Saoirse Ronan is The Host
By: Lynn Barker
After the “Twilight” novels, writer Stephenie Meyer decided to create a story that was a little more “adult” and that focused on a weird alien invasion. The love triangle in this book and movie is more of a quadrangle as human Melanie, played by 18-year-old Saoirse (Sir-Sha) Ronan, is also inhabited by an alien invader “Soul” called Wanderer.
Melanie’s spirit and intelligence is still inside her old body and when she is reunited with her old rebel boyfriend Jared (Max Irons), she is overjoyed but Wanda is pretty freaked. Ya see, the being that is Wanda is starting to like another cute rebel named Ian (Jake Abel). Wow! And you thought your relationships were complicated!
We are with Saoirse, who came to the interview with her cool actor dad Paul Ronan. We wanted to know what it was like to play two beings in one body and also have two very cute love-interests in one movie. Nice work if you can get it and very talented Saoirse (Atonement, The Lovely Bones, Hanna) certainly can.
Saoirse at our interview with dad Paul in the background
Courtesy of Lynn Barker
It’s Saint Patrick ’s Day and Irish Saoirse is wearing kelly green harem pants with a beige, sleeveless top by Simone Rocha, an Irish designer. Her bright green nails flash as she offers us some Gummy Pandas. We munch and talk…
Kidzworld: You started acting at a young age. Are there actors or actresses that you look up to who also started out as kids?
- Saoirse: Someone who I’ve always loved and I love that she’s directing stuff now, is Drew Barrymore. I think she’s brilliant. I was watching Whip It again the other day and she did such a great job with it, and she’s in it and she’s funny, and she’s a great actress. I remember she made such a great speech a couple of years ago for the movie Grey Gardens, where she got the (Golden) Globe or something, and she said, “I’ve grown up with all these people in this room and this has been my home for so long,” and I could really understand where she was coming from.
- Drew started out when she was very young but at the same time, I’ve been doing this for about 10 years, and it’s really been my massive focus really in life. Almost every single day there’s something to do with work and it’s fantastic. So I really respect someone like her who has just gone with it and she’s really grown with it and she seems like such a lovely girl as well.
Kidzworld: So the producers of The Host saw you in Hanna and they thought you could be tough and vulnerable as well. Were you surprised that you got this (role)?
- Saoirse: Yeah. I was surprised that a film that was being adapted from a Stephenie Meyer novel was kind of being given to me to even read it. I was surprised because the films she’s involved in are so huge, and I’m not really used to those kinds of films so, yeah, I was very surprised. But when I read it, I hadn’t read the book and I really liked the concept, and I liked the idea of doing something like that.
A younger Saoirse in Hanna
Kidzworld: Were you concerned how they were going to do the inner voice? In the book Wanda hears Melanie (the original person in the body) in her head. When did you feel comfortable it was working?
- Saoirse: Yeah. It was a big question on my mind after I read the script (as to) how it would work. At the time, it wasn’t necessarily the case that we were going to use an earpiece (that would transmit Melanie’s voice into my ear) or anything like that. But it worked very well early on. We recorded Melanie’s voice separately before we started shooting. That was good for me to play Melanie because doing the voice over was great for just understanding the character; who she really was.
- When it came around to actually shooting, I think Wanda just naturally came about. Kind of from the beginning, it worked. Technically, there’d be times when the earpiece wouldn’t work or the signal would go or something like that, but when it worked properly during a scene when I was essentially talking to myself, it was great. It was kind of natural for me.
Kidzworld: Okay, so you pre-recorded the Melanie dialogue?
- Saoirse: Yeah. All of Melanie. We recorded it about a week before we started shooting. And it was just a rough recording, you know, but it was enough to get us through and enough for me to be able to react to when we were on set. So that’s what we did and it worked out pretty well.
Kidzworld: Let’s talk hot guys! You got to help pick the two actors who would play Jared and Ian in the film. What was it about each of these guys that made you say “that’s the one?
- Saoirse: Jake (Abel) was great. His audition was after we had cast Max (Irons). Jake brought a real sensitivity to this role without it being soppy, because it could (have) easily been that. There were a few people that were very good but they came in and almost didn’t respond to Wanda at all because they were so sensitive towards her or the opposite, and kind of too much, whereas Jake really had the perfect balance there. His audition was really great. It was passionate, because Ian needs to still have that passionate love for (Wanda) but understand that it’s impossible for him to be with her for the rest of their lives. He really seemed to have that understanding and a passion through the audition and it was brilliant. I’d met him before. He was in The Lovely Bones (with me) so we had a scene together.
Max Irons, Saoirse and Jake Abel at a premiere
Kidzworld: You were both so young then.
