“The Host” is a riveting story about the survival of love and the human spirit in a time of war. Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact. Most of humanity has succumbed.
Alicia Malone caught up with actress Saorise Ronan to speak about the film.
Q: There is a lot of action in this film and you get bashed around a lot. Did you hurt yourself at all or was it easy because you’ve done action scenes before?
Saoirse: I reckon I was probably nicked a few times I would say. I just wasn’t used to being hit. I wasn’t used to being the reactor to something. I’m always – not I’m always but I mean things like Hanna and stuff, I was always the one who was throwing the punches and stabbing people and shooting people and things like that and all of a sudden I’m the one who is being hit. I kind of couldn’t get used to it. It’s tougher.
Q: You were hit by everyone!
Saoirse: Hit by every guy who kisses me and then hits me. What’s that all about? I mean it was grand. I think really Hanna has set me up to do any stunt action like that in the future. It really has helped me an awful lot. I love it as well like I’ve gotten a real taste for it too.
Q: So have you continued to do martial arts?
Saoirse: No. My dad wants me to get back into it because my dad was actually an all-Ireland champion in different martial arts. He was like, “Why don’t you come to the gym with me today?” He really wants me to get back into it so he has someone to spar with. I suppose I haven’t had enough time really as well but I did really love it. I’ll have to get back into it eventually.
Q: How tricky was it to play two characters fighting for the same body basically?
Saoirse: It was a challenge. Really for me it was the main draw to the project. I loved the idea of creating these two characters from scratch and having them as kind of like standalone characters who needed to work in harmony together and bounce off each other and have tension between the two of them but for them to be very much separate people. Just being able to do that through the accent, through their posture, through the way they move, their attitude towards things and people, I think that was what was really exciting about it was that physically you could do so much with them.
Q: Can you tell us something about the eyes – did you have to wear contact lenses?
Saoirse: Yeah. I wasn’t keen on doing it at first but there was really no way around it because it would have cost so much money to put them in digitally afterwards. I had tried on lenses years ago for Atonement, of all things. They wanted to change the color of my eyes, which I find really funny because the eyes were just such a big part of the film. I tried them on and I just remember being so uncomfortable with these things in my eyes because my eyes are really sensitive anyway. I thought ‘I’m not going to be able to see anyone’. I couldn’t. I couldn’t see anyone through these lenses for the first few days. But then you get used to it and your eyes adjust. You need so many drops though throughout the day to keep them hydrated.
Q: You can probably have long talks with the Twilight actors about this.
Saoirse: I know. Actually, what I was really worried about I got Megan – I don’t know if you have met Megan but she’s like Stephenie’s right arm basically. She got in touch with Kristen I think to see how she found the lenses and she said to tell me that you just need to basically drop all the time. That’s what we have to do to keep comfortable.
Q: What kind of lenses were they? Could you see through them?
Saoirse: I could see through – yeah, there was a little kind of pinhole in the middle that was fitted to my pupil. I guess they measured the pupil before and they measured the pupil inside and outside so we had two different sets. They were a lot heavier than regular lenses. They tire your eye out a little bit. They have a little hole in the middle that you have to look through. It’s basically tunnel vision that you’re looking through the whole time just like that. It takes a while to get used to them. They shift as well. Sometimes they drop. It looked like I had lazy eyes or something because I had the ringer on my eyes but sometimes it would drop and I looked like I had an eye that was straying over there.
Q: Stephenie was saying to her this story is less about the love triangle, more about sisterhood. Do you see it in that way?
Saoirse: Yeah, I think so. I think really the whole way through the relationship between Wanda and Melanie is what I’ve kind of focused on story wise obviously. I mean the changes that they go through, the empathy that they suddenly have for one another and how their perspectives and their attitudes begin to change towards the other one’s species is quite interesting. That starts to happen because of how they feel about one another. They gradually begin to love one another. One of the last scenes where one of them decides to give up and to pretty much back off and let the other one carry on and live her life. I was nervous about doing that scene because I knew it meant so much to the film, to Stephenie, to the two characters as well and all that. It’s a very special bond between them.
Q: How did you do it like physically? You have this voice that is in your head and then you speak, was it played out loud?
Saoirse: What we did was we pre-recorded Melanie’s dialogue and then we played it through an earpiece that I had on my ear and only the sound department who were operating when the dialog would come in and Andrew and myself could hear it. It was great because it meant that I had something to react to but it wasn’t kind of blasted through speakers or it wasn’t somebody reading it. It was more personal. It worked out really well but physically it was great as well because there is moments where Melanie takes over. Her will is so strong that physically she takes over her body again. You have moments where she’s trying to persuade or to leave the apartment that she’s in and she makes her open the door and she makes her walk out and she makes her jump off the balcony and all this kind of stuff. It was really nice to not only play with the kind of cerebral side of her but also the physical side of her too.
