“She doesn’t want to follow the pack. It’s very dynamic, she has a strong sense of self.”
Saoirse Ronan is speaking of Lady Bird, the character that she plays in the movie of the same name -but it could just as well talk about it.
He saw his victory, his third Oscar nomination, the first when she was only 13 years old, for the Atonement. She has already won the Golden Globe for best actress for the role, gently FaceTiming his mom to the hearing so that she can look too.
Lady Bird is Greta Gerwig his directorial debut and has seen her become only the fifth woman nominated for an Oscar for best director. It has been almost universally praised for its realistic, but affectionate, look at the life of a teenager on the point of leaving the house and his relationship with his mother – in-law, and it is also the best film.
Not surprising, then, that Saoirse is looking so happy and relaxed. Its silver straps platforms have been taken out and she is sitting on the floor of a hotel suite, eat sushi. “It’s so cold here?” she asks, going on the thermostat before returning to the carpet.
We talked about how Saved by the Bell was the source of his inspiration for the role, why she wanted to change her own name – and why she is like Beyonce.
Saoirse Ronan on set in the Highlands
All about best actress nominees
Lady Bird is the perfect score
Congratulations for the Oscar nomination. What drew you to the role of Lady Bird?
Lady Bird is very much his own person. She does not want to follow the pack. She is very determined, she has a very strong sense of self. One of the things that is unusual for the female leads, especially in a film about a teenager, is that it believes in itself, you know?
Even if she doesn’t know what she wants or what she wants to say, she knows that she is going to do something. She is very committed to being itself.
The film is made up of these small moments between family and friends and in relationships. It is located in a time for this young person, and to his family, where everything is moving a little faster than you’d like – and they can’t quite catch up with it. This is exactly what the end of childhood. It is gone before you can fully grasp this that it happened.
How was it similar, or not, of what it was like to be a teenager to you?
The insecurity she had and the hope that she had this feeling of needing to leave the house to find you-even – was something that I could really identify with and really relate. And the need for a strong friendship to anchor you.
When it came to the whole American high school experience – it was something that I knew nothing. The only thing that I had to draw from was Saved by the Bell and Sabrina the Teenage Witch – American high school shows.
The way the mother-daughter relationship is portrayed is very realistic. How do you approach it?
You are watching two people who really like each other. There is a lot they share what is beautiful and fun and it is a kind of be overwhelmed by the mother of the fear of change and of the child of despair to get out and have something new.
They just miss each other just by an inch. They just don’t get each other. It is not that either one of them is necessarily wrong, but they don’t understand how others could think the way they do. It takes only time and life and experience and away from understanding the other. More for the child, I think.
What does your mom think of the film – and what your screen’s mom Laurie Metcalf was like?
It is she that I call at the end of the day. She knows everything that is going on when I’m shooting, because it is what I’m talking about. She is like my real life person when I do this kind of things.
It has been really hit by Laurie and how genuine she was as a mother. It is not the playback of the movie mom or anything – she is a true mother. The great thing about Laurie is that a lot of people capable of playing a role like that and say, “she is unlikeable” or “she’s the villain’. But Laurie knew that there was a goodness, there is such goodness out there and it is a good place.
Why are the names so important in the film?
When I was younger, no one has my name. Even in Ireland, some people hadn’t even heard of this name before.
Therefore, for a certain time, I really didn’t want to. I wanted to have a name like everyone in the world – such as Hannah, or Sarah. And then the older I got and the more sure I was of my personality and the kind of person I wanted to be, I was able to have a little more.
I understand why musicians and people like that takes a name in order to give them the means. I think that is what it can do. Lady Bird, was – for Greta and me – it is like an alter ego, a little. It is like our Sasha Fierce – we are Beyonce, obvs.
You also hear you on the kids wanting to be called Spaceman or what was the one Phoebe had in ‘ Friends Princess Consuela Banana Hammock? [She cracks up laughing at this point]
What was it like working with Greta for the first time?
I was really, really huge fan of hers. Go to the encounter of her was a little surreal for a second, because I love Frances Ha [Gerwig appeared in] so much.
It actually doesn’t happen to me often with actors. But every now and again there’s someone who really makes me feel butterflies and Greta is one of those people.
We met over a Skype call and we were so giddy around each other. I hope that we will have to work together, again and again, I can just see us properly the collaboration. It was so great to guide me, but giving me the space to find my own way. Being a good director is the equivalent of being a good parent.
How did you find out about your Oscar nomination?
I was at my friend’s house, and she had been secretly watching the online applications. I had forgotten that they were coming.
Finally, she shot a load of confetti cannons, out of a tote bag and is all, “pow!” and exploded them. I still didn’t know what was happening and I got confetti all over me. His man ran in with balloons and confetti, and then they told me. I was so, so happy.
A few minutes later, she said, ‘Greta was nominated too”. As soon as I heard this, I burst into tears. Out of everything, it is a change. It’s insane that she is the fifth woman, just to be named. I am so proud of her. She deserves it. She is a great filmmaker and it is one of the best movies.
Lady Bird is in some cinemas, on 16 February and at the national level, the 23 February
Follow us on Facebook, and on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, or on Instagram at bbcnewsents. If you have a story suggestion e-mail [email protected]