Tag: Saoirse Ronan
Taglines: Love will lead you home.
How I Live Now is a British drama film based on the 2004 novel of same name by Meg Rosoff, directed by Kevin Macdonald and script written by Tony Grisoni, Jeremy Brock and Penelope Skinner. The film stars Saoirse Ronan, Tom Holland, Anna Chancellor, George MacKay, Corey Johnson and Sabrina Dickens. It was screened in the Special Presentation section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
Set in the near-future UK, Saoirse Ronan plays Daisy, an American teenager sent to stay with relatives in the English countryside. Initially withdrawn and alienated, she begins to warm up to her charming surroundings, and strikes up a romance with the handsome Edmund (George MacKay). But on the fringes of their idyllic summer days are tense news reports of an escalating conflict in Europe. As the UK falls into a violent, chaotic military state, Daisy finds herself hiding and fighting to survive.
Filming began in June 2012 in England and Wales. The film was released on 4 October 2013 in the United Kingdom and was set for release on 28 November 2013 in Australia. On 25 July 2013, Magnolia Pictures acquired the US rights to distribute the film.
About the Production
“The summer I went to England to stay with my cousins everything changed… Mostly everything changed because of Edmond.” – How I Live Now, Meg Rosoff
When Meg Rosoff’s novel How I Live Now was first published in 2004, it was widely greeted with acclaim and blossomed into a word-of-mouth best-seller. The London-based American author’s remarkable debut found itself showered with prestigious literary awards, including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.
Written in the compellingly innocent but acerbic voice of its heroine, an intelligent but angry and anorexic 15-year-old New Yorker named Daisy, How I Live Now deftly and movingly touched on themes of love, loss and loyalty beneath the topical shadows of war, chaos and carnage. Exiled by her father from Manhattan to the English countryside, Daisy’s coming of age is a mixture of bliss and heartache, the former generated by falling in love with her cousin Edmond, the latter by the darkness that falls when Britain is plunged into war. Suddenly, this self-absorbed teenager is solely responsible for her youngest cousin Piper and forced to embark on an epic and courageous journey of survival.
It was the imaginative scope of Rosoff’s story, set in a parallel or not-too-distant future, and the relatable poignancy of Daisy’s detached but sharply ironic observations about love, war, cousins and countryside that made the novel appeal to young and adult readers alike. Among its fans were Charles Steel and Alasdair Flind of Cowboy Films, who secured the option on Rosoff’s best-seller and put the adaptation into development at Film4.
Early on, they sent the book to Kevin Macdonald, who Steel had worked with on The Last King Of Scotland. He also read it and loved it but, after The Last King Of Scotland, he was a filmmaker in demand and his schedule rendered him unavailable. Macdonald was always drawn to the prospect of making a serious film about the teenage experience, as well as one that featured a female lead and a love story – both are firsts for the talented director. When the project came back around to him, he grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
“I think Meg’s book is really beautiful,” says Macdonald. “But as is so often the case, when there’s a really beautiful book, you often have to move further away from it than you would if you were adapting what was a mediocre book. So much of what the book did you can’t do on screen. For one thing it’s Daisy’s internal monologue, which meant that the structure of the book was very hard to replicate. And although Daisy’s voice is so strong in the book, we realized she needed to be slightly different in order for the film to work.”
The producers were faced with the challenge of distilling a novel that ventures into both youth and adult terrain in terms of its themes and subject matter, but without losing the poetic vision that made Rosoff’s manuscript such a celebrated success. Different screenwriters with varied skillsets were brought on board: Tony Grisoni (Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, In This World) was the first to work on the adaptation, before he passed the baton to Jeremy Brock (The Last King Of Scotland, The Eagle). Acclaimed young playwright Penelope Skinner came on last to put the finishing touches on Daisy, who falls in love with one of her cousins and faces extreme challenges throughout the story.
