Saoirse Ronan - one of Ireland’s most prolific actresses at the age of only 19 - was awarded a special Galway Hooker award at the closing ceremony of the Galway Film Fleadh last weekend, following a public interview which earned her a standing ovation.
Nominated for an Oscar at the age of 13 for ‘Atonement’ in 2007, Ms Ronan has since won five IFTA awards for roles as diverse as ‘Hanna’, ‘The Way Back’ and ‘The Lovely Bones’ and continues to impress with her range and versatility.
Such is the demand for Ms Ronan in Hollywood that she has several major parts in films currently in post-production including Wes Anderson’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’, Ryan Gosling’s ‘How to Catch a Monster’ and Kevin Macdonald’s ‘How I Live Now’.
IFTN caught up with the talented actress at the Galway Film Fleadh on Saturday, accompanied by her father Paul, to talk about her recent roles, the state of the Irish film industry and her memories of ‘Sopranos’ star James Gandolfini.
Saoirse, thanks very much for taking the time to talk to IFTN. How important do you think the Galway Film Fleadh is for the Irish film industry?
It’s my first time at the Galway Film Fleadh but my Dad comes every year and it seems like one of the most important ones because it’s retained a very traditional festival feel. It hasn’t gotten too glamorous or become so massive that it’s more about the red carpet than anything else. I think that some festivals get too carried away with the glamour of it all. But here everyone’s in jeans and very relaxed, going around catching a few films, which is how a festival should be! I’m looking forward to chatting to other filmmakers here like Marian Quinn and all those people I really admire and look up to.
Your performance as a vampire in ‘Byzantium’ was widely praised by critics as one of the strongest parts of the film. What was the experience like working with Neil Jordan?
I really enjoyed it! I was a bit nervous at first doing anything that involved vampires or that sort of genre, because it’s been done quite a bit recently. So I was a bit worried about that until I read the script and realised how original a story it was. And also the fact that Neil had taken on a script that he hadn’t written himself really said something about Moira’s work. It was a great experience. We shot it in Dublin. We had an Irish crew. We had a fantastic cast with the likes of Gemma and Sam and Tom Hollander. And it was very exciting as well that Neil was able to put his stamp on the genre again.
One of the ways ‘Byzantium’ differentiated itself from the ‘Twilight’ films is that it focuses more on the mother-daughter relationship, which was interesting.
‘Twilight’ is more modern and definitely more of a pop-cultural type of story whereas ‘Byzantium’ was kind of going back to the traditional way of telling a vampire story. So it was lovely and really nice to do!
You have won five IFTA awards, most recently for ‘Hanna’ and your first for ‘Atonement’. What are your memories of winning that first award?
It was a massive deal! The biggest deal. It’s always nice to be nominated for any award but when it comes from your own country and it’s your own people who voted for you and it’s your home industry - it makes it a special honour. And it’s just a great time for everyone to get together and have the craic, you know! I’ve been going to the IFTAs for the last six years or so, and they always work so hard and put so much into the event itself. And they’re working throughout the year. It’s not like it’s just a two month thing!
Is there any truth to rumours that Joss Whedon has you in mind for a part in 'The Avengers 2' as the Scarlet Witch?
That’s not happening, no! I think that was just one of those little rumours floating about.
You starred in ‘Violet & Daisy’ opposite James Gandolfini, who died very recently at the age of 51 and will be sadly missed. What was he like to work with?
He was amazing - one of my favourite people to work with. He came in about three weeks into the shoot and kind of became the father of the set in a way. He really took care of all of us - especially me. I was about 15 at the time and he really took me under his wing and was a great teacher as well in the way he handles himself on set. He was so professional. It’s awful what’s happened. I think the most heartbreaking thing as well is that since ‘The Sopranos’ he’s had to really make his mark in the film world and he had really started to do that. We have the same agent and I think about the stuff he was going to do in the future. And he’d been doing theatre too. He was just one of the best actors to ever come out of America, I think. So it’s really heartbreaking that, at the peak of his career, it happened. And I think of his son as well. I met his son when we were doing ‘Violet & Daisy’ and hung out with him. He was about 11 at the time and he just adored his son.
Thanks very much for your time, Saoirse.
Photos from the IFTA lunch at the Galway Film Fleadh, featuring past winners and academy members, are now online and can be found by clicking here.