Toronto Star

BRIE VS. SAOIRSE: WILL OSCAR ACTRESS RACE SKEW YOUNG?

- By Andrea Mandell

In a year of stellar performanc­es, the spotlight is hitting two young actresses cresting toward possible Oscar nomination­s:

Room’s Brie Larson, 26, and Brooklyn’s Saoirse Ronan, 21. Both built careers in Hollywood from an early age, and now their names could be read aloud with Cate Blanchett’s on nomination­s morning. We map out what you should know about them going into awards season.

SAOIRSE RONAN (Brooklyn)

Plot: Brooklyn is a throwback romance told from the perspectiv­e of Eilis Lacey (Ronan), a young Irish woman navigating life as an immigrant in 1950s Brooklyn. A charming young plumber (Emory Cohen) rescues her from the depths of homesickne­ss, but when Eilis is called back to Ireland, she is torn between two loves. You’ve seen her before, but where? You know Ronan as the 13-year-old Oscar nominee (for supporting actress) from Atonement, the girl raised to be a human soldier in Hanna and Susie Salmon in The Lovely Bones and the lovely, iron-willed Agatha in The Grand Budapest Hotel. In her words: “To play someone whose situation was so close to mine was really terrifying,” says Ronan, who moved from Ireland to London just prior to shooting the film. She’s come far since her first Oscar nomination. “Of course, when I was a kid with Atonement, that was amazing, but I didn’t know any different,” she said. As for Oscar: “It’s at the top of the list for me as a best picture contender,” says Fandango awards chief Dave Karger. “Brooklyn tugs at the heartstrin­gs, but not in a clichéd way.” What’s next: Ronan stars in the upcoming movie adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull and will make her Broadway debut in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

BRIE LARSON (Room)

Plot: Larson tackles one of the darkest stories in this year’s Oscar race playing Joy, who has spent seven years locked in a violent man’s shed. Rape led to the birth of a son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), 5, who calls her Ma. Room begins its story in the surprising­ly sweet environmen­t Joy has created for her son. You’ve seen her before, but where? Larson has been acting since she was 9, but had critics’ full attention in her 2013 breakout Short Term 12. She’s also starred in projects like United States of Tara and The Spectacula­r Now, and played Amy Schumer’s sister in Trainwreck. In her words: “I just had to break her down into little pieces,” says Larson, who spent six months psychologi­cally preparing for Room. She talked with a trauma specialist and a nutritioni­st “about the effects of a lack of vitamin D, poor nutrition, not having a toothbrush.” As for Oscar: Karger is bullish on Room, especially when it comes to a best actress nomination. Room “could become the Whiplash of this year and really take off over the next couple of months as more and more people see it,” he says. What’s next: Larson stars with Steve Carell in Battle of the Sexes, the gang tale Free Fire and Bollywood musical Basmati Blues (all 2016), plus Kong: Skull Island.

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