Saoirse Ronan

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Saoirse Ronan
Saoirse Ronan at BAFTA 2016 (1) (cropped).jpg
Ronan in 2016
Born (1994-04-12) 12 April 1994 (age 27)
OccupationActress
Years active2003–present
RelativesPaul Ronan (father)
AwardsFull list

Saoirse Una Ronan (/ˈsɜːrʃə ˈnə ˈrnən/ SUR-shə OO-nə ROH-nən;[1][a] born 12 April 1994) is an Irish and American actress. Primarily noted for her roles in period dramas since adolescence,[2] she has received numerous accolades, including one Golden Globe Award and nominations for four Academy Awards, five British Academy Film Awards and four Screen Actors Guilds.

Ronan made her acting debut in 2003 on the Irish medical drama series The Clinic and had her breakthrough in the role of a precocious teenager in Joe Wright's Atonement (2007), which earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, making 13-year-old Ronan the seventh-youngest nominee in the category. She followed this with starring roles of a murdered girl seeking closure in Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones (2009) and a teenage assassin in Hanna (2011), and the supporting role of a baker in Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). She garnered critical acclaim and second Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role for playing a homesick Irish immigrant in 1950s New York in Brooklyn (2015). At age 21, it also made her the eighth-youngest Best Actress nominee. She later portrayed the eponymous high school senior in Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird (2017), and Jo March in Gerwig's Little Women (2019). She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for the last two performances, and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical for Lady Bird.

On stage, Ronan portrayed Abigail Williams in the 2016 Broadway revival of The Crucible. In the same year, she was featured by Forbes in two of their 30 Under 30 lists. In 2020, The New York Times ranked her tenth on its list of the greatest actors of the twenty-first century.[3]

Early life

Saoirse Una Ronan was born on 12 April 1994 in the Bronx borough of New York City,[4] to Irish parents Monica (née Brennan) and Paul Ronan, both from Dublin.[5] Her father worked in construction and bar work before training as an actor in New York,[6][7] and her mother worked as a nanny, but had also acted as a child.[7][8] Her parents were initially undocumented immigrants who had left Ireland due to the recession of the 1980s, and struggled economically during their time in New York.[5] The family moved back to Dublin when Ronan was three years old.[9] She was raised for a short time in Ardattin, County Carlow, where she attended Ardattin National School.[9] Her parents later had her tutored privately at home.[7] In her early teens, she was living again in Dublin with her parents, who settled in the seaside village of Howth.[4][9] She was raised Catholic, but says she questioned her faith even as a child.[10]

Career

2003–2009: Atonement and early work

Ronan made her screen debut on Irish national broadcaster RTÉ, in the 2003 prime time medical drama The Clinic and then appeared in the mini-serial Proof.[11] During the same time, Ronan auditioned to play Luna Lovegood in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, a role she eventually lost to Evanna Lynch.[12] Ronan's first film was Amy Heckerling's romantic comedy I Could Never Be Your Woman, which was filmed in 2005. It was theatrically released in a few international markets in 2007, but given a direct-to-video release in the US in 2008, after it struggled to attract financing and several deals disintegrated during its post-production.[13] In the film, Ronan portrayed the daughter of Michelle Pfeiffer's character and Paul Rudd co-starred as Pfeiffer's love interest. Joe Leydon of Variety labelled the film "desperately unfunny" but considered the interplay between Ronan and Pfeiffer's characters to be among the film's highlights.[14]

Ronan in 2008

At the age of 12, Ronan attended a casting call for Joe Wright's 2007 film adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel Atonement. She auditioned for and won the part of Briony Tallis, a 13-year-old aspiring novelist, who affects several lives by accusing her sister's lover of a crime he did not commit. She acted alongside Keira Knightley and James McAvoy. Budgeted at US$30 million, the film earned over US$129 million worldwide.[15] Ty Burr of The Boston Globe called her "remarkable [and] eccentric",[16] and Christopher Orr of The Atlantic wrote that she is "a marvel, elegantly capturing the narcissism and self-doubt that adhere to precocity".[17] Ronan was nominated for a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, becoming the seventh youngest nominee in that category.[18]

