SBIFF Coverage: Saoirse Ronan Accepts the Santa Barbara Award

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Emmanuel Alcantar
Staff Writer

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival held an event on Feb. 4 to award actress Saoirse Ronan the Santa Barbara Award, given to a performer who has made a large contribution to the film industry. It was not the first time Ronan has received this award.

Anne Thompson of Indiewire moderated a discussion about Ronan’s career, which includes appearances in “Atonement,” “The Lovely Bones,” “Brooklyn,” and “Hanna.”

The first question Thompson asked was about Ronan’s first job. Ronan talked about her father’s acting career and how his connections helped land her an acting job, one where she was in the background. She joked that she was chosen when they needed “a child that was half human, half clown.”

Thompson then proceeded to ask Ronon about “Atonement,” the film that landed her the first of many Oscar nominations. One person asked how she got the job.

Ronan said that she was “completely wrong for it” and that it took a lot of luck. Thompson commented that Briony was a “nasty little girl” but Ronan defended the character. “She wasn’t,” Ronan protested. Ronan argued that as a child, Briony had no idea about the consequences of her actions. In terms of her Oscar nomination, she said that she was just excited to “be on the telly.”

The talk then shifted to “The Lovely Bones” and “Hanna,” Ronan’s first collaboration with director Peter Jackson and her second with “Atonement” director Joe Wright. Thompson asked about a rumor that Jackson casted Ronan without meeting her which Ronan confirmed. Even more astonishingly, this was before her breakout in “Atonement.”

For “Hanna,” Ronan learned martial arts three months before filming. She joked that Hanna was going through “an extreme version of puberty” as the film dealt with issues of identity.

Moving away from film-specific work and speaking more broadly, Thompson asked Ronan about choices she’d made in her career, asking about why she decided to turn down “The Hobbit” (directed by Peter Jackson). Ronan said that she would have loved to “put on little elf ears,” but scheduling didn’t work out. “It’s a very Irish thing to do accents,” said Ronan, about her mastery of accents.

Ronan talked about her experience working with Wes Anderson on “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” She talked about how she was astonished that “everything was built.” There were tiny sets that Anderson and his crew constructed.

“It was brilliant fun,” she said, when describing the entire experience. She proclaimed that she loved playing Agatha, the “pastry chef with a purpose.”

Thompson then asked Ronan about the film “Brooklyn,” which helped land her second Oscar nomination – this time as lead actress. When asked if the role of an Irish immigrant was more personal to her, she said that Eilis was “closer to my mother more than anything.” Ronan said that she loved the movie because there was a sense of finding one’s identity. “You can’t return to where you were,” she said.

Finally, the talk transitioned to Ronan’s work on “Lady Bird” (directed by Greta Gerwig). The film landed Ronan her third Oscar nomination (her second nomination as a lead actress). She described her first time talking to Gerwig as “the giddiest skype meeting.” They were both extremely excited to work with one another. Gerwig did several read-throughs with Ronan during a long span of time.

Because of the female-focus of the film, a mother-daughter relationship, Thompson asked Ronan about the #MeToo movement and #TimesUp.

“People are waking up in a big way,” Ronan said. “It will take time to see the fruits of our labor.” However, she was confident that they would all be better for it. Ronan said she was working on upcoming films called “The Seagull” and “Mary, Queen of Scotts.”

At the end of the talk, Timothée Chalamet walked on to the stage and handed the award to Ronan. “She makes it look so natural,” he said regarding her acting abilities. Chalamet also said that he was very proud of her.

Ronan gave Chalamet a long hug when he handed her the award. “Timmy is the real prize,” Ronan said with a big smile as she thanked the entire Santa Barbara community and the festival.

For more SBIFF coverage, visit bottomlineucsb.com.