Saoirse ronan: ‘i can go anywhere

Saoirse Ronan is describing the aftermath of her first acting job. “I went inkhổng lồ this melancholic state for a few weeks,” she tells me. “I remember sitting on the bed with Mam next to lớn me, and I was like: ‘I’m never going lớn have that experience again.’ ” The community that had come together on set and developed real bonds had now permanently dispersed. “It was that thought: That exact crew will never work together again. Never.” The project was an Irish television drama called The Clinic. When she appeared on it, Ronan was nine years old.

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Now 24, Ronan has come khổng lồ meet me in a coastal Irish town on a sunny afternoon in May. Irel& is facing a referendum to repeal its ban on abortion, và lurid posters of fetuses are everywhere. Ronan recently appeared in a video supporting the reproductive sầu rights campaign—a long-growing grassroots movement that finally succeeded in pressuring the government to hold a referendum—và everyone is talking about it. In the café where we piông xã up lunch, we fall into conversation with our hệ thống about the upcoming vote.

Like me, Ronan was born in the 1990s và grew up in Irelvà at a time of rapid social change. The dominance of the Catholic Church over state institutions was beginning lớn fall away, homosexuality was decriminalized, divorce became legal, và contraception was made widely available for the first time. In năm ngoái, when Ronan was 21, the Irish electorate affirmed the right khổng lồ same-sex marriage with a 62 percent majority. She remembers that day—“driving through north Dublin, và everyone had the flags out,” she says. “They were having street parties. It felt as though we had moved inkhổng lồ a new stage. It was like we had woken up.”

I ask if Ronan ever worried about facing a backlash for speaking her mind on abortion, long considered a particularly divisive sầu issue in Ireland. “I just felt like that wasn’t important,” she says. “I know people who had to travel abroad in order to lớn get an abortion, & that’s when I knew I would speak out.” But Ronan doesn’t engage only with policy concerns that touch her life directly. She also voiced her tư vấn in năm 2016 for the illegal takeover of an empty building in Dublin’s thành phố center to lớn accommodate the homeless; & she takes the time to lớn recommend me Jeff Chang’s We Gon’ Be Alright, a book of essays on racial resegregation in the U.S. “I wouldn’t say I grew up politically minded,” she tells me, “but the older I get, the more in touch I am with what activists are doing—& the more I want lớn help them.”

(Just two weeks later, Ireland’s abortion ban will be repealed by a landslide. When I speak khổng lồ her after the referendum, Ronan describes the elation she felt as the results were coming in. She was “so proud,” she says, “khổng lồ see family & friends, và people I wouldn’t have sầu expected lớn vote yes, choose khổng lồ give Irishwomen their rights.”)

But all that is still ahead of us as we walk through the small town outside Dublin that Ronan moved to lớn from London. “Irelvà is smaller than England, and I love it for that. I missed this,” she says, gesturing at the water và the sweep of coastline. Though she also lived in Dublin for a time, she grew up mainly in County Carlow, in southeastern Irel&, surrounded by countryside. “That never leaves you,” she says as we walk toward the seafront. “I feel most at home page và at peace when I’m in the country. Though I like being in London too,” she adds. “There’s an anonymity. You can disappear into the human flow.”

Not so here. A passerby stops us & asks Ronan for a photograph. She obliges, smiling, và the stranger thanks her. For a moment I’m a little surprised that Ronan has been recognized: Her face is largely hidden by a pair of mirrored sunglasses, and she seems much smaller than she appears in her films. I volunteer to lớn take the pholớn, và on the phone’s screen—framed against the saturated blue of sky—she looks more like herself, or more like the version of her I know.

When we sit down, on a stone bench overlooking the coast, she confesses how strange she finds these experiences: “I still get completely shocked that anyone knows who I am.” I ask if she would prefer lớn vì what she does without having lớn be famous. “Yeah, I would,” she replies. “But I’m not . . . famous.” I probe a little và, lớn clarify, she responds, “I just genuinely don’t think I am.” She pauses. “Selena Gomez is famous.”

Behind us, families with small dogs make their way to lớn và from the town center, & before us, yachts bob and settle in the waves. If Ronan really is impervious lớn her own celebrity, it might be because she doesn’t monitor her own press coverage. “If you’re not aware of how often you’re in a newspaper, then it’s lượt thích it’s not really happening,” she says. In her limited không tính tiền time, she prefers to cook, hear live sầu music, or go khổng lồ the movies. (Tully was a truly “brave sầu film,” she tells me; “anything Luca Guadagnino makes, I fall in love sầu with.”) I find it hard to lớn believe sầu that anyone, especially at the age of 24, could be so uninterested in her own public image. Isn’t she curious? “I just get so anxious whenever I watch anything that I’m in,” she tells me. I ask what kind of anxiety she means. “I’m fine with the way I look now,” she responds carefully. “But I wouldn’t necessarily be looking at photographs of myself all day. I don’t want khổng lồ become too consumed by the image of myself.”