Ronan next played the daughter of an impoverished psychic (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones) in the supernatural thriller Death Defying Acts (2007) and starred as Lina Mayfleet, a heroic teenager who must save the inhabitants of an underground city named Ember in the fantasy film City of Ember (2008). Both films received a mixed critical reception and failed at the box office.[19] In a review for the latter, the critic Stephen Holden took note of how Ronan's talents were wasted in it.[20]

In 2009, Ronan starred alongside Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci in Peter Jackson's supernatural drama The Lovely Bones, an adaptation of the book of the same name by Alice Sebold. Ronan played 14-year-old Susie Salmon, who, after being raped and murdered, watches from the after-life as her family struggles to move on with their lives while she comes to terms with her quest for vengeance.[21] Ronan and her family were originally hesitant for Ronan to accept the role due to its subject matter, but agreed after Jackson assured them that the film would not feature gratuitous scenes of rape and murder.[22][23] Several sequences in the film relied on extensive special effects and much of Ronan's scenes were filmed in front of a blue screen.[23] Reviewers were critical of the film's story and message,[24] but Richard Corliss of Time believed that Ronan had successfully invested the gruesome tale with "immense gravity and grace".[25] He later considered it to be the third best performance of the year.[26] Sukhdev Sandhu of The Daily Telegraph considered Ronan to be the sole positive aspect of the production, writing that she "is simultaneously playful and solemn, youthful yet old beyond her years".[27] The film was a box office disappointment, but earned Ronan a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role nomination.[28]

2010–2014: Rising star

In Peter Weir's war drama The Way Back (2010), Ronan played the supporting part of Irena, a Polish orphan during World War II, who joins escaped Siberian convicts in a 4,000-mile (6,400 km) trek to India. It co-starred Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell and Ed Harris, and was filmed on location in Bulgaria, India and Morocco.[29] The following year, Ronan reunited with Joe Wright to play the title character in the action film Hanna, about a 15-year-old girl raised in the Arctic wilderness to be an assassin. The film co-starred Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett as Hanna's father and a villainous CIA agent, respectively. Ronan performed her own stunts and in preparation, she spent several months training in martial arts, stick fighting and knife fighting.[30] Ronan's performance and the film's action sequences were praised by critics.[31] In his review for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers termed the film "a surreal fable of blood and regret" and labelled Ronan an "acting sorceress".[32] Hanna proved to be a moderate commercial success.[33] She also voiced the lead role in the dubbed English version of Studio Ghibli's Japanese anime film Arrietty.[34] At the age of 16, Ronan was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[35]

Ronan at the premiere of Violet & Daisy (2011) at the Toronto International Film Festival

In 2011, Ronan took part in a promotion for the Irish Film Institute's Archive Preservation Fund, in which she was digitally edited into popular Irish films of the past, as well as documentary footage.[36] Ronan and Alexis Bledel played the titular assassins in Geoffrey S. Fletcher's action film Violet & Daisy (2011). Eric Goldman of IGN compared the film unfavourably to the work of Quentin Tarantino and commented that Ronan's abilities had surpassed the material.[37] Peter Jackson approached Ronan to play an elf in The Hobbit film series, but she withdrew from the project due to scheduling conflicts.[38] She was instead drawn to Neil Jordan's horror film Byzantium (2012), as the "dark, gothic and twisted" project provided her an opportunity to play a more complex and mature character. The film starred Gemma Arterton and her as mother-and-daughter vampires.[39] Writing for Radio Times, the critic Alan Jones found the film to be an "evocative fairy tale that uses vampires as a prism to comment on humanity" and considered both Arterton and Ronan to be "radiant" in it.[40] She was also honored with the Maureen O'Hara Award at the Kerry Film Festival in 2012,[41] the award is offered to women who have excelled in their chosen field in film.

