Soairse with co-star Lucas Hedges in the forthcoming, critically acclaimed ‘Lady Bird’ and below, at the 88th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, February 2016

Soairse Shines

9th February 2018

Tenacious, talented and wise, Saoirse Ronan has long been one of Hollywood’s most promising actresses, and if her latest slew of films are anything to go by, her star is set to continue its irrepressible rise. Karen Anne Overton tells us more…

Still only 23, Saoirse Ronan has found the role of a lifetime. Such a preposterously premature statement may seem like PR hype, but when you’re the star of the highest-rated movie ever – at least, ever since movie-monitoring website Rotten Tomatoes started aggregating critics’ reviews – there is plenty of justification for grandiose declarations. Lady Bird, the film in question, is a delightful and witty comedy that sees her play Christine McPherson, a fiercely independent teenager who has boldly rechristened herself ‘Lady Bird’. We revel in her existential angst in the course of her struggle to escape small-town ennui, serial boyfriend mishaps, and the ritual nagging of a suffocating mother. Ronan has just been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her performance.

“Lady Bird is at an important crossroads in her life and it was very interesting for me as an actor to be able to play someone going through that critical kind of moment,” she begins. “I also loved how Lady Bird was so independent and self-confident at that age (17), but she also has a lot of doubts and, like most teenagers, she’s still figuring out who she is and where she’s headed even though she has this inner certainty that she’s destined to make something of her life.”

Directed and written by actress Greta Gerwig (Maggie’s Plan, Frances Ha), this inspired coming-of-age tale is drawn from her own adolescent journey in Sacramento, California, which serves as the actual setting for the film.
Ronan not only delivers an enchantingly compelling performance, but her Lady Bird is strikingly reminiscent of Gerwig’s familiar screen persona and she intentionally mimicked her director’s speech patterns, mannerisms, and even her way of walking.

“After I began spending some time with Greta I noticed that I was starting to imitate some of her mannerisms,” Ronan says. “She has this odd way of moving her hand when she’s making a point and when she walks it’s more like someone marching. It was easy for me to pick up on all those things because she’s one of those people who have very distinct characteristics that you subconsciously adopt as your own. Greta is a bit awkward in her movements and I’m like that myself, so it wasn’t that hard to create Lady Bird’s body language.”

Having reached an extraordinary level of fame and success early in her career – twice nominated for Oscars before this year: first at the age of just 13 as Best Supporting Actress for her work in Atonement (2007) and then as Best Actress for Brooklyn (2015) – the charming Ronan knows all about the perils of adolescence. But while she revelled in her character’s complexities, she reveals that she found Lady Bird’s wild antics somewhat unrelatable. “I was never that bold!” she says with a bright laugh.

Born in the Bronx neighbourhood of New York City to Irish parents, Ronan was only three when her family returned to Ireland. She grew up in County Carlow and Dublin, where mother Monica worked as a nanny, while her father Paul remains, to this day, an actor. Having landed early parts on Irish television dramas and in low budget films, Ronan was only 12 when she auditioned for Joe Wright’s 2007 film adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement, the role that would change her life forever.

Given her experience as a young actress in Hollywood, it would hardly be surprising if, like her character in Lady Bird, she had a strained relationship with her mother, but Ronan insists that the opposite is true. “Oh, my mother and I are more like best friends. We’re still very close and she’s always been a role model for me. I have so much respect for her sense of dignity and integrity,” she says warmly. “I admire her greatly and I’ve tried to take after her. I’ve tried to bring that same kind of perspective to the way I live and how I treat people. Both my parents have taught me to be true to myself and to dedicate myself to pursuing the things that are truly meaningful to me.”

Ronan now lives alone in her own home in London, and in 2016 she spent s lot of time living in New York while performing in a Broadway production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. These all count as experiences that she rates as ‘vital’, having, by her own admission, previously led a somewhat sheltered life, travelling with her mother to work on films, usually living in hotels and never having had to worry about cooking, cleaning up or other daily tasks. “I’ve truly enjoyed London and New York, and living on my own has given me a much greater sense of independence and I’ve also become less introverted,” she says, adding defiantly, “being on your own forces you to grow up and discover life for yourself.”

Having more than cemented her place as one of Hollywood’s most talented young stars, Ronan is set to impress further in Michael Mayer’s film adaptation of Chekhov’s famed play The Seagull, along with playing the titular character Mary Queen of Scots in a film due for release later in 2018. And though it would be understandable if she wanted to take a year or two off to enjoy the more carefree aspects of one’s twenties, she appears both grounded and more determined that ever.

“I’ve known other actors who are very cynical about this profession and I never want to become like that. Of course, I also want to be able to earn money and afford a good life for my family should I ever have one,” she says thoughtfully, , “but I want to do that while I am able to put all my heart into my work, and continue acting in projects that I believe in… surely that is the dream?”

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