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Worth her weight in gold
Unheard of a year ago, Carlow teen Saoirse Ronan is the actress of the hour in Hollywood. Here, she and her actor father Paul Ronan talk about her remarkable rise.
Jason O'Toole, 22 Jan 2008
The 13-year-old actress Saoirse Ronan was sitting, accompanied by her parents, waiting for a conference call. Her new representative from CAA, arguably the biggest talent agency in the US, was scheduled to ring. The Ronans assumed the phone call was to discuss the mundane task of fine-tuning the contractual details for Saoirse’s latest co-starring role, alongside the legendary comedian Bill Murray, in the big budget sci-fi movie City of Ember. But the call turned out to be anything but routine.
They heard the agent’s voice boom out of the loudspeaker: “Are you sitting down for this?” There was a dramatic pause, before the agent revealed what was mind-blowing news: “They want you for The Lovely Bones!”
Again, there was silence. Had they heard that right? Did Saoirse’s agent just say that she was actually being offered the lead role in the new Peter Jackson movie? It was one of the most sought-after parts in recent years, with literally over a thousand young actresses fighting it out for the opportunity to star in the eagerly anticipated adaptation, by the Lord of the Rings director, of Alice Sebold’s hugely successful novel.
It took a while for the news to sink in. “It wasn’t one of those kind of things where we were jumping up and down and screaming all over the place because it is a Peter Jackson movie,” reminisces Saoirse. “We were just sitting there trying to think of what they said. It’s like the dream role. I don’t think we ever jumped around – because we’re still kind of amazed that we are even working with these people.”
Jackson selected the Carlow-based teenager for the lead role after viewing an audition tape. Apparently, Jackson was so impressed with Saoirse’s innate acting skills that he immediately called up the casting agent to reveal that he’d found “the perfect actress” for his next blockbuster. In fact, Jackson didn’t meet Saoirse until she flew over to the US to start filming.
“There is a fantastic casting agent called Jenny Jay,” Saoirse explains, “and she had cast me for Atonement. She had seen me for a couple of more things as well, so I knew Jenny and she must have gotten into contact with my agent and I went on tape for The Lovely Bones – and we sent it off. They hadn’t met me or anything when they gave me the part.