In a 2013 film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's novel The Host, Ronan played the dual role of Melanie Stryder, a human rebel, and Wanderer, a parasitic alien. Critics disliked the film;[42] Manohla Dargis termed it "a brazen combination of unoriginal science-fiction themes [and] young-adult pandering", but took note of an "otherworldly aspect to [Ronan's] screen presence, partly due to her stillness and her own translucent eyes, which can suggest grave intensity or utter detachment".[43] In Kevin Macdonald's drama How I Live Now, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Meg Rosoff, Ronan played an American teenager sent to a remote farm in the United Kingdom during the outbreak of a fictional third world war. Olly Richards of Empire found Ronan to be in "typically watchable form" in it, but the film earned little at the box office.[44] In her final film release of the year, Ronan voiced a barmaid named Talia in the critically panned animated film Justin and the Knights of Valour.[45]

Ronan had two film releases in 2014 with widely diverse critical receptions—the acclaimed comedy film The Grand Budapest Hotel from the director Wes Anderson and Ryan Gosling's panned directorial debut Lost River.[46] In the former, an ensemble film headed by Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori, Ronan played the supporting part of the love interest to Revolori's character. It was the first project that she filmed without her parents accompanying her on set.[39] The film earned over $174 million on a $25 million budget and was ranked by the BBC as one of the greatest films of the century.[47] In the surrealistic fantasy film Lost River, Ronan played a mysterious young girl named Rat who owns a pet rat; Geoffrey Macnab of The Independent termed the film a "wildly self-indulgent affair" but praised Ronan's "tough but vulnerable" portrayal.[48]

2015–present: Critical recognition

Ronan at a screening of Brooklyn (2015) at the Toronto International Film Festival

After starring in Stockholm, Pennsylvania (2015), a psychological thriller about Stockholm syndrome,[49] Ronan played the lead role of Eilis Lacey, a young homesick Irishwoman in 1950s New York City, in the drama Brooklyn. Directed by John Crowley, the film is based on the novel of the same name by Colm Tóibín.[50] Ronan believed that several aspects of her character's development and journey mirrored her own.[51] The film and Ronan's performance were acclaimed;[52] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian considered it to be a "heartfelt and absorbing film" and wrote that Ronan's "calm poise anchors almost every scene and every shot".[53] Kenneth Turan of Los Angeles Times took note of the "overwhelming empathy she creates with the subtlest means, the remarkable way she's able to create achingly personal, intensely emotional sequences while seeming not to be doing very much at all."[54] Ronan received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Drama, becoming the eighth-youngest Best Actress nominee for the former.[55]

In 2016, Ronan moved to New York City to begin rehearsals for her debut appearance on Broadway, in a revival of Arthur Miller's play The Crucible.[56] She took the role of Abigail Williams, a manipulative maid responsible for the death of 150 people accused of witchcraft.[57] Based on the Salem witch trials, the play was directed by Ivo van Hove and ran for 125 performances.[58] In preparation, she read Stacy Schiff's book The Witches: Salem, 1692, and collaborated closely with van Hove to empathise with her villainous character.[59] Instead of relying on previous portrayals of Williams, Ronan played her as "more victim than victimizer".[60] Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney considered Ronan to be "icy and commanding" and Linda Winer of Newsday commented that she had played the part "with the duplicity of a malevolent surfer-girl".[61]

Ronan next voiced Marguerite Gachet in the biographical animated drama Loving Vincent (2017), and starred alongside Billy Howle as troubled newlyweds on their honeymoon in a film adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel On Chesil Beach. In a mixed review of the latter film, Kate Erbland of IndieWire felt Ronan was underutilised in it and that her performance had been overshadowed by that of Howle.[62] She then starred in Greta Gerwig's coming-of-age film Lady Bird, in which she played the titular role of Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson, a high school senior who shares a tumultuous relationship with her mother (played by Laurie Metcalf). It ranks among the best-reviewed films of all time on the review-aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.[63] Deeming Ronan's performance one of the best of the year, A. O. Scott of The New York Times wrote, "Ronan navigates each swerve in Lady Bird's story with an uncanny combination of self-confidence and discovery. She is as spontaneous and unpredictable as an actual 17-year-old ... which suggests an altogether stupefying level of craft."[64] She won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical; and received Academy Award, BAFTA and SAG nominations for Best Actress.[65]

