Irish movie star Saoirse Ronan has said that she is thankful that she never played roles in teen movies when she was an emerging talent.
The 21-year old actress from Co Carlow says that turning down roles as ditzy cheerleaders or lovesick ‘girl next door’ types has helped her to be taken seriously as she has gotten older.
It is a strategy that has paid off as she prepares for the release of her most weighty role yet – and the first time she has ever played an Irish character on the silver screen.
She told the Irish Sun: “I never really liked those movies where it’s all about her first kiss and dreaming about the boy or losing her virginity. So I never did those.
“You know, the cheerleader, the girl-next-door. And I’m really glad I didn’t because I’d have so much more to prove if I did.”
Ronan’s first big movie was as a child star in the Oscar nominated movie Atonement when she was just 13.
Since then she has played strong young women in films covering a variety of genres such as action, science fiction, comedy, drama and horror.
Films like Hanna, How I Live Now and The Host, among others, helped to reveal Ronan’s versatility as an actress and her potential to become a big star.
Last year she appeared in another Oscar nominated film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, while her next movie, Brooklyn, is also tipped for big success.
Ronan added: “I watch people who are really eager to assert themselves as adults and make strange choices because of it. It sometimes plays a little artificial and, thankfully, I got lucky and played adolescents in more adult films.
“It definitely helped me to grow up naturally in the industry. It’s been organic.”
However, it hasn’t been plain sailing for Ronan. A result of turning down the more typical ‘teenage girl’ roles was that she went through periods where she wasn’t getting enough work.
She said: “Brooklyn is definitely a significant film for me, for so many reasons. It’s the best script I ever read and it marks a new stage in my career, in the films that I work on.
“I had to wait, be patient for a role like this. I wasn’t working for a year and I started to get itchy feet. But there was no point doing a movie just for the sake of it.
“It was a tricky time. There were scripts out there for the type of young women between say 18 and 22, but they weren’t interesting to me.
“They weren’t well-rounded. I wanted someone with layers like (Brooklyn’s) Eilis. And she has felt like that shift for me and things have started to move now.”
In Brooklyn, Ronan plays a young Irish woman named Ellis Lacey who leaves home in the 1950s to find a new life in America.
As the film progresses she finds herself torn between her exciting new life in Brooklyn and the one back in Ireland that she misses so much.
Ronan said: “What Eilis is going through is frightening and isolating and thrilling and this was the first time I’ve ever felt exactly the same as a character that’s going through what I’m going through. That was surreal to me how much I identified.
“I moved away to London before we started and went through a lot of the same emotions. It was the right time to do it but it was hard. I missed home and my family a lot and I was only 50 minutes away.
“And back in the Fifties, when the film is set, they maybe spoke over the phone once a year. A letter a month. Sometimes never seeing each other again. It’s unimaginable to us.”
Ironically, it is the first time that Ronan has played an Irish character. For much of her career, she has played American or British roles.
She said she is glad that her first outing as an Irish woman allows her to play a three dimensional character rather than play up to the old stereotypes.
She continued: “I’ve always wanted to do an Irish film and play an Irish character. It’s something I’ve always hoped for because I’m so very proud of our culture, proud of where I come from, it means a lot to me. But nothing felt right before this.
“It has such spirit of the Irish people and our history and Irishness. And it doesn’t make it stereotypical, or superficially charming or one-dimensional like so many times before. You know, ‘the diddle dee dee stuff’. There are so many complex Irish stories out there and those predetermined ideas need to go away.
“And I couldn’t think of a more perfect Irish film to be my first.”
Brooklyn is set for release in cinemas across the world this week.