Irish Daily Mail
Hozier? That’s for me to know
Saoirse Ronan talks openly about her parents and career, but ask her about her love life and she blushes
SAOIRSE Ronan’s choice of acting roles would generally give you the impression she must be a very dour individual indeed. From the Lovely Bones to Atonement to Mary Queen of Scots, it is a very rare thing to see her play a light, carefree individual. But Saoirse in person is all jokes and smart comments and couldn’t be more remote from the very dark characters she so often portrays.
The 23-year-old Carlow-reared actress seems extra chipper this morning at the Four Seasons, dressed in short white shorts and jacket by Erdun. She is full of gas and positivity. Currently playing a stroppy teenager in Greta Gerwig’s movie Lady Bird, about which there is nothing but lavish praise, it’s a rare chance to see Saoirse being more like a regular young person, having endless fights with her mother which are then forgotten an instant later.
Having been chaperoned on set by both of her parents since she started working on The Clinic in 2003, she really wants you to know that she’s best friends with her parents and was never bothersome in the way her on-screen character Lady Bird is.
‘I’m very close to my parents. The relationship between a mother and daughter can be complicated and I know people who’ve gone through fraught ones with theirs and it can make or break a person,’ she says. ‘I’m ridiculously close to my mom and always have been. She’s coming out here to me in LA next week. It’s selfish to say, but we’ve gotten closer as we’ve gotten older.’
Choosing her very rare name, which probably still requires an explanation and pronunciation guide on a daily basis, was also one of her parents’ wise decisions. She used to hate the name, but not any more.
‘Not many people have suggested I change it, but if anyone does, I put them down straight away! I didn’t love my name when I was younger, because it was just different and nobody else had it and nobody could spell it and nobody could pronounce it. But now, I like that nobody has that name. It’s also a bit of a stage name just because no-one has it. But I’ve never thought about a change. It’s a bit more common now, but really it’s only become a name in the last 40 years.’
Although she works nearly constantly, she still thinks of Ireland as home and tells me she lives there, although she was only there twice this year. The family home is still in Carlow and her close friends are the ones she’s had since school.
‘I grew up in the countryside in Carlow and I always gravitate back there. I feel most at home in the countryside generally, whether it’s Ireland or Scotland. The serenity you get in places like.
‘My best friend growing up was a boy and I’ve always felt comfortable around boys. I didn’t date or anything when I was a kid, but then I started working early, so I didn’t necessarily have a chance.’
Speaking of dating, I can’t get her to confirm if she’s dating Hozier but by the way she blushes and quickly changes the subject, I’m inclined to guess there must be something to the rumour. ‘That’s for me to know!’ The only music-related thing she mentions is the music video she did in the Spring with Ed Sheeran for Galway Girl.
‘It was great doing the video with Ed. It was actually around the time of my birthday (April 12), so we were shooting as I turned 23 in Galway. And of course all of Galway came out and just followed us around the city as we shot the video. He’s brilliant and again, he’s one of those people that’s very grounded and knows what’s important and he’s a very hard worker.’
Saoirse has made a massive total of 23 movies so far and the Hollywood and Broadway roles keep coming. She’s playing the lead in the new Mary Queen of Scots, which is due for release next year, as well as in a film adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull. She’s out doing her part for Lady Bird right now, showing up on the late night talk shows, hosting Saturday Night Live and the like and doing what she can to get people to support the movie. She’s frequently compared to Meryl Streep for her range and her talent and she tells me about meeting her for the first time when she was least prepared.
‘It’s so funny. Last year, I was doing a play in New York, The Crucible and we held the opening night on a Thursday. Nobody had been drinking or going out or anything – we were all very good. Then we had opening night, followed by a big party and we all went out and had a good few drinks. We were well behaved. And then we went in the next day and we were doing a matinee and we were all backstage and everyone was just tired and noone felt like they were on their game. Someone says for a joke, “we’re all a bit rusty, let’s hope Meryl Streep isn’t in the house!”
‘So we do the performance, and it’s fine, it’s not our best and we’re going, thank God Meryl wasn’t here. We go downstairs and we’re backstage and who’s the first person I see, only Meryl Streep and she’s waiting to meet us all! She came to the first show after we’d finished the previews. But she seemed to like us.
‘She’s made a huge difference for females in our industry, especially actors, with the roles she’s taken on. I think her and Cate Blanchett have taken on roles that transcend gender and they’re strong and wellrounded people and that’s something I would always want to live by. I’ve only ever been interested in playing characters that are interesting people, regardless of what gender they are.
‘So, it’s always amazing for me to be compared to someone like that.’
Like many an actor, Saoirse has
We say: ‘thank God Meryl wasn’t here’ and we go backstage and who’s the first person we see?
been learning a lot on set and has her sights set on writing and directing her own work in the future.
‘I’ve lived in lots of different places like New York and London and I’m lucky that I have lots of friends. I’ve always wanted to direct and I probably consciously wanted to do that before acting.
‘I think watching Greta Gerwig, I see how she transitioned from acting and I feel ‘yes, it can be done’. It’s still not the environment to be a female in power. It’s still not the norm, but it’s great for younger people to look at her and see that it can be done too.
‘I have friends I’d want to work with and another friend of mine is getting in to producing, so I’d want it to be with people who I trust and who are actually friends. Obviously it’s still work, but I’d like to make it less businesslike and more like a group of friends coming together to help each other. I have so many friends, so I won’t be hard pushed to find someone to work with.’
Saoirse has been wowing fashion commentators worldwide with her red carpet choices for the Lady Bird premiere, but she admits that finding a style that suits her wasn’t always easy. In fact, she even found that the style she liked least actually really works for her — thanks to her stylist Elizabeth Saltzman.
‘Do I obey? We work together,’ she laughs. ‘She’s great, real clever. When I started to work with her I said, I don’t wear pink, I don’t wear sparkles, I don’t wear flowers,
‘I don’t wear anything floral, nothing girly. And she was like, “ok, can you just try on this pink, sequined, flowery dress please?” And it looked amazing.
‘And actually I hadn’t fully appreciated how much good clothes can give you confidence. When she put me in all this stuff I definitely started to feel it a bit more.’
Her red carpet and chat show persona is often a very far cry from some of the dark roles that she plays, but she believes that one complements the other.
‘It’s great actually to get a chance to do that now,’ she says of playing less upbeat characters. ‘It’s something that’s scary, like in the way for comedians, comedy is their outlet and they’ve got a directness to them.
‘I think it’s the same with a lot of people who do drama, they’re actually quite light-hearted. They need to go to the other side of the coin in order to stay creative and satisfied. But it was really good to do this just because I hadn’t really done that before.
‘It’s a different mindset to be in. I think I’m so used to having to think in quite a serious way, even with something like Mary Queen of Scots – it’s a serious film but there’s moments in it that are much lighter and it’s always nice to have a bit of both.’
As her star continues to rise, it’s hard to see directors of any kind of role disagreeing.