The Lovely Bones (2009)
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Character: Susie Salmon
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson (screenplay), Alice Sebold (novel)
Other Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci
Genre: Drama | Fantasy | Thriller
Runtime: 136 min
Related Links:
Offical Site


Fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) is just experiencing the pangs of first love when she’s viciously murdered by her neighbor Mr. Harvey (Stanley Tucci), a predatory wolf in J.C. Penney clothing. As her family slowly begins drifting apart while struggling to make sense of their loss, Susie bravely attempts to find her footing in the hereafter. Meanwhile, down on earth, Mr. Harvey is feeling confident that he’s covered his tracks well enough to get away with the crime, and begins honing in on his next victim — Susie’s younger sister, Lindsey (Rose McIver), who’s beginning to suspect that he’s not the harmless suburbanite he portrays himself to be.

Production Photos

(More photos in our “The Lovely Bones” gallery)

Trivia & Facts

· The school that Susie attends is based on General Wayne Middle School in Malvern, Pennsylvania (now known as General Wayne Elementary School), which Alice Sebold attended in the 1970s.

· Alice Sebold, who wrote the novel, said that she preferred an unknown actress for the role of Susie Salmon. After she was cast for this film, the relatively unknown Saoirse Ronan was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Atonement (2007).

· Saoirse Ronan landed the role of Susie Salmon based on an audition tape she had sent in. They were so impressed by the tape that no meetings or further auditions were necessary before offering her the lead role in the film.

· Rose McIver, who plays Lindsey (the younger sister of Saoirse Ronan‘s character Susie Salmon) – is in real life 6 years older than Ronan.

· In Alice Sebold’s original novel, a disturbing rape scene is recounted in great detail, an experience Sebold had personally experienced herself as a young woman. Director Peter Jackson chose to omit this section of the book, feeling that the re-enactment of the ordeal would have, not just overwhelmed the film, but been too traumatic a sequence for the young Saoirse Ronan to endure.

· Many of the details and sequence of events in the movie differ from Alice Sebold’s novel. In the novel, George Harvey dismembers Susie’s body and disposes of it by dropping the safe in the sinkhole immediately after the murder (instead of near the end of the movie). But George accidentally drops her elbow, which once found by the police, forces the Salmon family to acknowledge her death earlier than in the movie.

Quotes from the character

Susie Salmon: “I was slipping away, that’s what it felt like, life was leaving me, but I wasn’t afraid; then I remembered: “There was something I was meant to do; somewhere I was meant to be.”"

Susie Salmon: “Always, I would watch Ray; I was in the air around him, I was in the cold winter mornings he spent with Ruth Connors; and sometimes Ray would think of me, but he began to wonder maybe it was time to put that memory away, maybe it was time to let me go.”

Susie Salmon: “There was one thing my murderer didn’t understand; he didn’t understand how much a father could love his child.”

Susie Salmon: “My murderer was a man from our neighborhood. I took his photo once; he stepped out of nowhere and ruined the shot. He ruined a lot of things.”

Susie Salmon: “I wasn’t lost, or frozen, or gone… I was alive; I was alive in my own perfect world.”

Susie Salmon: “Holly said there was a wide, wide heaven beyond everything we knew; where there was no cornfield, no memory, no grave… but I wasn’t looking beyond yet, I was still looking back.”

Susie Salmon: “I was in the blue horizon between heaven and earth. The days were unchanging and every night I dream the same dream. The smell of damp earth. The scream no one heard. The sound of my heart beating like a hammer against cloth and I would hear them calling, the voices of the dead. I wanted to follow them to find a way out but I would always come back to the same door. And I was afraid. I knew if I went in there I would never come out.”

Ray Singh: “If I had but an hour of love, If that be all that is given me, An hour of love upon this earth,”
Susie Salmon: “[Ray's poem finished by Susie] I would give my love to thee.”

Susie Salmon: “Grandma Lynn predicted I would live a long life because I had saved my brother. As usual, Grandma Lynn was wrong.”

[last lines]
Susie Salmon: “[voiceover] When my mother came to my room, I realized that all this time, I had been waiting for her. I had been waiting so long, I was afraid she wouldn’t come.”
Holly: “[whispering] I love you, Susie.”
Susie Salmon: “[voiceover] Nobody notices when we leave. I mean, the moment when we really choose to go. At best you might feel, a whisper or the wave of a whisper, undulating down. My name is Salmon, like the fish. First name: Susie. I was 14 years old, when I was murdered on December 6th 1973. I was here for a moment, and then I was gone. I wish you all, a long, and happy life.”

[first lines]
Susie Salmon: “[voiceover] I remember being really small; too small to see over the edge of a table. There was a snow globe, and I remember the penguin who lived inside the globe. He was all alone in there, and I worried for him.”

Susie Salmon: “You realize by the time I see my photos, I’m gonna be middle-aged.”

Ray Singh: “[voiceover] If I had but an hour of love. If that be all is given me. An hour of love upon this earth…”
Susie Salmon: “[reading poem] I would give my love to thee. The Moor.”

