Irish treasure Saoirse Ronan is getting well-deserved Oscar buzz for her performance as a 1950’s immigrant in “Brooklyn,” which screened the other evening at the New York Film Festival. Ronan, who received an Oscar nomination at the tender age of 13 for “Atonement,” is playing her first Irish character, Ellis, who sets sail for America to look for a better life and finds herself torn between two countries as well as two men.
“Brooklyn” is based on the Colm Toibin novel and adapted by Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity,” “An Education,” “About a Boy”). Irish director John Crowley (“Intermission”) told me on the red carpet at Alice Tully Hall that the film “is a very small story but it has scale” and that Ellis’s journey hopefully suggested “more than the actual size of one woman’s story.” He hoped also it humanized the story of migrants, which gives it a particular modern-day relevancy.
The cast features stand out performances by Julie Walters, in a hilarious turn as the owner of a boarding house for Irish women, and Emory Cohen as Ellis’s American love interest, a plumber who has a thing for Irish women. (Domhnall Glee is her Irish love.)
On the red carpet the director told me about plans to spin off “Brooklyn” into a television show that, “there’s a plan in the pipeline” but it was very early and no names were attached yet for the cast. “We’re trying to get this out in the field first,” Crowley told me, adding that he might get involved as well. “It’s a great idea and everybody is intrigued by it.”
Another real find in “Brooklyn” is Emory Cohen, who has the intensity of a young Marlon Brandon. “He’s like an old fashioned movie star isn’t he?” the director said to me on the red carpet. He saw the young actor in Derek Cianfrance’s film “The Place Beyond the Pines” and called Cianfrance to ask about him. “I found him amazingly powerful but scary. ‘Oh my god! Who’s the kid? He’s just a damaged kid or is that acting?’ And it’s acting,” Crowley said. “It’s a very different style of performance to what he’s doing in ‘Brooklyn’ obviously.”
On the red carpet, Ronan who looked ethereally beautiful and all grown up in a Valentino gown, said about playing Ellis that she had beens looking for the right part to play as her first Irish character. She’d read other scripts over the years but this was the first one that felt like the screenwriter, Nick Hornby, who happens to be English, captured the Irish spirit and heart.
The experience her character went through also resonated with Ronan, who lived in London for a year and a half around the time they were filming “Brooklyn.”
“I was right in that sort of state of homesickness and not quite knowing where I could kind of settle, you know? Cause you know, you float about for a little bit and I was very much in that mindset when we made the film. So everyday it was like you’re staring at yourself in the mirror and it’s like an inch from your face and you can’t look away. It’s a very vulnerable place to be in.”
Ronan has a lovely Irish accent and someone asked if people just wanted to be in her presence just so they could listen to her talk. “Yes. I charge them now. It’s like I’m giving it out for free. I can’t do it anymore.”
Photo c2015 Showbiz411 by Paula Schwartz