There’s nothing like a road trip to cement a new friendship.
So it was with the Oscar nominated teen Saoirse Ronan and New Zealand actress Rose McIver, 22, who visited Toronto last week on the latest whistle-stop of their tour to promote The Lovely Bones, Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Alice Sebold’s book about a murdered 14-year-old who looks upon the aftermath of her life from a place called “the in between.” It opens today.
The two play sisters — albeit ones separated by death. Ronan is Susie Salmon, the protagonist, who watches as her “kid sister” Lindsey (McIver) ages from 11 to 19, experiencing first kisses and other milestones denied to her by Mr. Harvey, the psychotic child-killer next door (Stanley Tucci).
In real life, McIver and Ronan became inseparable friends, who touch and play with each other’s hair almost by habit. This despite the fact that they share few scenes in this vail of tears.
“It was funny that I got along so well with Rosie, considering we didn’t do that much together,” says Ronan, who burst onto the scene with a best-supporting actress Oscar nomination for Atonement.” After location filming in Pennsylvania, “she came and visited us on the set in New Zealand and we used to hang out a lot.
“Travelling around like this together is a lot of fun.”
“Although,” McIver adds, on a visit like this, there’s not much time to do much more than what we’re doing now.”
“But we’re on to L.A. next,” Ronan says excitedly. “And I’m sure we’ll go to (the trendy shopping district) The Grove or something. The last time we were there somebody recognized us and took pictures. It was really weird.”
Ronan admits her life changed radically after the Oscars. “It does open doors, it was incredible and unexpected. But things are even more busy now after The Lovely Bones, even more so than during the Oscars. I have a movie I’m about to start (reportedly the movie Hanna, in which she plays an East European teen trained as an assassin), but I can’t talk about it because it’s not completely signed, sealed and delivered.”
And with an array of choices, she says The Lovely Bones was still a no-brainer. “One of the best directors in the world, the script was incredible. And the idea of my character being in the in-between and not on Earth was very appealing. I was by myself a lot of the time. I like working that way.
“As an actor, I found it easier when I was in the in-between than when I was on Earth. Part of acting is separation and escaping yourself.”
McIver, who just finished shooting Predicament with Flight of the Conchords’ Jermaine Clement, still hedges her bets on acting (she’s majoring in linguistics and psychology).
Not so Ronan, who looks far enough down the road to say she’d like to write and direct some day. She is wistful about McIver’s school experiences though.
“I have to be tutored. There’s only about three schools where I live (in Ireland’s County Carlow), and the attention I was getting at one of them wasn’t the right kind,” she says. “I don’t really want to go into it, but they didn’t make it easy for me.”
In the meantime, The Lovely Bones is in the middle of its own awards-season circus, and Jackson’s changes have irked some fans of the book.
“I read Twilight,” Ronan says, “and everything in the movie wasn’t exactly the way I’d imagined it. But I accepted it because it was the film version.”