“We tried so many different voices for Daisy,” explains Macdonald. “The breakthrough was figuring out that the key to Daisy was her willpower. She is somebody who has an amazingly strong sense of self and identity, but she has used that willpower in very negative ways in her life because her life has been very negative. But she ends up using the same thing that’s made her a troubled person to survive.”
Although it’s likely to be classified in the young-adult section of any bookstore, Rosoff’s novel was strongly embraced by both a teenage and an adult audience. The book’s publisher, Penguin Books, even created separate covers to target both markets. Although that crossover appeal is strongly reflected in Macdonald’s adaptation, everyone involved was aware that the more they defined their target audience, the better chance they had of crossing over to reach both groups.
“Driven by Kevin, we’ve fully embraced it as a teenage love story aimed towards a teenage audience,” says Steel.
“What makes the film stand out,” adds Flind. “Is that this is Kevin’s version of a teenage love story. He has the ability to make it real and rough around the edges in all the right ways. He’ll make it stand out.”
Ronan was an actress whose name came up early on in How I Live Now’s development, around the time of Atonement’s release. Although she would have been too young at the time, the Irish actress’ talent and charisma were obvious to all, and she has gone on to become the standout actress of her generation. Call it serendipity but by the time the stars aligned for How I Live Now to move into production, Ronan was the right age to play Daisy.
Initially, Macdonald had considered going with a cast of non-professionals to portray How I Live Now’s group of five, and he arranged open casting calls to find an unknown to inhabit Daisy. Later, he abandoned that plan and began meeting with teenage actresses, but couldn’t find anyone he felt had the edge that Daisy needed. Until he met Ronan and was blown away. “She came in to read and she was just fantastic, I mean jaw-dropping,” says the Glasgow-born director. “The most amazing thing was that she’d come over from Ireland but hadn’t received the new pages we’d sent her so she had literally 10 minutes to prepare when she arrived. But she did it and she was fantastically good.”
The most enjoyable part of the shoot for Macdonald was getting to work with his teenage and younger cast. “They were fun and energetic and obedient, for the most part,” he smiles. “They were just a pleasure to work with and having so many kids around the whole time, even though Saoirse is 18 and George had just turned 20, created a lovely atmosphere for everybody. I was 44 when I shot it so quite distant from those sort of feelings and obviously I’ve also never experienced what it’s like to be a teenage girl so I came to rely on them in different ways than you do when you’re making a film about adults.”
“No matter how much you put on a sad expression and talked about how awful it was that all those people were killed and what about Democracy and the Future of Our Great Nation the fact that none of us kids said out loud was that we didn’t really care.”
How I Live Now depicts its wartime with frightening realism, and yet, seen through the eyes of its largely oblivious teenage protagonists, leaves a shroud of mystery around what’s actually happening. The unknown enemy that manages to seize control of the nation remains a shadowy force. “The world that Meg created is very much about ambiguity and we wanted to leave it in that world,” says Macdonald. “I’m sure that some people will ask, ‘Who are the enemy? What’s going on?’ But I believe it’s the right decision to keep it as vague as possible because, in a way, it’s all a metaphor. It’s not a political film, it’s not a film about the situation in the world, it’s the story of an unhappy teenage girl falling in love.”
“I don’t think it’s necessarily important for the audience to know everything that Eddie’s been through,” says MacKay, agreeing with his director. “What’s important is that the film is about healing damaged people and Eddie heals Daisy through their love. Sex and true love are new discoveries that come with being with each other and at the end of the film; Daisy is on the path to healing him.”
Macdonald wanted to steep the film in the English romantic tradition, which is why songs by melodic folk-rockers Fairport Convention and English singer-songwriter Nick Drake feature on the soundtrack. “It’s about the beauty of the landscape and the threat of the landscape at the same time,” he notes, “and I want to reflect this magical, melancholic version of England in the music.”
