Saoirse Ro­nan on Tarantino, grow­ing up on set and be­ing the voice of Ar­ri­etty,

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

IT’S JULY, and like most Ir­ish 17-yearolds, Saoirse Ro­nan is kick­ing around the house. The Ro­nan homestead, tucked away in Car­low’s Mount Wosley, gives her time and space to think, she says. And to lis­ten to mu­sic: “I en­joy both. I love be­ing able to just breathe and re­lax.” Like most 17-year-olds, Saoirse Ro­nan has “com­pletely fallen in love with Bey­oncé since Glas­ton­bury and Oxy­gen” and adores Lady Gaga, even though pop is not usu­ally her thing.

“It’s all right to have a bit of a bop to,” she ex­plains. “But it’s just not rock n’ roll.” The Saoirse Ro­nan in­ter­nal juke­box in­stead draws on the clas­sics: “Love Beach House. Love the Arc­tic Mon­keys. Love Two Door Cin­ema Club. But I re­ally love oldies. I’m mad about Dark Side of the Moon and Bowie and The Smiths and Led Zep­pelin and Fleet­wood Mac.”

Like most 17-year-olds, Saoirse Ro­nan can’t wait to see the new Harry Pot­ter film. “We’re Pot­ter nuts,” she cries.

“I never re­ally got into the books, but I loved the movies.

“My friend has a birth­day next week and I promised I’d go with him; so I have to wait. It’s a tra­di­tion: we’ve gone to ev­ery Harry Pot­ter film to­gether grow­ing up. I was over in the States when it opened. And I could see it right there. We could just go in and he’d never know. But mam said I had to wait.

“There’s a few of them I wasn’t crazy about but I’ve grown up with Harry Pot­ter films. I got Harry Pot­ter toys and gifts when I was a kid. It re­ally feels like the end of an era.”

She speaks with a lovely, gush­ing en­thu­si­asm be­fit­ting a teenager. And yet Saoirse Ro­nan is not like most 17-year-olds. Saoirse Ro­nan is a movie star with more than a decade of screen time be­hind her and a list of cred­its that in­cludes The Lovely Bones,

Atone­ment, City of Em­ber and Hanna. She can only just re­call her first gig on RTÉ’s The Clinic back in 2003: “I re­mem­ber my very first day. I re­mem­ber ar­riv­ing with my mam and feel­ing quite ner­vous. There were lots of trail­ers and peo­ple buzzing about and we weren’t too sure where to go. But once the cam­eras started to roll I re­laxed. I knew it was okay to make be­lieve and just to do what I was do­ing. I’ve al­ways en­joyed it. For me, be­ing in front of a cam­era is the eas­i­est thing in the world.”

She sus­pects her ease around clap­per­boards can be traced to in­fancy. Born in New York to Mon­ica and Paul Ro­nan, Saoirse has al­ways been sur­rounded by arts and artis­tic types. Dad Paul is an ac­tor, whose screen cred­its in­clude Veron­ica Guerin and The Devil’s Own. Movie mythol­ogy has it that Brad Pitt cra­dled young Saoirse on the set of the lat­ter. “That’s me since I was alive, ba­si­cally,” she says. “Es­pe­cially when I was younger in New York. I’ve been sur­rounded by theatre ac­tors and writers and peo­ple like that. I’ve al­ways been in that kind of cre­ative en­vi­ron­ment. When dad got into film we used to visit him on set. I don’t re­ally re­mem­ber de­tails but I think a kind of fa­mil­iar­ity has stayed with me.” Her Ir­ish par­ents re­lo­cated back to Car­low in 1997 when the young­ster was three. She de­scribes her up­bring­ing as “very free and ex­pres­sive”. In this spirit, she was home-schooled fol­low­ing re­ports of bul­ly­ing from teach­ers and fel­low stu­dents. No mat­ter, she says; she has an even larger class­room at her dis­posal. “Be­ing on film sets and work­ing with so many dif­fer­ent peo­ple has been my ed­u­ca­tion,” in­sists Saoirse.

“It did pre­pare me for grow­ing up. I’ve learned so much from peo­ple like Stan­ley Tucci and Jim Gan­dolfini and Peter Weir and Peter Jack­son. I know peo­ple who are com­pletely star­tled by strange cities or new things. But I’m very com­fort­able in new cities and with new peo­ple. Do­ing this from such an early age has ac­tu­ally helped pre­pare me for any­thing.”