Q: Which one did you prefer – Melanie or Wanda?
Saoirse: I prefer Melanie. I preferred playing Melanie actually just because she was so human. She’s so much of a fighter and very gutsy and feisty. I really liked that about her. I hadn’t really played many people like that. I really enjoyed Melanie.
Q: If there is a sequel, would you be looking forward to playing Melanie?
Saoirse: That’s what’s kind of great for me is that if they do a sequel essentially I’m playing a different character. So yeah it would be great for me. The scary thing for me with doing a sequel or a trilogy or whatever is that you’re playing the same character for a few years. You’re kind of attached to them for a very long time. I don’t know whether that’s something that I would be into. But the fact that I’m playing Melanie now is something that I wouldn’t mind doing.
Q: What’s your take on the teen movie craze whether it is the Stephenie Meyer’s fan base? What do you think about the intensity of the fans?
Saoirse: It is intense. You can see that.
Q: Scary intense or nice intense?
Saoirse: I haven’t experienced that. I went to the last Twilight premiere and obviously they all came out because it was the last one. It was nuts. It’s mad. It really is mad. But it’s kind of amazing as well at the same time that these people are so committed to with that. They’re going to come out and support and they pitch their tents like four days before the premiere just at the chance of meeting Stephenie, Kristen or Rob or whoever. It’s amazing to see that a story has taken over; really kind of taken over people’s lives quite a bit.
Q: If this happens to The Host what are your thoughts about that? Did you consider that taking the part?
Saoirse: I thought of it afterwards. I was aware that with the film, any story or anything that’s connected to Stephenie is going to have a lot of attention. I really couldn’t imagine it blowing up as much of Twilight did because Twilight was such a phenomenon and really influenced pop culture so much that I couldn’t imagine that happening for a while, another project to surpass that. I just can’t think of that stuff. I just find it very hard to think of what if that happens. We’ll see. I have to just handle it as best as I can.
Q: How did you become an actress? Was there a specific moment in your life when you knew that it’s what you wanted to pursue?
Saoirse: That was when I actually started acting. I didn’t know I wanted to be an actor before I was an actor. My dad is an actor. I had done a short film with him when I was about maybe seven. He said to his agent that I think she might be alright if let’s actually maybe put her up for something and see if she likes it. My dad isn’t pushy at all or anything. He’s been recording me on his little camcorder since I was born. I’ve always been so comfortable in front of the camera. I wasn’t like a drama kid or anything but I was comfortable in front of the camera. I loved it. I thought it was great. By the time I did Atonement which was the third film I did it was such a serious piece and such great drama. The people who were involved were such a high caliber that I deeply fell in love with it. I remember saying to my mom when I was doing it – I was 11 or 12 at the time – I can’t give this up now. There is no way I would be able to give it up. So to have that so young was amazing.
Q: I take it you didn’t have quite a normal childhood with school and everything?
Saoirse: I did up until a certain age. Up until I was about maybe 14 or 15 and then I did home schooling for a while which is just really something that I had to do because I was away so much. It was odd. I had been in school my whole life. I think as well a lot of people started to recognize me. At the time I was in the country and it just didn’t work. That’s what we did and it was fine. I’ve had a normal childhood. Even now socially I find that I’m still pretty regular.
Q: Is it strange to see yourself on billboards?
Saoirse: That is really weird. It’s really weird. My friend texted me and she’s in London. She said to me, “Your face is everywhere in London.” As soon as I arrived here the commercials came on, the posters are all over the place. They have badges with our faces on it. It is weird as you find it a bit odd.
Q: Do you see yourself up there or you see Wanda or Melanie?
Saoirse: I don’t see me. I don’t know what I see. It’s not the characters.
Q: Is it just like ‘she looks familiar. Who is that?’
Saoirse: Yeah. It’s almost like that. It’s like, what are you doing there? You look at bit like me but you’re not because you’re on a poster and I wouldn’t be on a poster. It’s just a bit surreal. It is. With the other films I’ve done obviously there have been posters out and about, trailers and things like that but it’s never been quite as much. It has been a lot.
Q: Do you still live in Ireland?
Q: Why not Hollywood?
Saoirse: I don’t want to live in Hollywood. It doesn’t really appeal to me to live in a place where so much of the town is just about showbiz. I completely get why people move here and why they need to move here for work and all that kind of stuff but for me I prefer to live in a place like Dublin, Ireland or New York where there is different things going on. I know there is in LA as well but just as well I’ve seen it with people I know, young people moving here. It can be a very dangerous thing if you don’t have the right people around you. It really can. You can change. I’d be very worried of something like that happening.