Saoirse Una Ronan ( SUR-shə; born 12 April 1994) is an Irish and American actress. Her accolades include four Screen Actors Guild Award nominations and two Academy Award nominations, and three nominations each from the British Academy Film Awards and the Golden Globe Awards. In 2016, Ronan was featured in Forbes‘ “30 Under 30” list and in Time‘s “Next Generation Leaders” list.
Ronan made her acting debut with the Irish medical drama series The Clinic in 2003 and had her feature film debut in the romantic comedy I Could Never Be Your Woman in 2007. Her breakthrough came with the part of a precocious teenager in Atonement (2007), for which she received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress nomination. She followed it by playing a murdered girl seeking vengeance in The Lovely Bones (2009), a teenage assassin in Hanna (2011), and a chef in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). Ronan received critical acclaim for playing a homesick Irish girl in 1950s New York in the drama Brooklyn (2015) and the titular character of a high school senior in Greta Gerwig‘s coming-of-age film Lady Bird (2017). The former earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress nomination.
In addition to acting on screen, Ronan has hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live, and made her Broadway debut in a 2016 revival of The Crucible, in the role of Abigail Williams.
Born in The Bronx, in New York City, Ronan is the only child of Irish parents Monica (née Brennan) and Paul Ronan, who both hail from Dublin, Ireland. Her father worked in construction and bar work before training as an actor, in New York, and her mother had acted as a child. Ronan’s family moved to Dublin, Ireland when she was three years old, later settling in County Carlow. She attended a local school, but was later home-schooled by private tutor. Ronan moved to Howth, a fishing village near Dublin, with her parents in her early teens.
2003–2009: Atonement and other early screen appearances
Ronan made her screen debut on Irish national broadcaster RTÉ, in the 2003 prime time medical drama The Clinic and then appeared in the mini-serial Proof. During the same time, Ronan auditioned to play Luna Lovegood in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, a role she eventually lost out to Evanna Lynch.
Amy Heckerling‘s romantic comedy I Could Never Be Your Woman, which was the first film that Ronan had shot for back in 2005, was theatrically released in a few international markets in 2007 but was given a direct-to-video release in America later in 2008 after it struggled to attract financing and several deals disintegrated during its post-production. In the film, Ronan portrayed the daughter of Michelle Pfeiffer‘s character and Paul Rudd co-starred as Pfeiffer’s love interest. Joe Leydon of Variety labelled the film “desperately unfunny” but considered the interplay between Ronan and Pfeiffer’s characters to be among the film’s highlights.
At the age of 12, Ronan attended a casting call for Joe Wright‘s 2007 film adaptation of Ian McEwan‘s novel Atonement. She auditioned for and won the part of Briony Tallis, a 13-year-old aspiring novelist, who impacts several lives by accusing her sister’s lover of a crime he did not commit. She acted alongside Keira Knightley and James McAvoy. Budgeted at US$30 million, the film earned over US$129 million worldwide. Ty Burr of The Boston Globe called her “remarkable [and] eccentric”, and Christopher Orr of The Atlantic wrote that she is a “a marvel, elegantly capturing the narcissism and self-doubt that adhere to precocity”. Ronan was nominated for a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, making her one of the youngest Oscar nominees.
Ronan next played the daughter of an impoverished psychic (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones) in the supernatural thriller Death Defying Acts (2007) and starred as Lina Mayfleet, a heroic teenager who must save the inhabitants of an underground city named Ember in the fantasy film City of Ember (2008). Both films received a mixed critical reception and failed at the box office. In a review for the latter, the critic Stephen Holden took note of how Ronan’s talents were wasted in it.