More than any film Macdonald has made, How I Live Now rests on a single character’s journey. Daisy goes on a staggering arc during the narrative, conveyed by Ronan with extraordinary conviction; the novel’s numerous fans will be thrilled to witness her performance. “I know teenage girls who got so excited when they heard I was making this movie,” says the actress. “Having a leading young woman like Daisy who’s very messed up and unsure of herself and insecure, I know as a teenager they’re the kind of characters I relate to more because they’re not perfect and they’re not glorified. Pretty much every teenage girl goes through at least some of what Daisy experiences.”
“What I find interesting about Saoirse’s performance is that she’s not always sympathetic in the film and she did sometimes find that difficult because she is, by nature, such a lovely person,” muses Macdonald. “But that makes it a particularly strong performance because it’s Saoirse as you’ve never seen her before. She’s tough, ballsy and the most grown-up we’ve seen her be. In this film, we watch her becoming a grown-up in front of our eyes and that’s exciting. After this film, you’ll see people start casting her as a leading lady.”
How I Live Now
Directed by: Director: Kevin Macdonald
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Tom Holland, Anna Chancellor, George MacKay, Corey Johnson, Harley Bird
Screenplay by: Jeremy Brock, Tony Grisoni
MPAA Rating: R for violence, disturbing images, language and some sexuality.
Production Design by: Jacqueline Abrahams
Cinematography by: Franz Lustig
Film Editing by: Jinx Godfrey
Costume Design by: Jane Petrie
Art Direction by: Astrid Sieben
Music by: Jon Hopkins
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Release Date: November 8, 2013
Byzantium is a British-Irish fantasy thriller film directed by Neil Jordan and starring Gemma Arterton, Saoirse Ronan, and Jonny Lee Miller. The story concerns a mother and daughter vampire duo. This is the third foray by Jordan into the world of the undead, following the poorly-received High Spirits in 1988 and his Oscar-nominated Interview with the Vampire, in 1994.
A vampire mother and daughter’s dark two-hundred-year history threatens to catch up with them in a run-down hotel on the English coast. Their story begins during the Napoleonic Wars, when young Eleanor (Ronan) was abandoned as Clara (Arterton) was forced into prostitution. Two centuries later, contemplative Eleanor and extroverted Clara are on the run when they seek sanctuary in a dilapidated coastal resort.
There, Clara sets her sights on a lonely soul named Noel (Daniel Mays) who has just inherited the Byzantium Hotel, a once-thriving business that has fallen into disrepair. Before long, the elder vampire has transformed the Byzantium into a makeshift brothel. Meanwhile, Eleanor falls for Frank (Caleb Landry Jones), a waiter who unwittingly draws out the natural storyteller in her. Amidst a string of mysterious disappearances in the sleepy coastal town, Frank realizes that Eleanor’s extraordinary tales are much more than dark fantasy.
About the Story
The film begins with an old man picking up a discarded note dropped by teenage vampire Eleanor Webb (Ronan), who has taken to writing her life story, but then throwing the individual pages to the wind. Realising what she is, the old man invites Eleanor to his house and tells her his life story, before explaining that he is ready for death. Eleanor proceeds to kill him with a talon grown from her right thumbnail and consume his blood.
Elsewhere, Eleanor’s mother, Clara (Arterton), is chased from the strip club where she has been working by a member of the vampiric Brotherhood named Werner. Werner subdues Clara and forces her to take him back to Clara and Eleanor’s apartment. He demands to know where Eleanor is. Clara decapitates Werner with a garrote, burns his body within the apartment and leaves town with her daughter.
Eleanor and Clara seek sanctuary in a dilapidated coastal resort. There, Clara sets her sights on a lonely soul named Noel (Daniel Mays), who has just inherited the Byzantium Hotel, a once-thriving business that has fallen into disrepair. Meanwhile, Eleanor plays the piano in a restaurant and is approached by a young waiter named Frank (Caleb Landry Jones), who takes a shine to her. Having seduced Noel, Clara turns the Byzantium into a makeshift brothel and Eleanor joins the local college which Frank attends. Interested in her past, Frank questions Eleanor, who writes her story for him to read.
