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16-year-old Saoirse Ronan is clearly one of the most well-respected actresses of her generation having been nominated for an Academy Award and picking her projects very carefully. And with the release of Hanna on the way, she is about to break out of prestige pictures for more mainstream roles.
Born in New York in 1994, the Irish actress was born to acting stock. Her father Paul had moderate success with roles in The Devil’s Own and Veronica Guerin.
Raised in County Carlow, Ronan's first screen acting appearances were on Irish television, performing in episodes of the medical drama The Clinic and the mini-series Proof (both produced by the Irish state broadcaster RTE). She quickly moved to British and American films, earning roles in The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey and Amy Heckerling’s straight-to-DVD film I Could Never Be Your Woman, with Michelle Pfeiffer and Paul Rudd, where she got to showcase her singing ability.
Ronan’s breakout role was a supporting role in Atonement, Joe Wright’s adaptation of the critically acclaimed Ian McEwan novel of the same name. Ronan plays a 13-year-old girl from a wealthy English family named Briony Tallis. Through a series of misunderstandings, Briony mistakes that her sister’s boyfriend is a sexual deviant and accuses him of being a pedophile and rapist. Ronan was one of the youngest performers to earn a Best Supporting Actress nomination and she showed some of her key traits as an actress: her ability to produce faultless accents, play natural characters and vary her performance.
Ronan quickly moved onto bigger budget Hollywood films, starting with the children’s fantasy City of Ember, an adaptation of a novel by Jeanne DuPrau. It was a film that was met with mixed reviews and disappointed at the box-office, but it was good practice for the teen towards even bigger roles.
Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones was one of the most popular and critically well-received novels in recent years and the lead role of Susie Salmon was one of the most coveted in Hollywood. Actresses like Dakota Fanning and Hailey Anne Nelson (Big Fish, Walk the Line) auditioned, but Sebold preferred an unknown actress to play Susie. Ronan impressed director Peter Jackson with an audition tape from Ireland and he decided that a further casting search was not required.
Regardless of whether you thought The Lovely Bones was a good or bad film, Ronan’s performance was universally praised, and for good reason. She was able to embody a typical 14-year-old girl who suffers the worst event imaginable and watches her family and killer from the afterlife. Ronan had to give an emotional performance, made even harder because she had to work alone for most of the film in a CGI world. She also showed her striking looks with long, curly blond hair and those piercing blue eyes. Her co-star, Susan Sarandon, thought Ronan was going to get an Academy Award nomination and I personally think she deserved one. She at least earned herself a Best Performance by a Younger Actor Saturn Award and a second BAFTA nomination.
Ronan moved into a quiet 2010, only making The Way Back. She was originally cast in Robin Hood but dropped out to make this Oscar-bait film and she got to work with another top director, Peter Weir. Ronan was the only major female character in a very masculine film. This time around she got to perform in a Russian accent.
Now the famous Irish actress has moved into action cinema and is reunited with Joe Wright. In Hanna, Ronan will play a teenager who is trained to be the ultimate assassin and set on a mission by her father. Whilst Ronan will get to perform martial arts and play with weapons, early reviews have indicated that Hanna is more than just an action film but also a film about a girl finding her humanity and own freedom. In the trailers it shows Wright trying to be more realistic and gritty as it depicts Ronan’s look from being an almost angelic appearance in The Lovely Bones to a more rough and dirty look in Hanna.
Hanna is not going to be the only film where Ronan will play a teenage assassin; she is also going to appear in Violet & Daisy with Gilmore Girls' Alexis Bledel. Weirdly they have a 16-year-old girl playing a teenager with a woman who is nearly 30 also playing a teenager. Violet & Daisy is directed by Precious writer Geoffrey Fletcher and it is currently in post-production.
Ronan will also reunite with Peter Jackson in what will be her biggest film to date: both parts of The Hobbit. She will play the Elvish character Itaril, a character created especially for the film. The Hobbit Part 1 and Part 2 are two of the most highly anticipated films of 2012 and 2013.
Other projects on Ronan’s books include Danny DeVito’s adaptation of the critically acclaimed young adult novel, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, which will be released in 2011, and she is also penciled in to star in Emma Thompson’s scripted film Effie, a bio-pic about Effie Gray and also includes Orlando Bloom and Imelda Staunton.
Saoirse Ronan has proven herself time and again as one of the best actresses of her age. She has talent and unlike other actors her age she has shied away from family films. Ronan has picked her projects carefully and impressed many top directors. She has shown her range and will properly stay the distances as an actress, though she has yet to use her native Irish accent in a film. Assuming she continues acting she will properly get an Academy Award.
If I do have to find one fault in Ronan it’s this: she’s a Manchester United fan.