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Interview: Saoirse Ronan on acting for Wes Anderson with 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

Oscar-nominee Saoirse Ronan ("Atonement") talks about not hesitating to work with Wes Anderson in "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and loving his clarity.

Saoirse Ronan has a small but vital role in Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel." Credit: Getty Images Saoirse Ronan has a small but vital role in Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel."
Credit: Getty Images

The star of Wes Anderson films is Wes Anderson. But what does that mean for the actors — the many acclaimed, terrific actors — who regularly act for him? The latest addition to the fold is Saoirse Ronan. In “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” the teenage Oscar nominee (for “Atonement”) handles the small but vital role of a bakery girl in a fictitious mid-European nation who gets caught up in zany but dangerous intrigue with a bellboy (Tony Revolari) and a concierge (Ralph Fiennes).

In person, Anderson seems unexpectedly confident.

He’s one of those guys who seems so shy, but he’s very talkative and he’s very relaxed. He’s very classy, he’s very elegant. He’s a European American. A lot of time [while filming] he won’t look at the monitor. If you’re doing a dialogue scene, he’ll sit next to the camera and watch the scene live. Which I really liked, I thought that was lovely.

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He probably didn’t have to twist your arm to do this.

He didn’t have to persuade me to do it. “Yes, Wes Anderson, of course I’ll do your film. Don’t be ridiculous.” I kept thanking him all the time for letting me be in the film.

How clear is the character on the page? How much can you bring to her yourself?

I just needed to follow his lead, really. You can’t make any of his characters dull because they’re written so colorfully. He’s already decided who they’re going to be, and trusts you to bring that to life. I just needed to do what Wes asked, really. And I did. I think.

As an actor, do you like that?

I liked having that much clarity given to me. I liked knowing exactly what I had to do. There’s a certain amount of control and energy you need to put into every single one of the takes. I suppose there is a bit collaboration, but he knows what he wants. He doesn’t ram it down your throat — he’s just clear on what he wants. If you want to try something, he’ll do it. But usually his way works better. [Laughs]

Were there any other challenges? Your character does work in a pastry shop.

I had a little icing gun thing, and the [baker] said, “Yes, you just take this and you squirt it on and you do that,” and of course every single one of them was perfect. And I thought, “Oh, I can do that.” I went to do it and it was just [motions for a disaster]. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done on a film set. The stuff she made was beautiful. It was nice to eat it after.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter@mattprigge

 
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