Saoirse Ronan is all over the multiplex these days — the Oscar-nominated Irish actress stars in Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and has a cameo in Muppets Most Wanted. In an interview with Rotten Tomatoes, Ronan talked about her love for classic cinema, her appreciation for David Lynch, and her experience on the set of The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976; 98% Tomatometer)
[Taxi Driver is] a film that really kind of struck me on an emotional level and as somebody who works and can kind of appreciate how films are made. I remember when I saw Taxi Driver for the first time, and I saw the creativity and the imagination that went into the shots that Scorsese chose, and to really kind of capture a very particular kind of New York. I thought it was really wonderful. You know, you can watch certain films and there are certain things that will stick out for you. It can be a great character or a performance or an ensemble performance or whatever, but when everything seems to come into play, it’s always really impressive, I think, when every single cast member is very strong. So I felt like with this film, cinematically, it just kind of ticked all those boxes for me.
On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 1954; 100% Tomatometer)
I remember when I saw On the Waterfront for the first time. With that, it was kind of the chemistry between Brando and Eva Marie Saint that was so gorgeous to watch on screen. And that’s a wonderful film to go back to. And actually, in the film I’m just about to do, one of the relationships that I have with another character kind of really reminds me of their relationship. So that’s lovely.
I’m intrigued by your expertise in older films.
I’m not an expert.
But I’ll tell you, I think a lot of times it takes a while for someone to appreciate something like On the Waterfront. That’s pretty advanced film-watching.
Well, I mean I remember when I was younger and someone that I worked with got me the book The Story of Film by Mark Cousins. It’s a fantastic book. It’s actually really great because there are so many people who are real film buffs who kind of eat, drink cinema. Whenever I have the time, especially over the last few years, I’ve tried to see as much as I could. But, you know, I grew up watching older films and listening to older music and things like that. My mom’s mother actually was a real film buff when she was growing up in Dublin, and used to write letters to, you know, Cary Grant and people like that, and Humphrey Bogart. She always had a real love for cinema. I think my mom kind of just passed that on to me a little bit. So I grew up with that kind of stuff.
And then just, even like comedies of the 1980s, I mean the Three Amigos, I grew up with…
That’s such a great movie.
It’s such a great movie. I was just talking to someone about it actually and I haven’t seen The Jerk before and we were both saying… she’s a director I just worked with and she grew up watching Three Amigos and loved, obviously, Steve Martin and Martin Short and Chevy Chase. It’s such a simple and ridiculous storyline that it just works. It’s like from the off, you’re just in on this little joke, you know. It’s so great. So I loved that when I was growing up. She was telling me The Jerk, I’d never seen The Jerk before, and I watched it a couple of weeks ago for the first time and it was, again, just really great, kind of like, SNL humor that I really love.
I remember, like, telling everyone ‘cuz I felt really cool, that I’d seen this older David Lynch film, watching Eraserhead…
(Laughing) Oh God.
…just trying to figure out what the f— it was about. And I kinda loved it, you know. And then I looked up Q&As that he had done afterwards, and that was kind of the point for him, I think, was to have people kind of ask questions and make up, in a way, their own story for this bizarre character. And I really loved that, and I hoped, God, if I ever got to make a film or anything, it would be such an interesting way to go about it, you know. To kind of make everything so nonsensical that people are forced to make sense out of it themselves.
Right. It’s like abstract painting in a way.
Yeah. Yeah. Almost. Which is great. And it’s always great when films can do that as well. (Laughing) Maybe not quite as abstract as Eraserhead; I mean it’s nice to know what it’s about. But, yeah, just to be able to almost leave your own mark on a film or take what you want away from it is a lovely thing.
What’s the name of that film? Was it Jimmy Kimmel that was involved in it? Windy City Heat? It’s this guy, oh God, what’s his name again? I can’t remember. [Editor’s note: Perry Caravello.] He’s Italian-American and, you know, he’s been in the game a long time, and you see footage of him going into auditions and things like that, and he literally thinks he’s, like, the next Marlon Brando. He really believes he’s gonna be the next Marlon Brando. And his friends create this whole film, this fake movie, that he lands the lead part in. They like shoot the film, there’s loads of things that go wrong. And he’s got an awful attitude, like, he’s really cocky and everything. Anyway, the film came out. They released it. They released, like, the making-of, and I think he kind of put two and two together. And he’s done interviews since then and says, “I was in on the joke the whole time! I knew what was going on! I knew what was going on!” And I don’t think he did. And it’s really heartbreaking then to go back to it then and realize that he didn’t know. He really heard that he had gotten this lead part in the film, you know. You should check it out. It’s funny. Jimmy Kimmel’s involved in that, I think.
RT: How much fun was it to work on The Grand Budapest Hotel?
Saoirse Ronan: It was amazing. It was literally like stepping into a world that you know can only be created by one man, and that unless you’re asked to come back, you’ll never be a part of again. From the hotel that we stayed in to the food that we ate to just the set that was built for us to play in, it was all so Anderson-esque. It’s great because for the likes of me and Tony [Revolori], and even Ralph [Fiennes] as well I’m sure, we were the newbies. And everyone else had worked with Wes before, and he does have a very particular way of working. I mean, everything was planned out beforehand. And that comes down to the time allotted for each shot in the film. It’s kind of that meticulous. So to come into that, it kind of throws you for a second and you need to adapt to it. So being around people who have been working with him for… you know, some people like [cinematographer] Bobby Yeoman had been working with him for over 20 years. And I think that just puts you at ease to be with these people who are so, so good at what they do and kinda know Wes and respect Wes so much. Yeah, we had a great time. Costumes were great and, you know, it was lovely.
Do you feel like you can bake particularly delicious delicacies? Because you looked like you knew what you were doing in that movie.
(Laughing) I did look like, yeah… that’s why I’m called an actor. I got paid to do it too! No, I’ve only baked a little bit.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is currently in theatres.