Birth Name: Saoirse Una Ronan
Date of Birth: 12 April 1994
Place of Birth: New York City, New York, USA
Height: 5′ 6″ (1.68 m)
Trade Mark: Has an uncanny ear for accents
Saoirse Una Ronan is an Irish film actress. She began her career as a child and came to international prominence in 2007 after co-starring in the film Atonement, which gained her nominations for Best Supporting Actress in the Academy Awards, BAFTA and the Golden Globe.
Ronan has since appeared in several Hollywood films, including the children’s Christmas story The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey (2007), with Tom Berenger and Joely Richardson, the romantic comedy I Could Never Be Your Woman (2007), the film adaptation of the science fantasy Young Adult novel City of Ember (2008), Death Defying Acts (2008), the war drama film The Way Back (2010) and Hanna (2011). She was awarded a Saturn Award and a second BAFTA Award nomination for her portrayal in Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones (2009).
Born in The Bronx, New York City, Ronan is the only child of Irish parents Paul and Monica Ronan – the former an actor – who were living in New York at the time. Her family is Catholic. Ronan was raised in County Carlow, Ireland, having moved there when she was three years old, and is a dual citizen of the United States and Ireland. She is currently home schooled and lives in County Carlow. As a baby, she sometimes accompanied her father on the set when he was working on such films as The Devil’s Own and Veronica Guerin.
Ronan supports the Irish Blue Cross, as the charity had reunited her with her runaway dog Sassie. On her name, she said, “‘Seer-sha’ is how Irish people pronounce my first name, but I would pronounce it ‘Sir-sha,’ like ‘inertia’. It’s Irish for ‘freedom.’ I recently found out that my middle name, Una, means ‘unity’ in Ireland. And I think my last name means ‘seal.’ So I’m a free, unified seal.”
She made her screen debut on Irish public service broadcaster RTÉ, in the 2003 primetime medical drama The Clinic and the 2004–2005 mini-serial Proof. During the same time, Ronan auditioned to play Luna Lovegood in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, a role she eventually lost out to Evanna Lynch.
At the age of twelve, Ronan was asked to attend a casting call for Joe Wright’s 2007 film adaptation of Ian McEwan’s 2001 novel Atonement. She auditioned for and won the part of Briony Tallis, an aspiring 13-year-old novelist, who irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister’s lover of a crime he did not commit. Starring alongside Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, Wright grew more and more impressed with Ronan on-set, who declared her role a “fantastic part [to play].” Budgeted at US$30 million, the film became a financial and critical success, resulting in a worldwide box office total of US$130 million and various awards, including the BAFTA Award for Best Film, Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama, and an 2008 Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. Ronan herself received rave reviews for her performance, with Ty Burr of the Boston Globe calling her “remarkable [and] eccentric,” and was subsequently nominated for a BAFTA, a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, ranking her among the youngest persons ever to be nominated for the latter.
Ronan’s next film was Amy Heckerling’s often-delayed romantic comedy film I Could Never Be Your Woman (2007). Initially shot in mid-to fall 2005 in Los Angeles and London, the film went straight-to-DVD in the United States and other major market territories after it had struggled to attract financing and several deals disintegrated during its post-production in spite of its budget of US$25 million. In the film, Ronan portrayed the character of Izzie Grossman, the pubescent daughter of a television show screenwriter, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who falls for a younger man (Paul Rudd), while Izzie falls in love for the first time herself. Upon its release, the independent project garnered generally lukewarm reviews, with Joe Leydon of Variety summing it as “a desperately unfunny mix of tepid showbiz satire and formulaic romantic comedy.”
In 2008, Ronan starred in both Death Defying Acts and City of Ember. In Gillian Armstrong’s supernatural romantic thriller Death Defying Acts, she played Benji McGarvie, the daughter of an impoverished and uneducated psychic, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, who begins a passionate affair with legendary magician Harry Houdini at the height of his career. Ronan was awarded an Irish Film & Television Award for her performance. Released to a mixed reception, the film was not a success at the box office, barely grossing US$8.3 million worldwide. In Gil Kenan’s City of Ember Ronan starred as Lina Mayfleet, a teenager who must save the people of the fictional underground city named Ember. The fantasy film, based on the 2003 novel by Jeanne DuPrau, received mixed reviews from critics, and grossed US$17 million worldwide, well below its US$55 million budget.
In 2009, Ronan appeared alongside Rachel Weisz and Stanley Tucci in Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones (2009), an adaptation of the same-titled book by Alice Sebold. In the film, Ronan plays 14-year-old Susie Salmon, who, after being murdered, watches from the “in-between” as her family and friends struggle to move on with their lives while she comes to terms with her own death. Ronan and her family were originally hesitant for Ronan to accept her role in the film because of its subject matter, but agreed after meeting with Jackson, who described her as “just amazing on-screen.” The Lovely Bones was released to mainly mixed reviews from critics, who criticised the film’s story and its message. Praised for the acting however, particularly Ronan’s, whose performance Richard Corliss of Time described as “magic,” the film garnered various accolades, winning Ronan a Critics’ Choice Award, a Saturn Award and a second BAFTA Award nomination the following year.
In 2010’s The Way Back, directed by Peter Weir, Ronan played the character of Irena, a Polish orphan, who joins a group of prisoners who escape from the gulag in Siberia in 1940 and attempt to make a 4,000 mile trek to India. Shot on location in Bulgaria, India and Morocco alongside Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell and Ed Harris, the war drama film received generally positive reviews, with The Telegraph calling it “a journey that feels awful and heroic and unfathomable – and one you’ll want to watch again.” Her performance in the film garnered Ronan her fourth Irish Film & Television Award.
In 2011, Ronan starred in the title role of the action thriller film Hanna, which marked her reunion with Atonement director Joe Wright.
In November 2011, Ronan took part in a promotion for the Irish Film Institute Archive Preservation Fund, in which she was digitally edited into popular Irish films of the past, such as Once and My Left Foot, as well as documentary footage on the arrival of John F. Kennedy at Dublin Airport and the GAA All-Ireland finals.
As announced, Ronan will play a teen assassin in Geoffrey Fletcher’s directing debut Violet & Daisy. In addition, she will star as Melanie Stryder in Andrew Niccol’s film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s novel The Host, and appear in director Neil Jordan’s adaptation of the play Byzantium. As reported, Ronan is in talks to play Daisy in the film adaptation of the 2004 novel How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. It was rumored that Peter Jackson has cast Saoirse in a role in his upcoming film The Hobbit, but Ronan later stated she would not be taking part in the film.
Ronan is an ambassador for the ISPCC, alongside Jamie Heaslip.