Hav­ing worked along­side Michelle Pfeif­fer, Cather­ine Zeta Jones, Keira Knight­ley, Bill Mur­ray and Cate Blanchett, Ms Ro­nan has fi­nally got around to voic­ing her first an­i­ma­tion. Ar­ri­etty, a gor­geous new re­work­ing of Mary Nor­ton’s The Bor­row­ers from Stu­dio Ghi­bli, the great Ja­panese an­i­ma­tion house, fea­tures the Ir­ish ac­tor in the ti­tle role.

“I’d seen Spir­ited Away which is ab­so­lutely

“[Acting is] re­ally just about hold­ing on to that very, very free imag­i­na­tion you have when you were a kid”

beau­ti­ful and My Neigh­bour To­toro,” she gushes. “I’ve al­ways loved Ja­panese an­i­ma­tion. It’s so dif­fer­ent to Pixar or Dis­ney or DreamWorks. But it’s also what I’ve grown up with. I’ve grown up with Poké­mon and I’ve al­ways loved the way Ja­panese an­i­ma­tion is so mag­i­cal and oth­er­worldly.

“I’ve never done an an­i­ma­tion be­fore and it’s some­thing I wanted to do for a while; so I was re­ally ex­cited when they asked me. I have done a lot of voice work in the roles I’ve been in­volved with in post-pro­duc­tion. And I love that sole fo­cus on the voice. I thought the an­i­ma­tion would be pretty much the same thing, but it was a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. Be­cause it’s Ja­panese orig­i­nally, you have to put an aw­ful lot of emo­tion into your voice, far more than you’d need if you were work­ing on set. It was a re­ally fun thing to do.”

She has only just wrapped on Vi­o­let & Daisy, her sec­ond teen-as­sas­sin role of 2011 fol­low­ing the $58 mil­lion-dol­lar gross­ing Hanna.

“I can re­ally see a dif­fer­ence now since

Hanna has done well,” she says. “I can see peo­ple think­ing ‘oh well, she can be a movie that makes money too’. It’s in­ter­est­ing to see how you can sud­denly be­come very busy on the back of some­thing like that. Vi­o­let &

Daisy is about teenage as­sas­sins as well. But it’s ab­so­lutely dif­fer­ent.

“Ev­ery scene was eight pages long with loads of di­a­logue that you could re­ally sink your teeth into. That’s what I want to con­tinue to do – I want to do this and then jump way over there. You don’t want to stay stuck any­where for too long.”

The se­cret of her screen suc­cess, she says, is sim­ple: “It’s re­ally just about hold­ing on to that very, very free imag­i­na­tion you have when you were a kid. When you’re four years old – you can be in a car that’s a space­ship or the sea. It can be ab­so­lutely any­thing. Acting is just re­ally about hold­ing on to that.”

De­spite her ad­her­ence to child’s play, she is grow­ing up. Her ado­les­cent lank­i­ness has now blos­somed into a slen­der grace be­fit­ting a star­let; grandiose glossy mag­a­zines have been quick to take no­tice. “I only started to do press at the time of

The Lovely Bones,” she says. “It was my first press tour and it was full on be­cause we had such high ex­pec­ta­tions for the film. It’s bet­ter now be­cause I can con­trol what I want to do. And I’m start­ing to work with fash­ion mag­a­zines, which is great as long as you feel com­fort­able in the clothes. If you don’t it’s the worst feel­ing in the world. You feel like you’re go­ing to cry. It’s not like be­ing in front of a film cam­era. You’re so vul­ner­a­ble when you’re stand­ing there hold­ing the same pose for ages and ages.”

Does she look at her own clip­pings? “No. Never. I don’t read any of it. I don’t know why. I find it re­ally weird to even hear that I’m in a news­pa­per or on TV. I wouldn’t say I avoid it. It’s just not some­thing I need to see.”

One re­cent ex­cep­tion was an es­say she wrote for the Daily Tele­graph out­lin­ing her en­thu­si­asm for the work of Quentin Tarantino. “I was asked to talk about some­thing that I’m pas­sion­ate about. I didn’t re­ally know what to talk about in such a short lit­tle ar­ti­cle. So I de­cided to pick Tarantino be­cause I ab­so­lutely do love his work. He’s so orig­i­nal and ge­nius about what he does. The di­a­logue is def­i­nitely a big part of it, but the the­atri­cal en­ergy he brings to a film is al­ways bril­liant. It’s not re­al­ity but it’s real in a fun, bizarre way. A lot of peo­ple seem to be pick­ing up on it. Which is good be­cause I would love to be in a Tarantino movie.”

Like most 17-year-olds, Saoirse Ro­nan is a big Tarantino fan. But, un­like most 17-yearolds, she might ac­tu­ally end up work­ing for him.

Saoirse Ro­nan as the voice of Ar­ri­etty (above). Be­low (from left) City of Em­ber, The Lovely Bones, Atone­ment and Hanna

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