NEW YORK — Saoirse Ronan says she was “more than ready” to make the transition on film, and in real life, from young girl to commanding woman. Her new role in “Mary Queen of Scots,” gave her the opportunity to do both.
Ronan, who is Irish, says she was not only excited to play Mary Stuart, a Celtic woman who ruled Scotland in the 16th century, but also to take on such a meaty part.
Nominated for Oscars for roles in “Atonement,” ”Brooklyn” and last year’s awards season favourite, “Lady Bird,” Ronan, 24, has often played girls who are still finding their way in the world. But “Mary Queen of Scots” provided the transition to full womanhood as her character falls in love, becomes a mother, and rides a horse into battle.
“Playing Mary offered me so much as an actor. It’s the first time that I’ve played someone who really comes into their womanhood and is very sort of settled and comfortable in that stage of their life,” Ronan says. “Doing the labour scene especially, it was just a really, really empowering scene … and I think just getting to play someone who can, you know scream and be sweaty, and you know enjoy sex and go onto the battlefield and do all of these things was really liberating for me.”
Her character also faces betrayal from both family and political factions who didn’t always respect a woman in power. In the film, Scots who wanted Queen Mary to lose her position fabricated rumours to sway the public against her. The negative rhetoric may resonate with modern audiences.
“It totally mirrors exactly what’s happening now and what has kind of always happened to, especially I think, women in politics — the way they’re shamed and the way they’re ridiculed for basically anything that isn’t their policy.” Ronan went on to say “it’s been really interesting to see how people have been able to pick up on so many things in the film that were taking place 500 years ago that are still very much a common occurrence now.”
Ronan says she always wanted to collaborate with Margot Robbie, who plays Queen Elizabeth I in “Mary.” The two actresses decided it would be best for on-screen tension if they didn’t see each other until their one scene together.
“By the time we actually saw each other which was in a take, and the camera shot us both at the same time, it was just the best buzz ever,” Ronan says.
Playing a formidable queen was like “gold dust” but Ronan says she’s also attracted to characters who are vulnerable and damaged.
“It’s great to play really strong women, but also I just really want to play very well written roles. So even if they are a bit of a mess or a bit ditzy or whatever, I don’t mind that.”
“Mary Queen of Scots” is in theatres now.