In 2009, Ronan starred alongside Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci in Peter Jackson‘s supernatural drama The Lovely Bones, an adaptation of the book of the same name by Alice Sebold. Ronan played 14-year-old Susie Salmon, who, after being raped and murdered, watches from the after-life as her family struggles to move on with their lives while she comes to terms with her quest for vengeance. Ronan and her family were originally hesitant for Ronan to accept the role due to its subject matter, but agreed after Jackson assured them that the film would not feature gratuitous scenes of rape and murder. Several sequences in the film relied on extensive special effects and much of Ronan’s scenes were filmed in front of a blue screen. Reviewers were critical of the film’s story and message, but Richard Corliss of Time believed that Ronan had successfully invested the gruesome tale with “immense gravity and grace”. Sukhdev Sandhu of The Daily Telegraph considered Ronan to be the sole positive aspect of the production, writing that she “is simultaneously playful and solemn, youthful yet old beyond her years”. The film was a box office disappointment, but earned Ronan a BAFTA Award for Best Actress nomination.
2010–2014: Action, fantasy, and science fiction films
In Peter Weir‘s war drama The Way Back (2010), Ronan played the supporting part of Irena, a Polish orphan during World War II, who joins escaped Siberian convicts in a 4,000-mile trek to India. It co-starred Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell and Ed Harris, and was filmed on location in Bulgaria, India and Morocco. The following year, Ronan reunited with Joe Wright to play the title character in the action film Hanna, about a 15-year-old girl raised in the Arctic wilderness to be an assassin. The film co-starred Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett as Hanna’s father and a villainous CIA agent, respectively. Ronan performed her own stunts and in preparation, she spent several months training in martial arts, stick fighting and knife fighting. Ronan’s performance and the film’s action sequences were praised by critics. In his review for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers termed the film “a surreal fable of blood and regret” and labelled Ronan an “acting sorceress”. Hanna proved to be a moderate commercial success. She also voiced the lead role in the dubbed English version of Studio Ghibli’s Japanese anime film Arrietty.
Ronan and Alexis Bledel played the titular assassins in Geoffrey S. Fletcher‘s action film Violet & Daisy (2011). Eric Goldman of IGN compared the film unfavourably to the work of Quentin Tarantino and commented that Ronan’s abilities had surpassed the material. Peter Jackson approached Ronan to play an elf in The Hobbit film series, but she withdrew from the project due to scheduling conflicts. She was instead drawn to Neil Jordan‘s horror film Byzantium (2012), as the “dark, gothic and twisted” project provided her an opportunity to play a more complex and mature character. The film starred Gemma Arterton and her as mother-and-daughter vampires. Writing for Radio Times, the critic Alan Jones found the film to be an “evocative fairy tale that uses vampires as a prism to comment on humanity” and considered both Arterton and Ronan to be “radiant” in it.
In a 2013 film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer‘s novel The Host, Ronan played the dual role of Melanie Stryder, a human rebel, and Wanderer, a parasitic alien. Critics disliked the film; Manohla Dargis termed it “a brazen combination of unoriginal science-fiction themes [and] young-adult pandering”, but took note of an “otherworldly aspect to [Ronan’s] screen presence, partly due to her stillness and her own translucent eyes, which can suggest grave intensity or utter detachment”. In Kevin Macdonald‘s drama How I Live Now, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Meg Rosoff, Ronan played an American teenager sent to a remote farm in the United Kingdom during the outbreak of a fictional third world war. Olly Richards of Empire found Ronan to be in “typically watchable form” in it, but the film earned little at the box office. In her final film release of the year, Ronan voiced a barmaid named Talia in the critically panned animated film Justin and the Knights of Valour.
Ronan had two film releases in 2014 with widely diverse critical receptions—the acclaimed comedy film The Grand Budapest Hotel from the director Wes Anderson and Ryan Gosling‘s panned directorial debut Lost River. In the former, an ensemble film headed by Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori, Ronan played the supporting part of the love interest to Revolori’s character. It was the first project that she filmed without her parents’ accompanying her on set. The film earned over $174 million on a $25 million budget and was ranked by the BBC as one of the greatest films of the century. In the surrealistic fantasy film Lost River, Ronan played a mysterious young girl named Rat who owns a pet rat; Geoffrey Macnab of The Independent termed the film a “wildly self-indulgent affair” but praised Ronan’s “tough but vulnerable” portrayal.
