The first time I interviewed Saoirse Ronan she was fifteen years old and the veteran of six movies.
I had seen her in Atonement, where she played a Scottish teenager who accuses her sister’s boyfriend of a crime he didn’t commit. Next I saw her as the English daughter of a psychic who tries to con Harry Houdini in Death Defying Acts. Then came roles in the sci-fi City of Ember and The Lovely Bones both featuring flawless American accents.
I had always admired her performances and as I walked into the interview suite I congratulated her on the film.
“T’anks pure much,” she said with an Irish lilt that could charm the label off a bottle of Jameson Whiskey.
It was the first time I had heard her natural accent and confirmed what I already knew, that she was a chameleon with a propensity for accents that could give Meryl Streep a run for her money.
Since then she’s played everything from the title character in Hanna, a blonde, blue-eyed killing machine (with a German accent) to a spirited Polish orphan in The Way Back and an American girl injected with a parasitic extra-terrestrial soul in The Host.
This weekend in Brooklyn she drops the drawls to play an Irish girl who immigrates to New York in the 1950s. She’s 21 now and as one of the great faces in movies she can speak volumes with a look. Here, as a girl whose body is in Brooklyn but heart lies in Ireland, her melancholy and homesickness is so real you can reach out and touch it. Call her Little Meryl if you like, but there is no denying the power of her work.
So if you’re not familiar with Ronan, here’s Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Saoirse Ronan But Where Afraid to Ask.
How do you pronounce her name? Saoirse is an Irish or Scottish name meaning freedom roughly pronounced SEER-shə. “I get very confused about my name all the time,” she said in a recent sit-down. “Sometimes I look at it when I’m writing it down for people and I go, ‘This is actually a ridiculous spelling of a name.’”
In what part of Ireland was she born? Despite her Irish accent, she was actually born in The Bronx in 1994. “(My parents) went to New York in the ’80s. There was a really bad recession in Ireland at the time. A lot of young people went to New York because that’s our trek, that’s our journey. The Irish always go to New York or somewhere on the East Coast.” Monica Ronan and Paul Ronan lived in NY for eleven years in total, moving back to County Carlow, Ireland when Saoirse was three years old. “This film is more than just a really lovely movie to be involved in with great writers and a great character and all that. It’s my heritage.”
Can she beat me up? Probably. To play teenage assassin Hanna she studied knife fighting, stick fighting, martial arts and learned how to shoot a gun. She performed most of her own stunts in the film and says if she was ever offered the action-star role of James Bond she would happily accept. “That tux? I could totally rock it.”
That’s all the info we have space for today, but really the only thing you need to know about Ronan is that she is one of the best actors of her generation.