Lady Bird star Saoirse Ronan: My best mate is my mum
Lady Bird star Saoirse Ronan says her closeness to her mother helped her play a rebellious daughter
Director and writer Greta Gerwig met Saoirse Ronan at the Toronto Film Festival in 2015, went to a hotel room to read her script for Lady Bird with her, and two minutes into the reading, knew she had her leading lady.
She did not even mind holding up shooting for six months longer than she had planned so that Ronan could finish her stint on Broadway, where she was acting in The Crucible.
The low-budget movie, made for US$10 million (S$13.2 million), has already grossed more than US$45 million, winning the Golden Globe for Best Comedy or Musical, and Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical for Ronan.
Now it is nominated for five Oscars - Best Picture, Best Actress (Ronan's third), Best Supporting Actress for Laurie Metcalf who plays her mother, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director, Gerwig being only the fifth woman to get a director nomination.
Lady Bird, which opens here tomorrow, is the coming-of-age story of Christine McPherson, a high school senior in Sacramento, and her rocky relationship with her mother. In fact, the script was initially called Mothers And Daughters.
Hot new star Timothee Chalamet also stars, along with Lucas Hedges, Tracy Letts and Lois Smith.
Ronan, 23, said she was not a rebellious child, unlike her character. At our interview at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, she explained that as a child actor, she was happy with her life.
"I've been surrounded by a lot of creative adults growing up... And I am close to my parents."
Though she was born in New York City, Ronan grew up in Ireland as her Irish parents moved back when she was three.
"Dad is an actor too. He started out in theatre in New York. He was a bartender and got discovered by another Irish actor who just asked him to go in and audition for a play. He is incredibly proud of everything that has happened for me. I feel bad for mum that she is stuck with two actors."
Ronan has been living in New York and said her mother was coming to visit from Ireland.
"When I moved away a few years ago to London, I remember feeling so homesick. She really helped me through it.
"And I had such a newfound respect for my mum once I left because when you're on your own, you don't have anyone to clean your clothes, cook for you, give you a cuddle at the end of the night, so I think then the appreciation just kind of went through the roof. We're best friends, my best mate."
That closeness actually helped her with playing the role of a troubled daughter.
"It helped play that relationship because I was able to be quite objective about it. It wasn't so emotional for me that I was lost in that whole dynamic.
"I could look at it and go, okay, I can see where I am coming from, I can see where she is coming from, I know what we need to do in this scene to evoke a certain reaction."
Ronan, who earned her first Oscar nomination for Atonement when she was 13, and her second for Brooklyn a couple of years ago, has been hailed as the next Meryl Streep.
When asked how she feels about that, she answered: "It is lovely. I don't read anything that is written about me, so I don't know when they've said it or when they haven't."
She added: "Meryl is wonderful and she has made a huge difference for females in our industry... The roles she has taken on are roles that transcend gender.
"They're strong and well-rounded people, and that is definitely something that I would always want to live by... It is always amazing to be compared to someone like that."
Ronan recalled how Streep came to a performance of The Crucible on a day when the cast was tired.
"Nobody felt like they were on their game. And somebody turned to us, he was like, yeah, let's just hope that Meryl isn't in here tonight. And we all laughed.
"So we did the performance, it was fine; it was not our best... We went downstairs and we were backstage, and the first person I saw was Meryl Streep. She was waiting to meet all of us. She seemed to like us."
Gerwig is a big influence in her life, especially because of her aspiration to someday direct.
"Just the way she has gone about really honing her skill, her director's skill and exposing herself to all these great directors' work and compiling all that so she can do it herself. And she has done such a brilliant job of it. I just really admire her."