First Posted: 3/25/2013
Twihards, take note. If you thought that Bella had a tough time trying to make up her mind between Edward and Jacob, wait until you meet Melanie Stryder, a teenager who finds herself in one of cinema’s most bizarre romantic triangles.
Based on “Twilight” author Stephenie Meyer’s sci-fi best-seller, “The Host” is all about aliens who invade both earth and the bodies of human beings.
Saoirse Ronan stars as Melanie, one of the last human survivors who is eventually co-opted by a good-natured E.T. called Wanderer, or Wanda for short. Playing host to Wanda might not be life-threatening for Melanie, but it does wreck havoc on her love life.
See, Melanie has the hots for Jared (Max Irons), while Wanda is smitten with Ian (Jake Abel). Needless to say, it makes for a unique kind of relationship.
“Playing Wanda, I suppose, was a bit tricky because she’s in love with Ian, but at the same time, she has all of Melanie’s memories and emotions, so she’s attracted to Jared because Melanie is in love with him,” said Ronan, 18. “But Melanie doesn’t want Wanda to go anywhere near Jared because Jared is hers.
“It was very complicated, but we mapped out everything when it came to that sort of stuff.”
Directed by “Gattaca” helmer Andrew Niccol, “The Host” (which co-stars William Hurt, Frances Fisher and Diane Kruger) is certainly not the first mash-up of sci-fi and love story, but just as Meyer’s “Twilight” books gave vampires a modern-day makeover, “The Host” updates the notion of invading aliens.
Nicknamed The Souls, the E.T.s try, in their way, to make the world a better place. They are, in Niccol’s words, more humane than humans. That said, not all earthlings are willing to get with the parasite program.
While the Souls usually extinguish the minds of the humans they’ve been implanted into, Melanie is strong-willed enough to co-exist with Wanda. Being asked to play two characters at once was something of a dream come true for Ronan, who developed different accents and walks for each woman.
On the set, Ronan’s voiceovers as Wanda were piped into her ear via an earpiece so she could hear Wanda’s running dialogue with Melanie as she was performing those scenes.
So, how did Ronan like acting with herself?
“I was nervous because I had never worked with Saoirse before,” she says with a laugh. “I’ve heard some stories. She’s a bit of a diva, I gotta say, for an Irish girl. No, it was fine. I really enjoyed it, I did.
“I knew what [Wanda’s] delivery was going to be every time in my ear, so it gave me the freedom to play around with different things and try different things out.”
When it came to “The Host’s” action scenes, Ronan was on firm footing. Three years ago, she appeared in Joe Wright’s “Hannah,” which required her to perform wall-to-wall stunts. There were times on the set of “The Host” when Ronan surprised the crew with her willingness to get physical.
“For one scene, the second AD brought me over to this balcony and said, ‘How would you like to jump off of here? We have a harness so you’ll be completely safe, but we understand if you don’t want to do it.’
“I said, ‘I’ll do it. I want to do it.’ I wanted them to be able to get as many shots as they could get. The whole crew and AD team had a bet that I wouldn’t do it because it was so high up, but the second AD thought I would do it, so she won 40 bucks. That was fun.”
Past, present, and future
Ronan comes by her love of acting naturally. The only child of Irish actor Paul Ronan (“The Devil’s Own”) and wife Monica, Saoirse was born in the Bronx. At the age of three, she returned with her parents to their native land.
While she’s worked all over the world, she still considers Dublin home. “I’ve found that while I’ve been away, my accent gets stronger and I become more Irish,” she noted. “I become more patriotic.”
Ronan was already a veteran of British TV by the time she snagged the life-changing part of aspiring novelist Briony Tallis in “Atonement.” The movie earned Ronan rave reviews and a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination.
Since then, Ronan has turned in a number of well-received performances in “The Lovely Bones,” “Hanna,” and “The Way Back.” In those films, she portrayed a suburban Philadelphia murder victim, a teenage assassin, and a Polish orphan, respectively.
If Ronan has regrets about working through her childhood, she’s not letting on. “The thing is, I never take [stardom] for granted, but at the same time, it’s just one part of my life,” she explained. “It doesn’t overwhelm me too much. I’ve been dealing with it since I was 10.”
It’s likely that Ronan will be dealing with success for a little while longer. At the moment, she has a handful of films in various stages of production, including May’s vampire thriller “Byzantium” and the post-apocalyptic romance “How I Live Now,” which is due in September.
This summer, Ronan is scheduled to begin shooting “How To Catch A Monster,” which marks her pal Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut. “Mad Men’s” Christina Hendricks stars as single mom whose teenage son uncovers a mysterious underwater town.
At the moment, Ronan is finishing up “The Grand Budapest Hotel” for one of her favorite directors, “Moonrise Kingdom’s” Wes Anderson. “Wes always has amazing casts in his films, and he has a brilliant, brilliant cast in this,” said Ronan of the 2014 film about a hotel’s “perfectly composed” concierge.
“We all have dinner together every single night. I’m sitting down at a table where Wes is at the top, and there’s Harvey Keitel and Willem Dafoe and Ralph Fiennes and Bill Murray. Amazing. There’s moments like that when suddenly everything is a bit too surreal.”