In Greta Gerwig‘s directorial debut, Lady Bird, out in theaters this Friday, Saoirse Ronan plays the titular Lady Bird—real name: Christine—a classic teenage rebel without a cause, complete with ample angst and Manic Panic dyed hair. In real life, the 23-year-old Irish actress is a bit more pulled together—that is, when she’s not with Susan Sarandon, who Ronan says once tried to get her in trouble with none other than Prince Charles during a royal gala. Luckily, she seems to have made it out of the incident unscathed, and will soon take on a royal role of her own in next year’s Mary Queen of Scots. The film marks Ronan’s return to a period film—set in 2003, Lady Bird doesn’t exactly count—a genre that has already garnered her two Academy Award nominations in 2008 and 2016 for Atonement and Brooklyn. Here, Ronan talks about her time at the Oscars, including when she almost didn’t get in, her first kiss, and more.
Who is royalty to you?
My mom. [I have been] reading about royalty recently and what it meant to be sovereign and a role model, who sets the tone for everyone underneath them or whatever. My mom’s my queen.
Have you actually met any royals?
I met Prince Charles when The Lovely Bones came out and we had a royal gala. I was standing next to the troublemaker Susan Sarandon and she was planning what she was gonna say to Prince Charles and it was very funny. It was nice to be there with her. She’s a fiery one that Sarandon.That’s the only time I’ve meet royalty.
And now you’re about to play a queen.
I am. I’m about to play Mary Queen of Scots. It’s really interesting to learn about when royalty and politics and religion were all sort of interlinked and how they all relied on one another…All the men were around her and they just sort of played her like a chess piece, and yet she managed to sort of rise above it all and still stay quite poised and in control for a lot of her reign. It’s a fascinating story. I can’t wait to be a queen.
You haven’t done a lot of costume dramas.
I think the one costume drama that I did, I was twelve or thirteen-years-old, which was Atonement, and I wore a boy’s oversized dress-type thing. It was shapeless. I’ve never worn a corset, but I’m gonna have to wear loads of corsets for Mary, which will be fun.
And you went to your first Academy Awards during that time.
A little baby. It was brilliant because I got to go to all the parties. When I went when I was a kid, as opposed to being 22 or whatever age I was the second time I went. [The second time] I was nominated [for Best Actress in Brooklyn], and it was great. My mom and I went; we had a brilliant time. I remember we missed the opening monologue because we were outside just having a chat to Michael Keaton or something. And then we tried to go in, they were like, “You can’t go in.” We missed the opening monologue. And then I saw The Weeknd. I can’t remember what his real name is, but he was like standing next to the side door, and that was the highlight of the night for me. But then I had to get back on a plane at 4 a.m. to go to New York, and I did my first preview for “The Crucible” that night. So it was a whirlwind.
Would you have stayed longer?
It would’ve been nice to stay longer. But it was great. At that stage, it’s sort of the last hoorah, so we’ve all been on this sort of journey together. So myself and Cate [Blanchett] and Brie [Larson] and Alicia [Vikander] and Charlotte [Rampling] and all these wonderful women were going through this experience together. And for some of us it was our first time, and for others, they had experienced a lot, like Miss Blanchett. And so it’s quite interesting just to hear about their past experiences, because it’s such a surreal thing to happen. And it sort of creeps up on you, as well. It sort of feels like it comes out of nowhere.
Who’s your cinematic crush?
Oh, I have my girl crush. It’s Robin Wright, hands down. What a babe. I always refer back to Robin when I talk about the style of acting that I really like. I think it’s always really interesting when you see someone who has this air of mystery to them and they keep something to themselves. The great thing about film is that you know the lens is right there; it’s not gonna miss anything that’s going on. And so it’s quite fun to keep something for yourself, and it means that you’re always wanting more from that person. So I love Robin; I think she’s great.
Where was your first kiss?
My first kiss was on set. It was my very first film, which was Amy Heckerling’s I Could Never be a Woman, and I played this cool little kid who listened to Alanis Morissette and lived in L.A., but was sort of the anti-L.A. girl in the early millennium. The whole thing is that she like really likes this boy and she doesn’t know if he notices her, and then it turns out that he does and it’s a lovely classic romantic tale. I was like proper prude, as well; I was not ready to kiss a boy myself. I called Amy over and was like, “Amy, come here. Can we just like discuss the logistics of this whole kissing scene?” I asked her how many seconds I had to kiss this poor boy for. It was three seconds, and everyone of those takes consisted of a three-second kiss—no more, no less. I suffered for the art. We did about eight takes. I was a phenomenal kisser by the end.
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