Saoirse Ronan was an Oscar nominee at 13 for her role as the young sister in "Atonement" who, through a misunderstanding, ruins the lives of others. At 21 the Irish actress has been nominated again, for her work in "Brooklyn," in which she plays an Irish woman on the cusp of adulthood, of discovering who she is and where she belongs — much like Ronan's experiences. Here is an excerpt from her video conversation with The Envelope about the film directed by John Crowley with a screenplay from Nick Hornby.
So do you have strong memories of being at the Oscars?
I remember being starving at the Oscars because you don't eat, you know, for like four hours. I know now you eat before you go to these things.
Unless it's Ellen DeGeneres' year where she brought the pizza out.
But it wasn't Ellen's year. Jon Stewart was hosting and he did bring around, like, a big bucket of licorice in the commercial break, which was lovely. But only like the first three rows got the licorice and everyone else had to starve, so. And we were knackered — we were on New Zealand time. And the next day I went back to New Zealand and I was shooting the murder scene in "The Lovely Bones" with Stanley Tucci, so it was like back down into a hole [laughs]. After being at the Oscars, I went into a hole in New Zealand with Stanley and was murdered the next day.
Lovely. So, let's talk about "Brooklyn." Do you want to tell us a little bit about it?
"Brooklyn" is based on a Colm Tóibín novel by the same name. It's set in the early '50s. And it's about this girl who moves over from Ireland to Brooklyn, New York. It's simply about somebody's life and what they go through in the space of about two years, and the experience that I think everyone has when they leave home, which is sort of a sense of loss and a sort of grief that starts to kick in when she kind of has to create this life for herself. And we really start to see her become a woman, become her own person.
She's 22 but still very young in a world of adults — did you draw any parallels there?
Not with work, funnily enough, because I did have my mom with me wherever I went. And I was very lucky because of her, and because of the people that I worked with, I never lost touch with childhood. It was really when I moved away from home myself and I had my first real kind of personal life experiences that was separate from work. I needed to move to a different place to be a 19-year-old and be anonymous and be silly and do all that. Also I was very wary of becoming a kid who had grown up in this type of industry where so often everything's kind of done for you.
If you want your laundry cleaned, someone else will do it for you. Your food is made for you every day when you go into work. You're picked up at a time that's given to you by someone else. And so you don't really have to think about any of those aspects of, you know, grown-up life. So I felt it was really important to do all that, even though I do hate bills and I hate changing my bedcovers and I hate washing clothes. And I had gone through that after I had signed up to the film. So I was really homesick when we made the film.
So you must relate to Eilis a lot?
I do, yeah. When you're homesick and you are given a piece of material like that, that just captures that feeling so brilliantly in the way that Nick did, it really hits you. Sometimes I had to leave set because I was very overwhelmed.
What was the most important thing for you?
It was very important to get it right for a lot of people. And I've never felt that pressure before. This was for Ireland. This was for my mom and dad. And I know if I was an audience member who had just left home and I went to see "Brooklyn" and it didn't quite capture that experience — I wanted people to feel like we understood. And I think that's why it affected me so much.