- Saoirse: We were babies. So I knew what he was like anyway. I knew he was lovely to work with, which is a very important thing for me. Also, going into it, one of the things I was very aware of, I didn’t want two guys to be hired just based on their looks. Obviously, they needed to be attractive men but they need to be good actors just as much as that. When we saw Max, whom I’d also met before, I knew how lovely he was, he’d done a brilliant audition as well and it just felt right.
Kidzworld: This is your first big romantic role, and it’s with two guys…lots of kissing!
- Saoirse: (smiles) Yeah, pretty concentrated.
Kidzworld: You were 17 when you shot the film. Were you and your parents ready for that? Did you jump into it with both feet?
- Saoirse: Well, I had to. I was fine doing it. I’ve done romantic scenes before, never as much as The Host, or anything like that. Obviously, it’s a romantic story but you don’t want it to completely take over the whole story. As long as it didn’t do that, it was fine. I was very comfortable with the guys, as I said. I’d met them before and we’d done rehearsals. We’d rehearsed for a couple of weeks before we started shooting and that made a very big difference as well, I think. Being comfortable with each other and also being able to have a laugh, that makes such a big difference when you’re dealing with those kinds of scenes. Because I find when it’s too intense all the way through, I can’t take it, but if you’re able to have a laugh, it’s great.
Saoirse with Wanda's weird alien eyes
Kidzworld: (to Saoirse’s dad Paul, who’s sitting behind her) And you were OK with it?
- Saoirse’s father: Yeah. It was fine.
Kidzworld: You told us about doing the two voices but you had to play a teenager as well as a 1,000 year old alien. How did you put that mix of things together?
- Saoirse: I dunno. I was aware of it so I just kind of worked it in there somehow. It helped reading the book. I’ve done a few films now that have been adapted from books and I almost prefer just to read the script. But in this case, I think it was important to read the book because there’s a lot of detail put in it, which Stephenie Meyer is very, very good at doing.
- There’s a lot of detail and backstory to the characters; their history, how the resistance came about, all that kind of stuff. So I thought, in this case, it would be very beneficial for me to read it and understand all that stuff. It was good for the character of Wanda (for me to know) what other planets she’d been to, what she’d gone through, what kind of other creatures she had become for a certain amount of time. It was something that I’d read and put in the back of my head and then got on with it.
Kidzworld: At one point Wanda/Melanie has to survive alone in the desert. Could you do that?
- Saoirse: On my own? I’d be somewhere in the middle. My friend, Christopher (Kane, the designer?), I reckon he’d be grand out in the forest. He’s got a pen knife and he’s got all these little gadgets that would help him survive. I think I’d be somewhere in-between. I think I’d be fine to a certain extent. I’d probably last a couple of weeks and then die (we laugh). But I’d last a while. If William Hurt (who plays Uncle Jed in the film) were with me, I’d be fine. I don’t know how I’d be on my own.
Saoirse's fun Bo-Ho style
Kidzworld: You said you had some laughs making the film so any pranks on set?
- Saoirse: Well, we found out that Max is afraid of moths and butterflies so we needed to take advantage of that so, I don’t know how we found it but we came across this little plastic cockroach. Max would heat up his lunch every day in the microwave, so it was simple, not too elaborate, but we thought (the prank) would work. So we put (the plastic cockroach) in the microwave and he came running out of his trailer. He hadn’t figured out it wasn’t a real one.
- But I’m terrible at pranks. My father is the one who plays not pranks but jokes on my mom. She believes it. I go along to a certain extent but then I get such a big kick out of it that I have to tell them (the truth) because I want them to share it, so I did that with (Max). (I said) “It’s fake, though.” And he said, “Uh, OK” and ran back in (his trailer) and that was it. But it was funny.
Saoirse on set with Jake Abel (Ian)
Kidzworld: What type of film have you not done yet that you’d like to do?
- Saoirse: I’d love to do a musical. What else? I’d like to do a musical and a silent film. I actually said that before The Artist came out. I said I’d love for someone to make a silent film. I love it when there is great dialogue but I really enjoy doing scenes where nobody says anything. As an audience member, you can get so much out of that. With something like Amour, so much of what’s brought out on screen is unsaid. And so much of the story is unsaid. It’s just this silent dialogue between this old married couple who have been through so much together and you didn’t need them to say too much. I’d love to do a film like that.
Kidzworld: What music artists are you into?
- Saoirse: I love Beach House. I love First Aid Kit. I love this new singer from England called Jake Bugg. The kids will like him. He’s really good. First Aid Kit is really brilliant. The xx is really great as well. All that new stuff is good. I like to sing folky stuff. I don’t know if I’m any good at it but I like it.
Poster with Saoirse as Melanie/Wanda