There's a lovely informality to the New York press day for The Host, the highly anticipated new sci-fi thriller starring Ireland’s Saoirse Ronan, 18, which might have something to do with the nationality of the young star.
Charismatic and funny, she’s Ireland’s idea of a movie star, which means she’s prodigiously talented and world famous, but she’s still completely approachable. Only one country in the world could combine those two qualities so successfully, probably.
Racing through the hallways of the Crosby Hotel in upscale Soho on Tuesday, Ronan’s an on point professional, but she’s also just 18. So she’s smart to give room to both sides of her life and career, as she grows up as the foremost young actress of her generation (a description that would make her laugh, but is nonetheless true).
Ronan’s been promoting The Host (the film opens nationwide this Friday, 29) for weeks now, and this is her last but one press day in New York before the Easter holidays. That means this weekend she’ll be fighting aliens, saving the world and will still be back home in Co. Carlow for her Easter dinner.
But is Ronan, already an Oscar nominee at the tender age of 12 thanks to her 2007 breakout role in Atonement, ready for the whole new level of fame that comes with starring in a Stephenie Meyer film?
“It’s mad because I just don’t really think about that kind of stuff,” she tells the Irish Voice.
“It’s not even that I take a decision not to think about it, I just can’t. I don’t think that’s going to happen. So far the films I have made have been indie films that just happened to do well. Even with something like Hanna, we didn’t think that would do great and it did, people really liked it. This is the first time where there has been so much tension around it and so much hype.”
There’s no question that starring in the massively successful Twilight films, based on Meyer’s books, changed the lives of the two stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart -- often for the worse -- but it’s impossible to imagine Ronan, a precocious and clearly well adjusted young woman morphing into another Lindsay Lohan five alarm car crash.
“It’s a different audience, and I’ve never done a film for that kind of audience before,” Ronan admits, but she sees the positive side. “They are more fanatical fans about the stuff that they’re interested in because they’re younger, they’re kids! It’s been fine so far. I’m hoping it won’t be something that blows up too much for me in that way.”
The premise of The Host is simple. Alien invaders called the Souls arrive and colonize the planet by taking over the bodies of their human hosts.
When the film opens most people in the world have already been converted, resulting in the “death” of their human personalities but not their bodies.
It’s an eerie premise, and the film does a terrific job of portraying how creepy the world looks after the invasion nears completion. But there is one powerful force on earth the aliens have never encountered before, and don’t know how to contend with -- human love.
From the get go young Melanie Stryder (Ronan) gives these aliens a serious run for their money. Although she’s quickly captured and turned into another host carrier, she still refuses to have her mind erased and instead risks everything to protect the people she loves. In the role Ronan gives a sensational performance that carries the film throughout.
As an Irish person, does the idea that you could have your capacity for passion and argument removed hold a particular terror, I ask her?
“That’s an interesting question. I have to say I did find it more of a challenge playing Wanda (the short name for Wanderer, the alien character that inhabits Ronan’s body) I think because there’s so many situations she’s in where you would naturally freak out or have the human impulse to scream or to cry or get angry and really let your emotions out like we, the Irish do. But at the same time we do suppress a lot of emotions!”
For Ronan the decision to play the lead role in The Host was the obvious acting challenge of playing two people forced to share the same body. It’s a nightmare situation, but it’s also completely compelling.