Toronto: Saoirse Ronan Talks Activism, Growing Up in 'Brooklyn'

Ammonite Still 1 -Kate Winslet -Saoirse Ronan - Publicity -NEON-H 2020
Courtesy of NEON

From left: Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan in 'Ammonite'

During a virtual master class at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday, the 'Ammonite' actress discussed her life and career.

Don't go calling Ammonite star Saoirse Ronan an activist.

Sure, the multiple Oscar nominee welcomes using her star power to do good, but would rather credit others who do far more to change the world. "I don't consider myself an activist. It would be unfair to say that, given the very small amount of work I've done with people who really dedicate their lives to it," Ronan told a virtual master class at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday.

Ronan is an ambassador for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and has lent her voice to other social causes like the #MeToo movement and Feminists Don't Wear Pink. "Being a mouthpiece for the people that actually know what they're talking about is really how I always felt about it," she explained.

Ronan said her role in activism has been backing those doing the real legwork for social change. "I've met a lot of people that support incredible causes and are unbelievably passionate about it and incredibly hardworking in terms of getting the message out there, and I'm kind of like everyone else in saying, 'oh, what do you need me to do to spread that message out there?' " she added.

Ronan appeared remotely at TIFF as she touts her latest movie, Francis Lee's second feature, Ammonite, which is receiving a world premiere in Toronto and where she stars opposite Kate Winslet.

During a discussion of her life and career, Ronan drew a contrast from when, at 13 years of age, she was recognized for her role as the troubled Briony in Atonement, to her performance as a 20-year-old in Brooklyn, where she played a young Irish girl landing in 1950s New York City and also grew up as an actress in front of the camera.

"I was absolutely a wreck, the difference between the way I was as myself and as an actor on Brooklyn, versus the way I was on Atonement," she recalled. "I was 20, so the hormones were hanging all over the place anyways. It's an intense time for anyone because it's usually when they move away and get a job or go to college or whatever," Ronan explained.

Then she tackled Brooklyn in the middle of transitioning from being a teenager to becoming a young woman in the celebrity spotlight, including in her native Ireland.

"I went back not even to Dublin, but where I grew up and I hadn't been there in years, and that represented an important, yet an older path in my life, that I will always remain connected to, but I was moving past that by now," she recalled.

The need to get Brooklyn right had Ronan filled with terror. "I had never been aware of the camera in a negative way or had it paralyze me. But I was feeling that a bit on Brooklyn, in terms of what am I doing with my face," she told the Toronto masterclass.

That phase in her personal and professional development soon passed, leaving behind a performance in Brookyn that sealed Ronan's career in Hollywood. "It ended up being such a special film for me to do. That film gets to me in a way that nothing else I've done has," she said.

The Toronto International Film Festival continues through Sept. 19.