Focus Features website the lowdown on her favorite reads, which you can check out here.

Saoirse Ronan | A Director's Dream

It's a testament to Saoirse Ronan's incredible skill and maturity as an actress that, despite her young years, directors are clamoring to build movies around her. After their collaboration on Atonement, there was no doubt in Joe Wright's mind that he wanted to work with Saoirse Ronan again. And when it came to the prospect of making Hanna, he says that Ronan was the only actress he could have envisioned in the lead role. She, Wright says was “the real deal-breaker.” Wright continues, “If she hadn’t been involved, I’m not sure that I would have felt confident in going ahead with the film. Once I knew that she was on board then I felt, 'We can do this.' Because my safety net was, you can just put the camera on Saoirse in close-up – what she’s thinking – and that will see you through a scene.”


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