The bets are on that Saoirse Ronan (pronounced “somewhere between ser-sha and seer-sha”) is a name we may be hearing at the next Academy Awards (she already earned a SAG nomination) thanks to her powerful performance in the immigrant love story Brooklyn (in theatres now). But when we caught up with the 21-year-old during TIFF, she revealed that she almost didn't make it through the period drama's gruelling schedule.
"During filming, I was emotional. Usually I'd be able to handle my emotions and manage them but for the first few weeks, I just couldn't," she said, recalling a time when the shoot took her very close to her hometown in Ireland. "I remember the first weekend, my mom came down to meet me and we got takeout and we watched a film. And that just kept me going the whole way through."
Saoirse's mother was instrumental in her portrayal of Eilis Lacey in other ways, too, as the character's 1950s journey from Ireland to New York City is one that the actress's parents mirrored in the '80s. "A journalist I’ve known since I was a kid said it was my mom onscreen, and I don’t think I realized it but I feel like it was very much kind of channelling my mother, what she went through. She was a fiercely independent person, and New York really made her who she is."
It's also one that echoed a period of transition in Saoirse's own life, having then recently moved from her hometown to London. “It was very exciting, but it was scary and it could be lonely,” she says, “but you know you can’t go back.” Feeling this close to a character was something entirely new for Saoirse, who said, "I’ve always played vampires or somebody who’s dead or someone who’s a corpse [Laughs], someone who’s in a completely different situation from me. To then come back to home was very overwhelming."
Filming also took the star of The Grand Budapest Hotel to the Great White North, as some of Brooklyn's scenes were filmed in Montreal. "It doesn’t even feel like a city, it’s just like a big town. And it’s so beautiful and the Quebec community, they’re very proud of where they come from and they’re very much their own people, which I love.
Next year, the American-born actress, who already snagged a best supporting Oscar nomination for her role in Atonement at just 13, will once again uproot her home and follow in Eilis's footsteps, relocating to the Big Apple. "I feel like it’s never really left me. I have very vivid memories about when I was three years old in New York."