“The cer­e­mony is about three hours and the red car­pet seems to last about two hours. So, that’s all very drain­ing But it’s re­ally ex­cit­ing. To meet all those stars is great. It ends up feel­ing quite sur­real”

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story -

world, her dad, Paul, was sup­ple­ment­ing his act­ing gigs with shifts as a bar­man and construction worker. They had re­cently moved to New York, but, as the Ir­ish econ­omy be­gan to im­prove, elected to go home. The fam­ily now live in Car­low (though Ro­nan’s own ac­cent has dis­tinct hints of Dublin).

We in­stinc­tively, un­fairly as­sume that all child ac­tors are driven into the busi­ness by dis­ap­pointed, club-wield­ing par­ents. Ro­nan does a good job of dis­man­tling those pre­con­cep­tions. “Mam and dad aren’t pushy at all,” she says. “Dad is an ac­tor and he

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ca­su­ally said to his Ir­ish agent when I was younger: ‘See if you can put her up for a few things.’ When I was still very young, I got a part in The Clinic and then in Proof. I some­how got Atone­ment and it then took off.”

Ro­nan’s as­sur­ance in Joe Wright’s adap­tion of Ian McEwan’s novel was ex­traor­di­nary. She had a still­ness and a firm­ness that spoke of to­tal im­mer­sion in the char­ac­ter. Where did that come from?

“I think it de­pends on the char­ac­ter; whether you get her straight away,” she says. “With Briony I just got her like that. And it’s funny. I’m not like her at all. But for some rea­son, I got her. With Susie, I didn’t re­ally know what to do at first, and as I went along I dis­cov­ered the char­ac­ter. I hadn’t read the book – I was just 13 when we started – but by the end I was the char­ac­ter. It was a jour­ney.”

There are down­sides to fame. In a re­cent Guardian in­ter­view – some de­tails of which had to be re­tracted fol­low­ing calls from m’learned friends – she ad­mit­ted that, fol­low­ing her brush with fame, school stopped be­ing much fun. “When your school­mates recog­nise you be­fore they’ve met you, and the teach­ers do, too, it can make things very awk­ward and dif­fi­cult,” she said.

She is now taught at home, but, the mod­ern world be­ing what it is, bul­lies and jeal­ous nut­ters must still man­age to whis­per the odd word in her ear? No class of ac­tor re­ceives larger amounts of snip­ing on cy­berspace than does the fe­male teenager. A fa­mous near-con­tem­po­rary of Saoirse’s (no names) has, ac­cord­ing to posters on the In­ter­net Movie Data­base (IMDb), been preg­nant by an­other teen star for about three years.

“Yeah, I read that too,” she says with a dis­gusted laugh. “There’s an­other friend of mine who they also said that about.”

So, does she man­age to avoid the temp­ta­tion to google her­self? Even plumbers, solic­i­tors and har­bour­mas­ters will find rude stuff about them­selves if they look hard enough. (“He calls that a U-bend! What a fraud!”) Lord knows what it must be like as a teenage ac­tor

“I have been fool­ish a few times and looked it up,” she says. “But, yeah, I try my best to avoid it – es­pe­cially things like IMDb. An aw­ful lot of the time peo­ple are jeal­ous. Then again, maybe they just don’t like me. But they say very mean things. Now, I know it would be a lot worse be­ing some­one like Mi­ley Cyrus, who re­ally at­tracts that aw­ful stuff, but I do get some nasty stuff. I’ll see some­thing nice and think: that’s great. Then a few days later, I’ll see some­one say­ing I’m not pretty or what­ever. That’s not fair. Ex­press your opin­ion, but don’t post it on the in­ter­net. Don’t be mean.”

Still, Saoirse Ro­nan is sen­si­ble enough to recog­nise that there are many more ups than downs to her cur­rent po­si­tion. Two years ago, she even got to storm up the red car­pet as an Os­car nom­i­nee. She was ul­ti­mately beaten to the Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tress gong by Tilda Swin­ton for her per­for­mance in Michael Clay­ton, but it must have been a head­spin­ning ex­pe­ri­ence for a young girl.

“I’ll tell you what’s sur­pris­ing. It’s re­ally, re­ally long. The cer­e­mony is about three hours and the red car­pet seems to last about two hours. So, that’s all very drain­ing. But it’s re­ally ex­cit­ing. To meet all those stars is great. It ends up feel­ing quite sur­real.” And she has to pick a dress, of course. “That is re­ally, re­ally stress­ful. I was al­ready work­ing on The Lovely Bones and I didn’t re­ally have any ex­pe­ri­ence. I was forced to or­gan­ise a dress with a stylist, but, if that hap­pens again, I will have more ex­pe­ri­ence.”

It al­most cer­tainly will hap­pen again, but, alas, not this year. Since the in­ter­view, The Lovely Bones has opened to dis­tinctly iffy re­views and some­what un­der­whelm­ing box­of­fice in the US. The crit­ics were gen­er­ally ap­pre­cia­tive of Ro­nan’s per­for­mance, but, when the Os­car nom­i­na­tions were an­nounced last week, her name was not on the list.

Yes, it can be a tough old busi­ness. Ro­nan spent a good six months of her life shoot­ing The Lovely Bones in Jack­son’s home coun­try of New Zealand. In­deed, for a large part of the last three years, she has oc­cu­pied car­a­vans in odd parts of the world. Re­cently, she was in Bul­garia shoot­ing The Way Back with di­rec­tor Peter Weir, and will soon be­gin work play­ing a teen as­sas­sin in Joe Wright’s Hanna. That will un­doubt­edly in­volve an­other jaunt. She must get a lit­tle home­sick.

“Well it de­pends where you are,” she says. “When I was in New Zealand, it was the far­thest I had been from home. It’s the far­thest you can get from Ire­land. But it felt like home. Peo­ple are just so sim­i­lar. I loved it there. Then I went to Bul­garia and Morocco, and I was very home­sick. It’s funny how that works.”

Ro­nan re­ally does come across as an in­trigu­ing amal­gam. One mo­ment she is bounc­ing round the room, act­ing out Peter Jack­son’s di­rect­ing style; the next she is calmly ex­plain­ing the in­tri­ca­cies of dis­cov­er­ing a char­ac­ter’s in­ner mo­ti­va­tions. Which Saoirse re­veals her­self when she’s at home: the teen or the thes­pian?

“Oh I like be­ing with my friends and play­ing with my dog when I’m at home. I like be­ing out­side. The usual stuff.”

A per­fectly nor­mal, Os­car-nom­i­nated teen movie star then.

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