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The Lovely Bones - Saoirse Ronan interview

Saoirse Ronan in The Lovely Bones

Interview by Rob Carnevale

SAOIRSE Ronan talks about playing the pivotal role of Susie Salmon in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lovely Bones and working on some difficult scenes with co-star Stanley Tucci.

She also talks about her career so far, from working with Keira Knightley on Atonement, to going back home to Ireland and getting away from the paparazzi…

Q. How do you find the right emotions to play this character, who so moves you when you watch her on-screen?
Saoirse Ronan: I don’t know. While I’m working I think a lot and with this movie I’ve had really good people around me. It’s just something that’s in me I suppose, but I’m not quite sure how to describe it. It’s like an extra soul or something that merges with my other one and brings it out.

Q. You haven’t ever gone through such pain or grief yourself, I hope?
Saoirse Ronan: No, not really. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had a couple of deaths in the past couple of years, but nobody extremely close.

Q. At what point did you realise what a big deal this film was going to be for your career?
Saoirse Ronan: I think first of all when I heard who the director was going to be, that was quite big. But I think for me I think it was probably after we made the movie because I was just focussing on getting through it and bringing Susie out into the world as best as I possibly could with Pete and Fran and Philippa. It was really when we started to do press and people started to talk about their reaction to the movie and my performance and the other actors, it’s kind of just hitting me now really, how crazy this is going to be.

Q. How did you and Stanley prepare for the shooting of the murder scene?
Saoirse Ronan: The thing about that scene was it was quite late on into the shooting process, so really from the off we were always anticipating this scene and what we were going to do with it and everything. But luckily, Stanley and I are very close, we’re friends now and we got on really well from the first time we met really. We really didn’t know each other until we started the cornfield scene, so from that moment on it could have been intense but we kept the atmosphere up and stuff. I suppose we tried different things.

Q. Was Stanley quite accessible during that scene?
Saoirse Ronan: It seemed to me as well that because Stanley is a family man himself, in between takes he would feel the need to take care of me and make sure that I was okay, which I thought was very sweet. Even though he was still in that state of mind he was able to switch from this monster to this father again, because it’s natural in him.

Q. What were the biggest physical challenges you faced in this film?
Saoirse Ronan: It was probably the scene underground. I think when you see that shot of her escaping, which is what we all want to believe has actually happened. That was quite tricky, we spent a good bit of time trying to figure out what we were going to do with the stunt team and Pete and everything. So, that took a long time, plus I actually had a cold at the time. I used to tell him all the time. So, having a cold it was a bit more difficult to completely commit myself to the physical side of that scene, because there was also so much going on emotionally as well. So, it was pretty draining, I would say, that scene.

Q. How did you deal with the dark stuff? How did you leave it behind?
Saoirse Ronan: Sometimes it was hard. When I started off it was difficult. But I think I also found it easy because it’s something that you want to leave behind in a way. There was a part of me that thought about it quite a lot and then had to switch off my brain. But that’s the way I work – in between takes, I’ll go back to my usual self unless it’s a really intense scene. I don’t want to be stuck there all the time. When I’m on film, I’m the character, but when I’m not filming I’m me and I think that’s important to go back to your own identity.

Q. Did you have to persuade your parents that it would be OK to audition for this role in the first place?
Saoirse Ronan: I didn’t have to persuade them really because I wasn’t sure either. But as parents they would have felt more strongly about knowing where they were going with the story. But we read the script and we loved it. Actually, that was after we sent the [audition] tape away. But you’re not really going to turn down the chance to audition for a Peter Jackson movie – especially if it’s the lead! So, we did the audition and if anything came after that… I know I didn’t expect to get the part. But I did and we read the script and were reassured. We then met with Pete and with Fran and everything was fine.

Q. Did making The Lovely Bones make you think more about your own mortality? And does it leave you feeling positive?
Saoirse Ronan: Yeah, when I came out from watching the movie for the first time I felt vetry positive and hopeful about the whole thing. When I had made the movie I did start to think more about the afterlife and whether our souls go some place else. I think they do. I think it makes sense for them to not just disappear. But I was hopeful and it was a strange feeling because I was sad at the same time that this life had been taken away from her. Yet, at the same time, she still had this life to help her to come through al of it. I think her spirit and her determination helped her family as well.

Q. How do you feel you have grown since Atonement and now this? How does it feel to be the centre of so much attention from the press?
Saoirse Ronan: Well, it’s a little bit nerve-wracking. More this time… because it’s about Susie. I feel like I need to get my facts straight because it was a long time ago I made the film. On the publicity side, I feel a little bit more experienced now because Atonement was my first experience of other people’s fame and photographers and questions being thrown at me. It was very daunting and scary. This time, I feel like I know what to expect a little bit more. It’s not as bad this time.

Q. Was Keira Knightley a role model in some ways… seeing how she coped with it all?
Saoirse Ronan: Yes, sort of. Keira was in Venice and I remember one time there was actually a pap[arazzi] on a boat, following her to a party or something and I thought: “God, what an awful way to live.” But people like her seem to handle it very well. I’m sure it does affect them but they don’t show it.

Q. Did you ever have to think twice about giving up your teenage years to go into an industry that’s known to be tough?
Saoirse Ronan: It didn’t at the time, no. It was a job… it still is a job and I love what I do, so I’d never give it up. I don’t think I’ve missed out on that much. Obviously, I’m going to miss out on some things because I’m away working or I’m with adults instead of with kids. So, in that way yes, you can go past that. But this is my job and I really have a passion for it. So, I don’t think I would ever be able to sacrifice that to get a couple of extra months at home.

Q. What’s been the highlight so far of the Hollywood scene?
Saoirse Ronan: I suppose… I want to branch out into filmmaking, so probably talking to directors and writers and people who are very experienced in the business and who can give me some advice. I’ve learned a little bit but I do need to know more because I want to write something. I want to direct as well. I want to do it all now! I won’t give up acting.

Q. Is it easy to go back home and regain a sense of normality after you’ve finished projects?
Saoirse Ronan: Yes, and mostly because of where I live. I live in the country in Ireland, which is so far away from the Hollywood scene. It’s the people there, the landscape… and I try as best I can to have a normal life. People recognise you, of course, and that’s very strange. But I sort of leave my working life behind when I go home. That’s my other world.