Saoirse Ronan has quickly established herself as one of the most powerful, young actress on the big screen. She took on the complex emotional challenges of Atonement, the psychological depths of Lovely Bones and now mixes them all together in one bad-ass, yet sweetly naive, heroine in Hanna. There are very few 15-year-olds who would be able to handle such a complex role, with multiple languages, intense fight choreography, layers of intrigue, all while leading the way in a Joe Wright action/thriller — yet for Saoirse, it’s all in a days work. Find out how she does it and what crazy artist inspires her…
Growing up, had you always wanted as an actor to play a kickass heroine?
SR: It wasn’t really something I thought about to be honest. I’ve always been quite an active person especially when I was younger. When I was in primary school, I used to play lots of sports. I was a sprinter and I did basketball and swimming and Gaelic football and things like that. So I always thought, I guess, that it would be fun to incorporate that much physical activity and work into a dramatic piece. That’s kind of what this film turned out to be. I thought it was simply just going to be an action film but it ended up being very layered so it was nice to have both and work with both.
What was it like reuniting with Joe after Atonement? What was the experience?
SR: It was fantastic. I mean, the relationship that we had on “Atonement” kind of followed through into “Hanna” and just developed even more so. I suppose just like getting to know a friend better really. Professionally, we got to know each other and understand each other even more so, and on a personal level as well, which was nice. It felt more like a collaboration on this film and it was something that I really felt like we were doing together. It was a new direction for both of us. So we were taking a risk by doing this and it was exciting. It was exciting to share that with someone who I’d gotten on so well with four years prior.
What was your training like? How long did it take you?
SR: I trained for a couple of months before I started and I would do about two hours a day in the gym. I’d work out and I’d do weightlifting and treadmills and benchpressing and things like that. Lovely, lovely things that I want to carry on with. I did martial arts as well for about two hours in the evening. So I’d workout for about 4-1/2 to 5 hours a day for a few months.
Which of the skills you learned will be most useful in real life?
SR: Oh, I don’t know. I mean, I use them all. I’ve got my Lugar at home. I didn’t bring it away with me but… well, not the sticks really. When am I ever going to stick fight anyone? Although it is fun. Well guns always come in handy, not in real life. I don’t use guns. But I did a film since then and I did use guns for that. And I kind of knew what to expect and I knew how to handle a gun and I knew right now you’re supposed to put it down when you’re not using it. You know, basic things like that. So I guess that would come in pretty handy.
Your character knows a lot of facts about the world but is kind of experiencing everything for the first time. What was that like for you getting into that head space?
SR: I kind of thought of Hanna’s mind, although in some ways it was very well developed – she’s kind of like a baby. She’s stepping out into the world, and although she’s right about all these things and knows all these facts and is fluent in all these languages, she doesn’t really know about life. I think she’s just constantly in a state of shock and excitement and awe and fascination the whole time throughout her journey. One thing that I find really interesting about Hanna is that she’s only grown up with her father — her whole like that’s the only person she’s had for her company. She’s never really been in the company of a female, so when she encounters Rachel and Sophie who are members of the family that she stays with for a while, she’s fascinated by them and she falls in love with the idea of a more well developed version of her own gender, I guess. And so I really liked that about Hanna.
What is it about emotionally interesting different roles? There’s a lot of actors your age that are not taking on the challenges you’re taking on. What is it that attracts you to these types of characters and roles and what do you look forward to be able to do with them?
SR: They’re very interesting. It’s sort of an impulse thing, I think, when I read a script. I’ll just know from reading it whether it’s a character that I’ve fallen in love with, and if somebody else gets to do it, I’ll feel awful about it. But if they get it, it’s fine. I like to play characters that are different from me and most of the characters that I’ve played have been entirely different from me. And that’s it really. I think just I like to try things that are different, things that are interesting for me and simply a character that I’ve just fallen in love with really. And when I can’t get the character out of my head, and I’m in my bedroom and I start to actually act out the scenes that I’ve read in a script, I think okay, I really want to do this.
What was your favorite and least favorite part of the character of Hanna?
SR: My favorite part is that she loves music. She realizes she loves music. And my least favorite part is she doesn’t kiss the Spanish guy. She throws him to the ground. I don’t know. I’m just going to say that. I don’t really have a least favorite part. But I didn’t agree with her doing that. He was cute, wasn’t he?
We saw that you had a special birthday while you were shooting. Americans call it a Sweet 16.
SR: It’s so sweet! I spent my Sweet 16 in Berlin in a housing estate. I don’t know. I think it was near Leipzig or something. It was very glamorous.
How did you celebrate?
SR: Well the day of my 16th birthday I was working and I remember the scene as well. It was when I was in my grandmother’s apartment. Katrin is the grandmother’s name. And Eric and I have a fight and I jump out the window and do all that stuff. So it was lovely. But my birthday celebration was going to see Lady Gaga. I’m a massive fan.
When she was in Berlin, I’m obsessed with this girl and it was my first time going to see her and I actually took Joe Wright to go and see her. And I don’t know if you’ve met Joe already but he doesn’t seem like a Little Monster. He actually invited himself. We were in the pit of the O2 Arena in Berlin. There were like all these people dressed up, gay guys everywhere, everyone was going crazy. We were all loving Gaga and I turned around every now and again and every single time Joe would just have his hands crossed like this staring at the screen like a granddad, kind of bopping his head. It was very funny.
Check out Saoirse Ronan kick-ass in Hanna, starting Friday, April 8th, in theaters!