grandbudapest-wesIrish actress Saoirse (pronounced SER-sha) Ronan had a blast making Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. The film tells the story of Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), a legendary concierge at a famous luxury hotel in the Republic of Zubrowka in the 1930s. Anderson also jumps to the 1960s and the 80s in this unique and utterly charming film. Saoirse plays Agatha, a baker who becomes the love interest of Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), Gustave’s young lobby boy protégé, and she gets involved in all sorts of madcap capers including the theft of a priceless Renaissance painting.

I’m always excited when Saoirse Ronan shows up in a film. From her Oscar-nominated performance in Atonement when she was only 13 years old to later appearances in films such as The Lovely Bones, The Host, and How I Live Now, Ronan is always fun to watch. In this film she is part of a dazzling ensemble that includes F. Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton, Jude Law, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Tom Wilkinson and many others. I talked to her earlier this week.

Danny Miller: Thank you so much for making time in your schedule. I was bummed when you had to pull out of the press day last month.

Saorise Ronan: I know, I’m so sorry about that! I was called back to film up in Northern California — it was a mad shoot!

When I talked to Jeff Goldblum and Tony Revolori that day, they said that working on a Wes Anderson was a pretty unique experience.

Oh, completely! It doesn’t compare to any other experience I’ve had on set. You get a very heightened experience film-wise but also just a very unique life experience. All of the sets were built from scratch, everything was there — very tactile, you just kind of breathe in the place. That kind of thing is so important and so much a part of the Wes Anderson experience! We had an amazing ensemble cast and Wes has a very specific way of working that I’ve never experienced before. He’s very specific and meticulous about everything, including timing and all the technicalities and yet he’s also able to balance emotion and humor so beautifully. It was like being in a master acting class. You have to stretch yourself quite a bit working on a Wes Anderson film.

Agatha’s look was so interesting — from her clothes to her large birthmark.

I love how Wes focused on every tiny detail. I remember that it took several hours to decide what shade of socks I was going to wear so you can imagine how much time when into the rest of Agatha’s look — as well as all of the other characters. We did many hair, makeup, and costume fittings because everything was based on the character’s main look. Even my wedding dress originated from that first costume they came up with. And a lot of time was spent creating just the right birthmark for my face — one of Agatha’s defining features!


Every time your character was making those Courtesans au Chocolat, I wanted one more than anything in the world! Tony was saying how miserable he was that couldn’t eat them because he’s allergic to chocolate!

Isn’t that the saddest thing you’ve ever heard?


I felt so bad when Tony told me he was allergic to chocolate. But I can assure you that I am not! I ate those courtesans all the time and they were amazing! They found this baker from down the road in Görlitz, Germany, where we were shooting, and she made all of the beautiful pastries that we took home and ate every night! And there were so many other fantastic desserts back at the hotel that Tony couldn’t eat. Wes brought this amazing Italian chef in to cook for us every day.


I know! I’ve never had that before! It was amazing. I got an email before I headed to Görlitz asking me if I had any dietary requirements. I said, “No, just give me food, I’ll eat anything!”

ronan-filmsI interviewed Geoffrey Fletcher (Violet & Daisy) and Kevin MacDonald (Where I Live Now) and both were very enthusiastic about having you in their films. I love that you still do these smaller indies in addition to the bigger projects. What goes into your decision-making process these days? 

I am always very passionate about making films that I am drawn to, ones that really strike a chord with me. I never want to make a film for any other reason — I just don’t think it’s worth it in the long run. When a script comes in that really excites me for some reason and I can’t stop thinking or talking about it, I know that’s what I want to do next. Like the one I’m about to do, Brooklyn, directed by John Crowley and written by Nick Hornby, based on Colm Toibin’s novel. I’m so thrilled to be part of this film because I feel like there’s so much in that film that has happened to me, I feel very emotionally attached to it. You can make a film for many reasons but at the end of the day it has to be because you’ve fallen in love with the script and because the director is someone you want to work with.

It must be cool to know that sometimes your presence is what gets some of these movies off the ground. 

Yeah, in some cases it’s great to know that you can help some brilliant director get the chance to make his or her film.

Is Brooklyn one of the first times you’re going to be able to use your actual accent?

Actually, I have more of a Dublin accent and my character in Brooklyn is from the countryside in southeast Ireland so it’s a bit different but it’s great to be playing an Irish girl! And to be able to use the melodies that Irish people use when they speak, I love it, that’s so natural for me. It’s funny because in The Grand Budapest Hotel, I pretty much use my real accent even though she’s not identified as Irish in any way!

Do you read the reviews of the films you’re in or follow how they’re doing at the box office? 

No, I never look at reviews. Sometimes people send them to me but it makes me very uncomfortable to see them. I’m happy just to know that people like a film. Sometimes it’s disappointing when a film you’re passionate about doesn’t do well but you can never tell how that’s going to work — sometimes there’s just something in the water! So I never look up films that I’m in or even the films of the people I’ve worked with. I’m too scared that someone is going to say something really mean about me. (Laughs.) I don’t want to have that in my head!

I know you have Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut, How to Catch a Monster, as well as Nikole Beckwith’s Stockholm, Pennsylvania coming up soon, but I wanted to ask you about a film I read about a few years ago where you would be playing Mary, Queen of Scots. Is that a real thing?

Yeah, it is — absolutely!  I’m not sure exactly when it’s going to happen, it may not be until next year, but I definitely plan on doing it. We’ve already gone up to Scotland and visited different castles that Mary went to. That’s another story that I’m extremely passionate about. As an Irish person, Scottish history is very similar to ours — it was fascinating to learn more about what they were put through and to research the relationship between the Stuarts and the Tudors. It was all so political and incestuous — quite the soap opera! So that will be a great story to tell and it’s Susanne Bier who’s going to direct and she’s just brilliant.

If you’re dying to taste one of Agatha’s scrumptious Courtesans au Chocolat, you can try making them yourself! Check out this feature from Fox Searchlight: