Grown-up girl turns spacey

Saoirse Ronan, who played intense roles such as an escapee from a 1940s Russian collective in The Way Back (2010) and an assassin in Hanna (2011), is back as a bimbo in Violet & Daisy (left), with actress Alexis Bledel (far left)

There is something about Irish-American actress Saoirse Ronan that causes casting agents to come flocking when they need to fill the part of a young woman with an old soul.

Ronan, 19, is aware of how she tends to play teens who are wise beyond their years - or "grown-up girls", as she puts it.

In the drama The Way Back (2010), she played an escapee from a 1940s Russian collective who lives on her wits. The action-thriller Hanna (2011) saw her as an assassin with superhuman strength and smarts. In The Host (2013), she becomes almost otherworldly after an alien spirit is implanted in her soul.

It is time, she tells Life! on the telephone from London, to make a change.

In the crime thriller Violet & Daisy, now showing in cinemas, her character Daisy is an airhead with a dark side. She is obsessed with clothes and shopping and idolises pop stars. She pays for it all with money she earns as a gun for hire, a job she shares with her equally shallow best friend, Violet (Alexis Bledel).

"I hadn't really played anyone so spacey and bubbly before. Since I've started, I've played a lot of girls who are grown up and act in that way. I liked the idea of playing someone who is quite naive and innocent," she says.

There is another element to the film that she found both appealing and daunting - the comedy. Though she has done comic characters early in her career, Ronan has been associated with serious dramatic parts since her breakout role as strong-willed Briony Tallis in Atonement (2007), for which she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

"I was a bit nervous because the dialogue was so quick and so clever. There were quite a few monologues. We had eight-page scenes that were so much fun to delve into," she says.

The script was written by Geoffrey Fletcher, whose writing in the urban drama Precious (2009) won an Academy Award. Fletcher, who made his directing debut with Violet & Daisy, told both Bledel and Ronan that the way to find the humour was "don't play it funny, play it straight".

There is another bridge that Ronan has to cross soon - that of being a professional who takes on adult roles, with all the requirements of cinematic sex and violence that a teen actress does not have to face.

She takes a pause after she is asked about having to perform what she calls "that sort of stuff".

"That's a good question. I've always been very decisive about it. I made the decision in my head to not be involved in that because sometimes there are sex scenes or overly violent scenes, they are unnecessary," she says.

A few years ago, that sort of movie would have been out of the question, not just because of her own beliefs, but because her actor dad, Paul, and mum, Monica, would also have nixed the idea.

"I'm 19 now, so there's a probability that that kind of stuff will happen and it is already happening, and that's fine because I am older… if it's done in the right way, I think that's fine," she says.

In romance-tinged drama How I Live Now, due to open later this year, for example, there might be scenes which are "slightly sexual". While the film is edgier than her previous works, it is far from explicit because she would still stay away from anything exploitative, she says.

"It's a very innocent kind of thing," she adds.

johnlui@sph.com.sg


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