Ronan promoting Lady Bird (2017), for which she received her third Academy Award nomination

Ronan hosted the 2 December 2017 episode of Saturday Night Live, in which one of her sketches was criticised in the media for stereotypical portrayal of Irish people,[66] and featured in the music video for Ed Sheeran's song "Galway Girl".[67] The following year, she starred in an adaptation of Anton Chekhov's play The Seagull, in which she played Nina, an aspiring actress.[68] In a mixed review of the film, Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post praised Ronan's performance, writing that she "makes for an incandescent Nina, especially in her loopy final-act speech".[69] She then starred as Mary Stuart in the period drama Mary Queen of Scots, co-starring Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I of England.[70] To maintain the distance between their characters, Ronan and Robbie did not interact with one another until filming their climactic encounter.[71] Critic Todd McCarthy praised both actresses' performances and credited Ronan for "carr[ying] the film with fiercely individualistic spirit".[72]

After becoming aware of a forthcoming adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's novel Little Women, scripted and directed by Greta Gerwig, Ronan campaigned to play the lead role of Jo March, an aspiring author in the American Civil War era.[73] In preparation, she read Marmee & Louisa, a biography about Alcott and her mother; the cast rehearsed the script for two weeks, and filming took place on location in Concord, Massachusetts.[74] Little Women was released in 2019 to critical acclaim.[75] Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair took note of how well she portrayed the character "in all her conflicted loyalty, the struggle between her familial contentment and her yearning for something more."[76] The film grossed over $218 million to emerge as Ronan's highest-grossing release.[77] Once again, she earned Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress in a Leading Role.[78] At 25 years and six months of age, Ronan is the second youngest person to accrue four Academy Award nominations, behind only American actress Jennifer Lawrence.[79]

In 2020, Ronan portrayed the geologist Charlotte Murchison opposite Kate Winslet's Mary Anning in Francis Lee's Ammonite, a drama about a romantic relationship between the two women in the 1840s. The two actresses collaborated closely on the project, and they choreographed their own sex scenes.[80] Steve Pond of TheWrap considered it to be "the most mature performance of [Ronan's] remarkable career".[81]

Upcoming projects

Ronan will next reunite with Wes Anderson in the ensemble film The French Dispatch, about American journalists in France.[82] In November 2020, it was announced by Ronan was attached to star as a Constable Stalker alongside Sam Rockwell as an inspector who solve a murder surrounding a Hollywood production in 1950s London. The film is yet to be titled, and also is set to star David Oyelowo and Adrien Brody.[83][84]

In 2021, it was announced that Ronan would return to the theatre, this time making her stage debut in the United Kingdom, performing in a revival of The Tragedy of Macbeth playing Lady Macbeth opposite James McArdle. She is set to perform at London’s Almeida Theatre starting in October 2021.[85]

Personal life

Ronan holds dual Irish and American citizenship and has said, "I don't know where I am from. I'm just Irish."[86] However, she also identifies as a New Yorker.[59][87] She is close with her parents, and lived with them until age 19.[88] She has credited her mother, who accompanied her on film sets as a teenager, for protecting her from uncomfortable situations.[89][88]

Ronan continues to reside in Ireland as of January 2018, owning a home in Greystones, County Wicklow.[90] She does not use social media, finding it "too stressful".[91] She had previously joined Twitter in late 2009 due to being a fan of English comedian Stephen Fry, whose heavy usage of the site has been well documented, but soon deleted her account.[92] She said in a February 2018 interview, "I get why musicians do it, and journalists or people in the public eye. But acting is a different thing, 'cause you're not yourself when you're working. I'm not me in anything that anyone sees me in [...] and self-promotion has always made me feel really uncomfortable."[92]

