INT: City of Ember kids
Saoirse Ronan has achieved more at the age of 14 than most actors have in their lifetime by winning an Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe nomination. Her innate acting talent was blatant with an astonishingly chilling and brilliant performance in last yearís ATONEMENT. Her forthcoming films include DEATH DEFYING ACTS and THE LOVELY BONES, but up first, the remarkable actress takes the lead as Lina in Gil Kenanís CITY OF EMBER.
Harry Treadaway made his feature film debut in 2005ís big hit BROTHERS OF THE HEAD, alongside his twin brother Luke. They became an overnight sensation playing Siamese twins in a punk rock band, but chose to pursue solo projects thereafter, which led to LOVE YOU MORE and THE DISAPPEARED. Up next, Treadaway stars opposite Ronan as Doon, an eager teen looking for answers and solutions in CITY OF EMBER.
I had the privilege of sitting down to chat with the sweet, young actors last year, during a group excursion to the set of the film in Belfast. Check out what they had to say.
Saoirse Ronan and Harry Treadway
Can you talk about your characters and how they fit into the story?
Saoirse Ronan: Lina, in a way, to me, I think she was a very responsible girl for her age. Sheís only about 13 and she has to look after her younger sister, Poppy, and her granny who isnít at a good stage to look after them. So she has to take care of them, meanwhile go to school and then start her new job as a messenger. And sheís very responsible and very determined. I think once she sees something and knows that it could be important, then sheíll try to the end to find the answer.
Harry Treadaway: Iím going to start with whole story here. It all starts with them swapping jobs, thatís kind of how they become connected. Thereís an assignment day in Ember, which is normally on the last day of the school year. Because the population is in decline, they have kids from all years picking jobs out of a hat, from mold scraper to electricianís helper to builder to messenger. I got messenger, which for Doon is like the worst possible job because itís carrying gossip around the town and carrying messages for people that have nothing to do with the actual sort working of the city. Lina gets helper, donít you?
I want to work in the generator because the generatorís like the life source of the city. It powers everything, and itís clearly not working so well because more and more frequent blackouts are happening. Doonís been raised in a way to ask questions and to constantly try and discover things. Heís very practical. His dad makes lots of things and he thinks if he can get into the generator, he can work it out and look at how it works and eventually try and make it better, make it sort of work better. So they swap jobs.
These two characters have completely different personalities. Doon is more impatient and impulsiveÖ
HT: Yeah, no, heís very determined and very driven. They both are very driven, but in different ways for different reasons.
SR: Yeah, I think they have determination in common, but they are completely different. And as you said, Doon is a very impatient person whereas Lina, I think, she has to be patient because sheís got so many things going on in her life that she couldnít be any other way.
On a set as big and detailed as this, is it easy to fall for the reality of your characters?
HT: Thatís the job, and thatís kind of on this more than anything, I think, the kind of visual manifestation of the script has been stronger than anything else Iíve ever done - like the whole world. Itís like being in Ember. The first scene was turning up this contraption that dad had made that we kind of find. You turn up and itís there and it really is there, and kind of as you imagined it or better. I think Martin Laing deserves a mention for the set that heís done, which Iím just constantly amazed by. Every room you turn up into, youíre just blown away and you go, ĎNice one, mate.í It kind of makes your job easier because itís there. And you see the controller and little buttons are flashing. Itís all there.
How would you describe Gil Kenan as a director?
SR: What I loved about Gil is that he doesnít just see it from a directorís point of view. He sees it from the characterís point of view and the actorís point of view. That helps us a lot to know that he understands where weíre coming from, and we also understand where he comes from because we all get along really well together and talk.
HT: I think Gil has an incredible facility for knowing kids. Thereís a million different ways you could tell this story but Gilís incredible at knowing the sort of age that heís going for, or at least has to be accessible to, not just for that but has to read to a young audience. He has an amazing understanding of how kidsí minds work.
Can you talk about some of the adult actors youíve been working with?
SR: I want to talk Bill Murray for a second. I had, I donít know, maybe four scenes with Bill Murray, but those four scenes you just kind of remember for the rest of your life. He continuously makes people laugh. Whenever heís on set, he kind of puts everyone on a high. Heís really funny and heís really talented. He learns his lines, but then adds things on and it makes it even better. Yeah, Bill is great.
How easy was it for you to work with Bill Murray when he was improvising?
SR: Well, the first time I was a little bit lost. We were in this room actually, and we were doing a scene and we did Billís shot first, and then they panned around on me. Bill decided to make his own script and tried to make me laugh the whole way through. We did about four takes and he was trying to make me laugh basically the whole way through, and I actually didnít. Iím very proud of that. But yeah, and I didnít really get lost because you know he didnít lose the lines all together, he just made them his own.