The poised, gifted Irish actress Saoirse Ronan took hold in larger public consciousness with her brilliant turn as the fanciful and tormented young fabricator Briony in Joe Wright’s excellent 2007 adaptation of Ian McEwan’s “Atonement.”
The precocious 13-year-old earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her judicious and sharp turn. She promptly launched a promising and highly unpredictable career that has shrewdly moved between intimate art house titles and larger budgeted works with leading directors such as Peter Jackson (“The Lovely Bones”), Wes Anderson (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”) and Wright (“Hanna”).
The 20-year-old actress continues to impress with two first-rate performances in two radically different works that each had world premieres at Sundance. She plays a young Irish émigré in “Brooklyn,” John Crowley’s emotionally buoyant and highly accomplished adaptation of Irish novelist Colm Tóibín’s 2009 novel of the same name.
Ronan also stars in Nikole Beckwith’s “Stockholm, Pennsylvania,” playing in the festival’s dramatic competition.
Set in 1952, “Brooklyn” explores the emotional and social repercussions of exile and loss in telling the story of Eilis Lacey (Ronan), a young woman of restricted opportunities who leaves her coastal Irish village for New York. In her expressive and highly tactile performance, Ronan suffuses the part with grace, toughness and a wounded pride as she oscillates between desire and freedom, sacrifice and hope.
In an interview, Ronan talked about her emotional connection to the material, her family’s own experiences as émigrés, her creative background and a career that shows no limitations.
You were actually born in the Bronx, but your family returned to Ireland when you were a young child. The material of “Brooklyn” must have resonated very deeply with you.
SAOIRSE RONAN: I was three and a half when we moved back. This movie is really my mother and father’s story. They made the journey over to America in the 1980s. They struggled and it was hard, and there were times they were doing well with work and there were times they were broke. My mom, Monica Ronan, worked as a nanny, and she really wanted to stick it out. She’s a very independent and strong woman. New York really made her who she was.
Saoirse Ronan speaks with a lovely lullaby accent and is up for talking about pretty much anything — how she used to think L.A. was “kind of shit,” how she doesn’t want to play the teenager who hasn’t been kissed or lost her virginity because she’s past those points in her life, and how “In America” is one of her favorite films.
But what she wants to talk about most is being Irish. Ronan had two films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, including “Brooklyn.” In the romance, she plays a young Irish immigrant who journeys to New York in the 1950s in search of a brighter future. Ronan’s character navigates her first love, homesickness and learning to fit in when she is very much an outsider. A sudden return to Ireland briefly sets her whole plan off track. The film garnered so much attention at the festival that it became one of this year’s top purchases — Fox Searchlight bought it for $9 million.
“I was waiting for the right Irish project to come along with the right Irish character,” she told HuffPost Entertainment in Park City. “I didn’t want it to be the stereotypical Irish film. I’ve been offered a few of those and I haven’t felt like they were special enough.”
The film is an adaptation of a book — something Ronan seems to gravitate toward — and was written for the screen by Nick Hornby, who is considered one of Hollywood’s best writers. Ronan credits him with making “Brooklyn” truly special. So special, in fact, that she was signed on to star a year before they even began shooting.
Ronan’s respect for Hornby is evident. “He’s an English writer and didn’t grow up in Ireland,” she said. “But he was able to capture the Irish spirit so perfectly and so beautifully. He made it nuanced and full of ease.”
“Brooklyn” is a real story that has layers to it, she said. “It wasn’t fucking set on a farm and it wasn’t about the troubles in the North. We’ve seen that; we’ve done that.”
I have added to the gallery MQ portraits of Saoirse for ‘Stockholm, Pennsylvania’ during the Sundance festival. Enjoy!
Photoshoots > 2015 > The WRAP Portraits – 2015 Sundance
I have added to the gallery 2 new gorgeous portraits of Saoirse for “Brooklyn,” at the Eddie Bauer Adventure House during the Sundance Film Festival. Enjoy!
Photoshoots > 2015 > ‘Brooklyn’ Portraits – 2015 Sundance