Ronan is an ambassador for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.[93] She is associated with Home Sweet Home, an anti-homeless campaign, and supported the organisation's action to illegally take over an office building in Dublin to house 31 homeless families in 2016.[89][94] That same year, she was featured in a music video for Hozier's song "Cherry Wine", which brought attention to domestic violence.[95]

Media image

Erica Wagner of Harper's Bazaar has described Ronan's off-screen persona as "lively, funny, warm", while Vanessa Thorpe of The Guardian found her "unpretentious".[88][96] In 2016, she was featured by Forbes in two of their 30 Under 30 lists and in Time's Next Generation Leaders list.[97] In 2018, she was featured in Maxim's Hot 100 list and was named among the best American actors under 30 by IndieWire.[98] While reviewing Lady Bird in 2017, The New York Times critic A.O. Scott ranked Ronan as "one of the most formidable actors in movies today".[99] In 2020, she was ranked at No. 6 on The Irish Times' list of Ireland's greatest film actors of all time.[100] She was ranked one of the best-dressed women in 2018 by the fashion website Net-a-Porter.[101] Also that year, Calvin Klein appointed her and Lupita Nyong'o as the faces of Raf Simons's "Women", his first fragrance for the company.[89][102] To support sustainable fashion, she wore a dress to the 2020 Oscars that was made from the surplus fabric of the dress she wore to the BAFTAs.[103]

Acting credits

Film

† Denotes films that have not yet been released.

Year Title Role Notes
2007 I Could Never Be Your Woman Izzie Mensforth
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey Celia Hardwick
Atonement Briony Tallis (aged 13)
Death Defying Acts Benji McGarvie
2008 City of Ember Lina Mayfleet
2009 The Lovely Bones Susie Salmon
2010 Arrietty Arrietty Voice; English dub
The Way Back Irena Zielińska
2011 Hanna Hanna
Violet & Daisy Daisy
2012 Byzantium Eleanor Webb
2013 The Host Melanie Stryder / Wanderer "Wanda"
How I Live Now Daisy
Justin and the Knights of Valour Talia Voice
2014 The Grand Budapest Hotel Agatha
Muppets Most Wanted Ballet Dancer Cameo
Lost River Rat
2015 Stockholm, Pennsylvania Leia Dargon
Weepah Way for Now Emily / Narrator Voice
Brooklyn Éilis Lacey
2017 Loving Vincent Marguerite Gachet
Lady Bird Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson
On Chesil Beach Florence Ponting
2018 The Seagull Nina Zarechnaya
Mary Queen of Scots Mary, Queen of Scots
2019 Little Women Josephine "Jo" March
2020 Ammonite Charlotte Murchison
2021 The French Dispatch Film has yet to be released. TBA Completed
TBA Untitled Tom George film Film has yet to be released. Constable Stalker Post-production

Television

Year Title Role Notes
2003–04 The Clinic Rhiannon Geraghty 4 episodes
2005 Proof Orla Boland 4 episodes
2014 Robot Chicken Various Voice; 2 episodes
2017 Saturday Night Live Herself (host) Episode: "Saoirse Ronan/U2"

Theatre

Year Title Role Venue
2016 The Crucible Abigail Williams Walter Kerr Theatre, Broadway
2021 The Tragedy of Macbeth Lady Macbeth Almeida Theatre, West End

Music video

Year Title Performer(s) Album
2013 "Garden's Heart" Bat for Lashes How I Live Now
2016 "Cherry Wine" Hozier Hozier
2017 "Galway Girl" Ed Sheeran ÷

Awards and nominations

See also

Notes

  1. ^ The standard Irish pronunciation is [ˈsˠiːɾʲʃə], in English approximately /ˈsɪərʃə/ SEER-shə.

References

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