BYZANTIUM, director Neil Jordan’s new investigation into vampirism that has its U.S. premiere tonight at the Tribeca Film Festival, marks the first horror role for the gifted young actress Saoirse Ronan. Read on for a few words with her about that movie and her upcoming fantasy/thriller HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER.
In BYZANTIUM, scripted by Moira Buffini from her play A VAMPIRE STORY (see Tribeca screening details here), Ronan plays Eleanor, who’s been drinking blood in the guise of a teenager for two centuries, traveling with her mother Clara (HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS’ Gemma Arterton). When the two arrive in a picturesque seaside village, Eleanor’s long-growing doubts about her existence come to the fore, especially when she meets sickly local waiter Frank (ANTIVIRAL’s Caleb Landry Jones), who offers her the possibility of saving a life rather than taking one. Speaking exclusively to Fango, Ronan has fond memories of performing opposite her co-stars.
“Caleb’s a very, very interesting actor,” she tells us. “He really immerses himself in a role, and I’ve heard from other people he’s worked with as well that he’s always very involved in what he does. He’s so soulful in some ways; he’s very interesting to watch when you’re working with him. And Gemma’s just great. I did pretty much everything in BYZANTIUM with her, and we just had a laugh, really, and got on very well from the start. We have great scenes together. There are times between Eleanor and Clara where it’s quite tender—very much a mother/daughter relationship. But then there are others where it’s more sisterly, and they’re like cats at each other; they’re a bit bitchier. So it was lovely to get to do those kinds of things with Gemma, and she’s such a terrific actress. It was also nice, actually, to see her play a mother, because she’s only 27 but very much a woman, so she’s quite maternal, and certainly was with me.”
Having previously ventured into less grisly realms of the fantastic in CITY OF EMBER and THE HOST, Ronan is poised to enter another via HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER. The writing/directing debut of actor Ryan Gosling, MONSTER also features Christina Hendricks, Eva Mendes, Matt Smith and Ben Mendelsohn, and begins shooting shortly. “It deals with an underwater town, and that ties into the story and the struggles of each of the characters,” Ronan says. “It’s about how they live in this dilapidated place—it’s a sort of Detroit-type environment, which is where we’re going to shoot—and how they’ve mentally survived through it. Bones, the main character, just wants to get out of there, but he has a mother and younger brother and has to deal with all that stuff. It’s very, very interesting—it’s cool and dark and a little bit twisted as well. Every character is going to be fascinating to watch.”
BYZANTIUM hits general release (select theaters and VOD) June 28 from IFC Films; earlier that month, Ronan can be seen opposite Alexis Bledel as a hitgirl in Geoffrey Fletcher’s bloody black comedy VIOLET & DAISY. Look for a longer interview with Ronan on both films in Fango #324, on sale next month.