Saoirse Ronan spent the better part of her teenage years in Hollywood, thanks to a scene-stealing—and Academy Awards-nominated—turn in 2007’s Atonement. But now, at 23-years-old, Ronan has gotten that chance to cash in on some of those high-school rituals that once alluded her, including having a locker and attending prom, thanks to her role in Lady Bird. The film, which marks Greta Gerwig‘s directorial debut, sees Ronan as the titual character, a memorable teenage heroine with a particular view of the world—and herself. Not too unlike the actress herself, as it turns out. “Lady Bird definitely takes the whole self belief and self-confidence thing to a whole new level. But I definitely had a very strong kind of sense of myself,” said Ronan. Here, the actress talks about the widely beloved film, dance parties with Gerwig, and why she has a special connection with none other than Alanis Morissette.
How did you get the script for Lady Bird?
I was sent the script of Lady Bird about two years ago. I was really excited about it because it’s Greta Gerwig and I’m a huge fan of Greta. And I had never really read especially a young female sort of heroine like that before; somebody who kind of very much sees themselves as a female heroine. Someone said the other day that you never see young girls actually love themselves in films, and [Lady Bird] really believes in herself. Then Greta and I did this Skype meeting, [because] I was in Ireland and I think she was in Los Angeles. We had never met, but we got so giddy around each other. It was like we couldn’t say enough about each other. Then a few months later I was at the Toronto Film Festival and she was there, too. So we had this another giddy meeting and we read through the entire script and it was great. She played like all of the other roles and I just played Lady Bird.
Did you got to a Catholic school like Lady Bird?
I had technically gone to a Catholic primary school and very briefly went to a Catholic high school in Ireland. I was in and out of high school. I homeschooled a bit, [so] it was more of an unusual education. But I think even if I had been in a high school in Ireland, the American high school culture is different—that whole idea of getting in with the popular kids and all that sort of stuff. That was something I hadn’t experienced before. The only time I had seen stuff like that was like in Saved by the Bell. So it was kind of a dream for me to get like actually live that out.
Did you have a locker?
I had a locker and we went to prom. I went to prom with my best friend.
Does prom have an Irish equivalent?
Debutante. But I never went to that either; nobody invited me.
Did you get to pick your prom dress or was that just costuming?
t was a bit of both, actually. They had picked out these amazing dresses that April Napier, the costume designer, had found in thrift stores. There’s this scene that Laurie Metcalf and I have where we’re in Thrift Town and I’m picking out a prom dress ,and April essentially went to a Thrift Town in order to find these like amazing dresses. So we had tried on a few; it was about finding something that was cool and edgy and also really pretty. I think she’s one of these girls that her physicality somehow is quite masculine in a way. She sort of when she walks she marches and she’s got a purpose, so it was nice to wear something a bit more feminine to soften that.
I like her confidence, that, “I will beat the world” kind of attitude. Do you relate to that at all?
I think Lady Bird definitely takes the whole self belief and self-confidence thing to a whole new level. But I definitely had a very strong kind of sense of myself. I had a very strong sense of who I was and was aware that like that would change as I got older and depending on who I was with and what I was working on and what I was doing and things like that. I’ve always been quite open to that. With Lady Bird, she has this goal, but she doesn’t quite know what the goal is, she just knows like she’s going to be someone and she’s going to say something. She has something to say, but she just doesn’t quite know what it is yet, you know? We’re finding her at a time in her life that is an in-between moment. She’s right on the precipice of this massive change.
I know that Greta had dance parties on set. What were those like?
Oh my God, we would cry at the dance parties. We would cry, we would laugh. We’d have dance parties when we rehearsed. Lucas [Hedges] and I went over to her apartment one time and I can’t even remember what we played, but we just danced for so long that we got really emotional. She’d play a lot of music on set. It was great. It’s good having music around because it subconsciously makes people sort of move to the same beat. Everyone starts to work to the same beat a little bit, and everyone has a rhythm that they follow on set. It’s a really good way to bring people together.
Do you have a song that you associate with the movie in your head?
I mean, Alanis Morissette was just what was always in my head. The first film that I ever did with Amy Heckerling, she had written this sort of sarcastic, ironic version of “Ironic” which was called “Isn’t It Moronic?” So I’ve always had a really kind of special connection to Alanis Morissette. I think she’s one of those girls that’s like really feminine, but also really cool, and very strong. If Lady Bird was going to look up to anyone or listen to anyone it would be someone like her.
What was your favorite Halloween costume?
I’m not a big fan of Halloween, sue me, but, every year I would dress-up as a witch because I couldn’t be Irish and dress-up as anything else.] I’d always just get a bin bag and cut a hole in it and turn it into a cape. I also dressed up as Gilly who is a Kristen Wiig character from SNL two years ago. I took the wig off halfway, through, because I felt silly, because I’m not Kristen Wiig.
What is your favorite New Year’s Eve memory?
I’m crap for all that kind of stuff. Well, I have some very dramatic New Year’s stories, but I don’t know if I can say them on camera. I’ll just make one up. So I was walking down the street with friends of mine and the clock struck twelve and there was a cage just laying on the pavement. And so we picked it up and we were right next to the Natural History Museum, so we just opened the door and went in and had this massive party in the museum and stayed there all night…That never happened.
What’s the best advice your mother has given you?
Oh God, she’s given me so much advice. She always tells me to “just follow your instinct and always listen to what you actually need.” I wouldn’t be this sane without her, I really wouldn’t. I turned up to the apartment that I’m staying in in L.A. the other day and there was like a whole shop from Whole Foods that was on the counter, and she had ordered all this food from Ireland.
Who is your current celebrity crush?
Diane Kruger, because she’s right outside.
Do you have a favorite Diane Kruger performance?
Inglourious Basterds. She’s amazing in that.
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