Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon and Susan Sarandon as her grandmother in "The Lovely Bones"

Who’s the leading contender to win the Academy Award in February for Best Actress? 

According to the influential Los Angeles Times it’s none other than Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, who stars in “The Lovely Bones,” the film adaptation of the hugely successful Alice Sebold novel about a teenager who is raped and murdered, and watches from above the post-crime repercussions for the grief-stricken family she left behind, and the neighbor who committed the heinous act.

The Times, in its awards blog called “The Envelope,” reported last week that Saoirse, all of 15, is simply captivating in the film, and that she totally eclipses her co-stars Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon and Rachel Weisz.

“A spy tells us that Saoirse Ronan is in virtually every scene of ‘The Lovely Bones’ . . . and we hear that Ronan steals the picture from everyone. This 15-year-old actress is quickly climbing the Hollywood ladder,” the blog said.

Wow! That’s some praise indeed for the actress, who walked the Oscar red carpet a couple of years back as a Best Supporting Actress nominee for “Atonement.” (She lost that one to Tilda Swinton.)

A native of New York who moved back to County Carlow with her Irish parents Paul, an actor, and Monica when she was three, Saoirse is taking all the pre-premiere hype in her stride like a seasoned pro.

"Well, I must admit, I do feel a little bit of pressure," she told The Belfast Telegraph. "Until a few days ago no one had even seen the movie, apart from a handful of people involved in it. I haven't even seen it.

"Now there are all these Oscar polls saying the film is going to win and I'm going to win. I suppose I should take it as a compliment though."

Saoirse and the rest of the cast spent a large chunk of time in New Zealand making the film under the guidance of multiple Oscar winner Peter Jackson, famed for bringing “Lord of the Rings” to the screen. Jackson, so taken with his budding Irish star, compared her to a young Cate Blanchett.

"He's got such a lot of heart and he really wanted to capture the whole family's journey in 'The Lovely Bones.' He's a lovely guy to work with and to be around, a complete joy,” says Saoirse of her director.

“The Lovely Bones” goes into limited release on December 11. Saoirse is quietly hopeful that the success of the novel will translate onto the screen.

"I really, really want this movie to be everything that it's expected to be. And it would be great if it got nominated for an Oscar. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens,” she said.

One of the first people who’ll see the finished product is Queen Elizabeth. The film will have its world premiere in London early next month as part of the Royal Film Performance, which is apparently the only time of the year that the Queen goes to a movie. All cast members are expected to be in attendance.