Ronan earned her first Oscar nomination at age thirteen, for a disconcertingly intelligent performance in Joe Wright’s adaptation of Ian McEwan’s Atonement. In 2015 she was the heart of John Crowley’s Brooklyn, based on the novel by Colm Tóibín, và she won a Golden Globe this year in the title role of Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. Though she did not take trang chính an Osoto for that performance, her pale pink ankle-length sheath by Calvin Klein was a hit. (Along with Lupita Nyong’o, Ronan is one of the faces of Raf Simons’s first fragrance for the house, Women.)

More recently, she’s played a young bride in Dominic Cooke’s On Chesil Beach (another McEwan adaptation) và Nina in Michael Mayer’s screen version of The Seagull. Though she’s constructed an impressive career without a supernhân vật franchise perpetually screening at the multiplex, she isn’t utterly opposed lớn such a role. “I mean, I haven’t been offered any!” she says, laughing. “If a script came along that was strong, interesting, original, I would take it. A good script is a good script.” Her next film is one such: She plays Mary, Queen of Scots, in Josie Rourke’s biopic of the sixteenth-century monarch, out this December.

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Gradually the wind grows cold and clouds draw a trắng film over the horizon. Ronan suggests we walk baông xã lớn her place for tea. On the way, she tells me how protective sầu she’s become toward young people in her industry—people lượt thích “Timmy,” the actor Timothée Chalamet, the star of Guadagnino’s hotline Me by Your Name, who also appeared in Lady Bird & is roughly one year her junior. I point out that Ronan herself is still young. “I know,” she says, catching herself. “I’ll talk about other people like that.” It’s not just that she sees herself as an industry veteran. “I’ve never felt young,” she tells me. At thirteen, she worked alongside the actor Guy Pearce on a movie called Death Defying Acts; when they were reunited on Mary Queen of Scots he told her, “You’re the same as you were when you were thirteen.” Other colleagues & friends agree. Margot Robbie, who plays Elizabeth I in Mary Queen of Scots, describes her as “beyond her years”; Tóibín tells me she is “very, very sensible—she’s got an old head, an old soul.”

As we reach the house, phối baông chồng from a quiet residential street by a sweeping driveway, her dog, Fran, springs forward to lớn greet us. Ronan introduces me to lớn the Westie-retriever mix as if lớn a charming friend. “Will you give sầu Sally the paw?” she asks. Fran presents me with her paw. “She’s a genius,” Ronan says admiringly, “an absolute genius.” While her mother, Monica, kindly brings us tea & biscuits, Ronan tells me about her early career. Her father, Paul, an actor with experience in both TV và film, had noticed that his daughter loved being on camera and started khổng lồ put her forward for roles. With the success of Atonement, Ronan left school and began to lớn juggle trang chính tutoring with an intense work schedule.

Throughout Ronan’s teens, her parents—most often her mother—accompanied her to work. Though she speaks of the film industry with love sầu & insists she has never been the victim of exploitation, she can still rethành viên uncomfortable experiences. A director once pushed a particularly sensitive sầu scene, taking advantage of Ronan’s youth and willingness to please. “My mam walked onto lớn the set,” she tells me. “She said, ‘You’re not doing that again unless we bản đồ out exactly when this is going lớn stop.’ I was very lucky that I had a proper protector with me.”

Ronan’s parents have been more to lớn her than just protectors, however. Home­schooling & travel meant that the actress never formed a steady peer group, as most teenagers do; in some ways, she relied on her family to lớn fill that gap. Today her deep affection for her mother is evident not only in the way she speaks of her—as a trusted guardian—but also in how difficult she found it to acclimate lớn filming without Monica by her side. “When I started working on my own,” Ronan tells me, “I didn’t have that person I could turn to and go, ‘Did they lượt thích that?’ I didn’t have sầu that safety blanket anymore.”

Ronan generally speaks of her job less as a career than as a calling. “It’s very intimate,” she says. “There are certain moments where it feels lượt thích it’s just you và the lens.” This almost private experience is connected to lớn the years she’s spent performing: “It’s something that has been a very stable, consistent thing in my life. The camera has been the thing that has stuông chồng around the longest.” Tóibín, who struchồng up a friendship with Ronan during the making of Brooklyn, points out that in her youth, “when everyone else was going lớn dances around Carlow, Saoirse was working.” Asked whether she ever feels sad or frustrated that she didn’t get a chance at a normal young adulthood, she says, “Of course when you’re a teenager you want khổng lồ belong lớn something. For me that was being on a film set, so I worked a lot.”

Listening to Ronan speak, I’m reminded of what Tóibín says about the dynamic brilliance of her technique: “She’s always working out, ‘Is there a nuance, is there a way I can now vì the opposite of what I’ve just been doing?’ ” Acting, she tells me, is partly about striving khổng lồ counteract her own assumptions: “You need lớn push yourself out of that bubble of intuition và find a different way of being honest.” On the process of making Lady Bird with Ronan, Gerwig says, “We talked & rehearsed và collaborated, and the final film belongs khổng lồ her as much as to lớn me.” Ronan credits Gerwig with encouraging her to pursue her ambition of directing. Laurie Metcalf, who played Ronan’s mother in Lady Bird, tells me that she thinks Ronan “would be extremely comfortable behind a camera. She’s got a great eye.”

