Saoirse (sear-shuh) ronan has a knack for saying the right thing. But that’s what these eager, fame-hardened beauties do; that’s Hollywood’s mega-machine—not a lot of room, or, in her defense, time, for candidness. So between flights at Charles de Gaulle, over a miserable connection, the Carlow-born Irish lassie speaks cordially and cleverly self-censored about her travels, her favorite Irish tea, her role in Peter Weir’s new film The Way Back, and all things air-tight for an interview, though alien to your average 17-year-old.
In The Way Back, Ronan (who’s seen the spectrum from brilliant, Oscar-winning page-to-screen adaptation, Atonement, to the cloying mess that was The Lovely Bones) plays Irena, a Russian teenage runaway who fibs her way into tagging along with a group of WWII Russian gulag-escapees. Her arrival inspires goodwill and sentimental stirrings within the trodden collective (Colin Farrell and Ed Harris included), surviving on bugs and the occasional piece of raw meat. Oddly, though, her company creates no stirring in the pants of gents who haven’t seen a female in months or years. “Irena is really a child essentially,” Ronan says, “and all the characters are very decent men, and so when she comes along she introduces this new energy and light.”
That’s funny—considering the papery, blue-eyed sexiness veiled beneath her Soviet rags. Watching, you’re ready for Colin Farrell to pounce on her. But we must consider Peter Weir (The Truman Show, Dead Poets’ Society) who like all masterful directors, made specific choices in his new film. The humanity, or decency in this case, portrayed by The Way Back reveals a redemptive vision for an unforgiving physical and political environment. The group lugs Ronan’s character across the desert while she starves, dries up, and eventually dies, all while wearing some pretty fabulous fox fur slippers.
Ronan lauds Weir’s intelligence and shares an anecdote from their relationship. “I remember one day we were in the forest and I was telling him how I might like to write and direct. I asked him, ‘How did you actually get into it? Did you go and study somewhere?’ He said, ‘I just picked up a camcorder and started shooting.’” Not exactly a crash course, but considering this young lady’s chutzpah, it may be enough to kick start grander ambitions.
More recently, Ronan wrapped a role as a cold-blooded hit girl in Hanna, filmed this past year with Cate Blanchett. Shot in several exotic locals, Ronan’s passport got a workout. She explains that bringing along her parents wherever she goes has made the process easier, especially because they pack some Barry’s Tea (Irish breakfast flavor) for the road. Noting New Zealand as a favorite destination—saying, “[It’s] a slightly more tropical version of Ireland”—and New York as her oft-traveled-to birthplace, Ronan seems pretty at ease with her constant workload and its jetlag inducing pace.
So, Miss Ronan, are there any disadvantages to working with big-name directors or making large-scale films that require such intense immersion? “No,” she says. “I’ve been so, so lucky with my directors.” And of travel, for young people, she says, “[It] really broadens your mind.” Indeed. Her maturity, if only a survival net for a girl on the brink of significant stardom, seems tailored to fit.