Quotes from Saoirse

[On The Lovely Bones and Atonement] “I can’t really compare because they’re two different films. They’re both different characters and they’re both really challenging roles which I think are the best roles. Peter Jackson is a fantastic director and so is Joe Wright. They send the message so clearly so its not double-Dutch.”

“Well, for me there was always one scene that stuck out and that I got very emotional and I kind of did sort of just…I was drowned in the scene for quite a long time. It was the barley field scene near the end of the movie where Mr. Harvey’s victims come to take Susie to heaven. I mean, that’s one of my favorite scenes in the film and definitely my favorite to shoot as well. It was so emotional and touching, and I think we did it for a day or maybe even more. I think everyone on set felt the same way. We were all touched and very emotional, so I always remember shooting that.”

“Yeah, there were quite a few scenes on my own in the in-between, and we actually did go on location as well in New Zealand, which was beautiful. It was a great experience to do something like that. Bu when we used bluescreen, we used different things that they figured out would help me. And, of course, how well-written the script was. Really, everything I needed, or most of it, was in the script already. We would also play music during the [shots], music that would reflect the mood of the scene, so that would help me so much. We would do that all of the time, and Peter would talk to me during the takes as well, and describe what was going on around me. So I was able to react to that. It was nice because I never really felt like I was on my own because I felt like I had my little guardian angel there. But no, lots of things like that – the music especially helped me.”

[On the novel] “I waited to read the book. I hadn’t heard about the book before I heard about the film because when it came out I was quite young anyway. But when I did get the role, I waited to read the book after I’d made the film because, well, I was just a bit too young to read it. I heard it was a tough read, especially the first chapter, and after reading it now I realize that it is quite tough. But I eventually did read it and it was beautiful and I thought that Pete and Fran and Philippa did a great job adapting it.”

[On the murder scene] “We didn’t talk about it that much, really, beforehand. I don’t think Stanley would have wanted to. It was quite a few months into shooting before we did the scene, and so I don’t know about the crew, but both Stanley and I were quite anxious to get the scene out of the way. And so we went in on the day and as I’ve said before, everything I needed was already written for me, and Pete was there so I felt very safe. Luckily, Stanley and I were very comfortable with each other and we get on well and I think that was essential to get that intensity on screen. That we were comfortable with each other, that we could bounce off each other and sort of freak each other out, in a way. Especially him.”
“I know I wouldn’t have been able to stay in that place for the whole time, because when the cameras started to roll, it was extremely intense. It was interesting to see, I think Rose mentioned this earlier, first of all Stanley is such a great guy and to see how he changes is frightening. And for someone who certainly gets on well with him, it feeds whatever performance you need to get out. But I enjoyed it. I enjoyed doing the scene.”

Quotes from Cast & Crew

“She was only 13 years old when we filmed,” “How someone acquires that kind of maturity as an actress at such a young age is remarkable. I can’t imagine it. She handles herself as well as any seasoned actor. I wouldn’t even be able to finish a sentence at her age. She’s a real actress. Bottom line. And she is Susie Salmon. No one else could play her.”
- Stanley Tucci

“She’s wonderfully funny,” “She feels no self pity and makes ironic, wry observations.”
- Peter Jackson

“She’s just amazing on-screen,” “Just brilliant. I tend to not work with big stars for the key roles in most of my films. What’s appealing to me as a filmmaker is that audiences don’t bring a preconceived notion to the film of who this person is. They’re more likely to believe in Susie Salmon if they’re not so familiar with Saoirse.”
- Peter Jackson

Critical Reception

“His young heroine, played with unnerving self-assurance and winning vivacity by Saoirse Ronan, cares desperately about the poor living souls left in her wake, but it is not clear that Mr. Jackson shares her concern.” – A. O. Scott, New York Times

Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) is well-cast as the wide-eyed Susie Salmon, who has a passion for photography, loving parents (Mark Wahlberg and Rachel Weisz) and a crush on a high school senior (Reese Ritchie). Walking home from school, Susie is lured into an underground lair by the nebbishy George Harvey (Stanley Tucci). ” – Claudia Puig, USA Today

“To be specific, it feels almost as if, by watching, we’re violating her, too – not Susie Salmon, the central character, and not Saoirse Ronan, the brilliantly talented young actress who plays her – but all the real-life Susies.” – Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

“In securing Ronan for his Susie, Jackson both scored a coup and also created an instant vulnerability for the film. With her sharp, searching eyes, and that will-o’-the-wisp intensity she used so devastatingly in Atonement, Ronan takes over the film whenever she is on screen.” – Chris Barsanti,

Saoirse Ronan, so impressive in “Atonement,” plays Susie, and she’s terrific. She is the glue that holds the story together. Her piercing blue eyes and heartfelt anguish animate both heaven and earth.” – Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter

Saoirse Ronan, a very good young actress, who cannot be faulted here” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Awards & Nominations

Irish Film and Television Awards: Best Leading Actress Won
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards: Best Actress Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards: Best Young Actor/ActressWon