After an intense run on Broadway two years ago in Ivo van Hove’s production of The Crucible, Ronan would also like lớn find time for more theater; the idea of an Irish play is especially appealing. “Theater directors in particular really come in and shape something,” she says. Playing Abigail Williams opposite Ben Whishaw’s John Proctor in more than 150 performances, she developed a deeper understanding of Arthur Miller’s drama. “Doing it for that long, the play becomes this other beast for you,” she says. “I had gotten khổng lồ know Abigail so well—she was mine every night.”

As a child star, Ronan was not expected lớn divulge details about her private life, because children are not generally thought lớn have sầu private lives. Now, she says, “I think people know not lớn ask me certain things. They’re not going to know who I’m going out with or where I live sầu. They’re not going to lớn know much about my family.” Her closest friendships appear to be with a childhood friover from Carlow named Scarlett Curtis, now a feminist writer & activist in her own right, and with Eileen O’Higgins, her costar in Brooklyn, whom she took as her date to the Golden Globes. But at times, Ronan’s work ends up taking precedence over her personal life. “When I’m working, I can’t really do anything else,” she says. “I can’t go out, I can’t meet up with anyone, I don’t read anything.” She smiles. “Someone said lớn me, ‘You’re monogamous when it comes to your work,’ và it’s so true,” she says. “You can only commit khổng lồ one thing at a time.”

When a project finishes, it’s bachồng khổng lồ the “melancholic state” she first experienced when she was nine—grieving for another community of cast & crew. “You don’t ever fully get over that,” she tells me. “You just learn to lớn cope with it.” And it takes time for a new project khổng lồ replace the last. “At the very beginning of pretty much every job I think, I’m not going to be able to lớn vị it this time. I’ve sầu forgotten how lớn bởi it.”

A week later, I meet Ronan in Dublin’s Hugh Lane Gallery, a public art collection in the city center. It’s an overcast afternoon, but inside the gallery it’s unexpectedly warm, & we quickly wriggle out of our jackets và cardigans. Ronan says she appreciates the visual arts, but she’s the type of patron who likes to take her time. “The art does take on a life, a little bit, the more you look at it.” As we make our way through the gallery, she stops in front of Maurice de Vlaminck’s Opium, a Cubist portrait of a seated woman with red-blonde hair smoking a pipe. “She looks a bit like Mary,” Ronan remarks. To inhabit the role of Mary Stuart, Ronan relied, as she often does, on an intuitive sense of connection between herself và the character. “There were so many comparisons that I could make,” she says. As both an actor and a queen, she points out, “you’ve got lớn be ‘on.’ ”

It was first announced bachồng in 2012 that Ronan would play the lead in the biopic of the Scottish monarch, who returned from France as a teenager lớn rule the country of her birth. At a time when rival royal houses competed for the English throne, Mary represented a threat lớn the reign of her cousin Elizabeth I. Mary, a Catholic, was descended from the House of Stuart, while Elizabeth, a Protestant, represented the ruling House of Tudor. Five sầu years after Ronan signed on, with theater director Josie Rourke set khổng lồ direct & Margot Robbie to play Elizabeth, filming on Mary Queen of Scots finally commenced.

The artistic director of London’s Donmar Warehouse since 2012, Rourke came on board to lớn direct her first feature principally because Ronan was involved. The two cốt truyện an interest in Mary as a historical figure: Her famous beauty, her ingenuity, her sensational fate—she was betrayed, exiled from Scotlvà, and ultimately beheaded at Elizabeth’s decree—have sầu long made her a focal point for historical narratives about femininity and leadership. The film finally came inlớn being, Rourke suggests, because of Ronan. “So many of the people who did the film did it because they wanted lớn be in proximity lớn her, as an actor,” she says. “Even as an incredibly young woman, she has that power.”

More intimate than a typical period drama, the movie becomes an unexpectedly intense, racking examination of Mary’s psychology: her impulsiveness, her defiance, the almost frightening hardness at her core. Though she endures great suffering, Ronan’s Mary seems somehow untouched by it; like a martyr, she only grows cooler, clearer, more certain. It’s a strangely convulsive movie—I felt myself trembling along with Mary as I watched. Both Ronan & Robbie tell me that they experienced the film’s final act, in which their characters meet for the first time, as a defining moment in their work.

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Its intensity made me start khổng lồ understvà Ronan’s focused, all-consuming approach khổng lồ her career; her drive sầu to shut everything else out; her restlessness when not working; her grief when a job finishes. I ask, as we reach the over of the gallery, whether she ever feels lucky to have sầu a calling. She looks away briefly, & her face changes; for a moment I wonder if I have sầu upphối her. “Yeah,” she says. “You want to be doing something in your life that wakes you up.” She rubs at her nose. “There’s something wonderful about doing the type of work that is a part of you,” she says, “because you can give it everything you’ve got. And it gives so much bachồng to lớn you as well. You become better. You become a better person.”


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