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The Way Back - Saoirse Ronan interview

The Way Back

Interview by Rob Carnevale

SAOIRSE Ronan talks about some of the challenges of filming The Way Back for acclaimed director Peter Weir, including getting to grips with a Polish accent and coping with food poisoning in the desert.

Q. You came six weeks into this production? Did that help inform the character given that she’s a late comer to the group as well?
Saoirse Ronan: Yeah, about six weeks in and it was something, really, that I’d never experienced before because I had always started a film with everyone else at the start of shooting. So, I was a little bit nervous about it because I didn’t know anyone either. They had gotten to know each other. But luckily, they made me feel welcome.

Q. And you did your own stunts in this movie?
Saoirse Ronan: I did! I did my own stunts in this movie. Basically, all I had to do was run across this beautiful fake ice that they had made for the scene. Was it wax? It looks amazing… it was so great. But I just threw in a few slips and falls [laughs]. It was good fun.

Q. Did you have to lose weight for the role during the course of the production?
Saoirse Ronan: To be honest, I didn’t really go on a diet or do any of those things. We didn’t really talk about doing anything like that. It wasn’t anything that was important for me. I think Irena could have looked after herself as well when it came to food. I’m sure when she came across the boys, she was starting to feel a little bit desperate. But I didn’t feel like it was something I needed to do for myself… to deprive myself of beautiful food.

Q. How was singing in Russian?
Saoirse Ronan: I worked with [dialect coach] Valentin [Ganev] a couple of weeks before we shot the scene, It’s actually quite a beautiful song. So, I would take the words and break them up phonetically as well. I’d try and find the English words that would remind me of this phonetic and that would help me. It’s always great to speak foreign languages because it’s the only chance you get really. Polish is a tough accent to do. It’s not one you hear all the time. English or American is one that we’ve all grown up with and you see it on TV every day. But Polish… we had a great dialect coach in Valentin.

Q. Was Colin someone that perhaps you looked up to in career terms as a fellow successful Irish actor?
Saoirse Ronan: Well, yeah I think everyone, being Irish, is very proud of anyone who does well in Hollywood or – as I like to call it – the film business. Colin has been very successful since he started, so we’re all really proud of him. And yes, as an actor, I would look up to him, and it was great to get the chance to work with him. He’s a lovely guy as well.

Q. What was the hardest scene for you to shoot either emotionally or physically?
Saoirse Ronan: I got food poisoning near the end of my shoot. It was one of my last days and I just felt awful. It was maybe 45 degrees, or something like that. There’s a nice shot where I’m sleep walking and I keep my eyes closed, try and figure out where I was and walk forward, and try not to bump into the camera or anything. But I had this horrific pain in my stomach the whole time. So, that was the toughest for me. But it was still a great shoot.

Read our review of The Way Back

Read our interview with Jim Sturgess