2015–present: Brooklyn, Lady Bird, and beyond
After starring in Stockholm, Pennsylvania (2015), a psychological thriller about Stockholm syndrome, Ronan played the lead role of Eilis Lacey, a homesick Irish girl in 1950s New York, in the drama Brooklyn. Directed by John Crowley, the film is based on the novel of the same name by Colm Tóibín. Ronan believed that certain aspects of her character’s development mirrored her own, saying that she “related [to every] single saying, every aspect of what her journey is”. The film and Ronan’s performance were acclaimed; Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian considered it to be a “heartfelt and absorbing film” and wrote that Ronan’s “calm poise anchors almost every scene and every shot”. Kenneth Turan of Los Angeles Times took note of the “overwhelming empathy she creates with the subtlest means, the remarkable way she’s able to create achingly personal, intensely emotional sequences while seeming not to be doing very much at all.” Ronan received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Drama.
In 2016, Ronan moved to New York City to begin rehearsals for her debut appearance on Broadway, in a revival of Arthur Miller‘s play The Crucible. She took the role of Abigail Williams, a manipulative maid responsible for the death of 150 people accused of witchcraft. Based on the Salem witch trials, the play was directed by Ivo van Hove and ran for 125 performances. In preparation, she read Stacy Schiff‘s book The Witches: Salem, 1692, and collaborated closely with van Hove to empathise with her villainous character. Instead of relying on previous portrayals of Williams, Ronan played her as “more victim than victimizer”. Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney found Ronan to be “icy and commanding” in it and Linda Winer of Newsday commented that she had played the part “with the duplicity of a malevolent surfer-girl”.
The following year, Ronan voiced Marguerite Gachet in the biographical animated drama Loving Vincent, and starred alongside Billy Howle as troubled newlyweds on their honeymoon in a film adaptation of Ian McEwan‘s novel On Chesil Beach. In a mixed review of the latter film, Kate Erbland of IndieWire thought that Ronan was under-utilised in it and that her performance had been overshadowed by Howle’s work. Ronan hosted an episode of Saturday Night Live, in which some of her sketches were criticised in the media for stereotypical portrayal of Irish people.
Also in 2017, Ronan starred in Greta Gerwig‘s coming-of-age film Lady Bird, in which she played the titular role of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a high school senior who shares a tumultuous relationship with her mother (played by Laurie Metcalf). It is one of the best-reviewed films on the review-aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. Labelling Ronan’s performance as one of the best of the year, A. O. Scott of The New York Times wrote, “Ronan navigates each swerve in Lady Bird’s story with an uncanny combination of self-confidence and discovery. She is as spontaneous and unpredictable as an actual 17-year-old … which suggests an altogether stupefying level of craft.” She received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy and a SAG Award for Best Actress nomination.
Ronan hosted Saturday Night Live on Dec 2, 2017 with musical guest U2, featuring very popular pop parody “Welcome to Hell.” The video addresses the everyday sexual harassment and oppression women face. In the video and other skits, Ronan showcases her excellent aptitude for accents. Her opening monologue included a song she wrote as a little girl to teach people how to pronounce her name. The lyrics spelled phonetically are: “It’s Sersha with an er, not Sorsee with an or, ’cause Sorcee with an or goes or not er, it’s shh instead of tss, uh instead of ee, it’s simple as can be, see Sersha!” 
In 2018, Ronan will star as Mary Stuart in the period drama Mary Queen of Scots, co-starring Margot Robbie as Elizabeth I of England. She will feature alongside Annette Bening in a film adaptation of Anton Chekhov‘s play The Seagull, and has committed to star in Sweetness in the Belly , a romance based on Camilla Gibb‘s novel of the same name.
Ronan holds dual American and Irish citizenship. In 2013, she purchased a home in Howth, where she spent some years of her late childhood. In January 2016, she returned to live in her birth city, New York.
In 2010, Ronan was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She also became an ambassador for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. In 2011, Ronan took part in a promotion for the Irish Film Institute‘s Archive Preservation Fund, in which she was digitally edited into popular Irish films of the past, as well as documentary footage.