The story, revealed to the viewer in a series of flashbacks over the course of the film, begins during the Napoleonic Wars, when a young Clara, then a fisherman’s daughter, encounters two Royal Navy officers, the cruel Captain Ruthven and the mild-mannered Midshipman Darvell. Much to the dismay of Darvell, Clara leaves with Ruthven, who forces her into prostitution. When Eleanor is born, Clara leaves her daughter at the local private orphanage to spare her life, and secretly visits her at night.
Years later, Clara is dying of what appears to be tuberculosis, and is still one of Ruthven’s favourites when he visits the brothel. One day, the brothel is visited by Darvell, whom Ruthven had believed to have died years earlier. Darvell explains to Ruthven that he has, in fact, become a vampire. The only way a human can become a vampire is by traveling to an unnamed island. The island is home to a being known as “The Nameless Saint” who resides within a small stone shrine. If a human enters the shrine and accepts death the Saint will kill them and they awaken as a “soucriant”… a vampire. Darvell gives Ruthven a map to the island stating Ruthven is a survivor and has all the qualities one needs to become a vampire. After Darvell leaves the brothel, Clara, who was listening to Darvell’s story, shoots Ruthven in the leg, steals the map, makes her way to the island and becomes a vampire.
After she awakens, Clara meets with Darvell who brings her before The Brotherhood, a secret society of vampires who protect the secret of vampirism. As their members have traditionally always been male noblemen, they are appalled that a woman, and a low-born prostitute, has joined their ranks, and contemplate killing her. Their leader, Savella, rules that it would be a violation of their code to kill another vampire unjustly, so they let her go, warning her that she may play no part in their brotherhood, but that they still expect her to follow their code, on pain of death for any violation. For years Clara watches over Eleanor from afar.
When Eleanor is 16 years old, Clara’s decision to spare Ruthven comes back to haunt her. The vengeful captain turns up at Eleanor’s orphanage and rapes her, infecting her with what appears to be syphilis as revenge for Clara stealing his chance at immortality. Clara arrives too late to stop him and kills him in a fit of distress. Now forced to choose between incurring the Brotherhood’s wrath, or watch her daughter die a slow, painful death, Clara takes Eleanor to the island and has her transformed into a vampire, violating the Brotherhood’s code that women are not permitted to create vampires. Clara and Eleanor then spend the next two centuries running from the Brethren’s agents. Clara sustains herself by targeting criminals and other undesirables as her source of blood, while Eleanor targets people who are already dying of old age or sickness, and effectively euthanises them.
Directed by: Neil Jordan
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Barry Cassin, Gemma Arterto, David Heap, Warren Brown, Gabriela Marcinkova
Screenplay by: Moira Buffini
Production Design by: Simon Elliott
Cinematography by: Sean Bobbitt
Film Editing by: Tony Lawson
Costume Design by: Consolata Boyle
Music by: Javier Navarrete
MPAA Rating: R for bloody violence, sexual content and language.
Studio: Number 9 Films
Release Date: June 28, 2013
Taglines: Choose your destiny.
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.
Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged. Most of humanity has succumbed.
When Melanie, one of the few remaining “wild” humans is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.
About the Production
Stephenie Meyer was driving through the seemingly endless desert that stretches from Phoenix to Salt Lake City when she came up with the idea for her best-selling novel, The Host. Meyer, whose record-breaking Twilight series was just becoming a worldwide phenomenon, passed the long hours by telling herself stories. “I came on the idea of two personalities in one body,” she says. “They are both in love with different people, which creates a great deal of conflict. I like messy relationships. They’re fun to work through.”
The popular author also enjoys exploring the idea of love, but in this case, not just romantic love. “There’s maternal love, which is such a big part of my life,” says Meyer. “There’s love of community and the people you belong with. I asked myself, what happens when you love someone and that makes you a traitor to your people? Love makes you do things you wouldn’t do otherwise. It creates conflict and disorder.”
As the story began to take shape, it rooted itself in the desert she was travelling though. “I kept thinking about the things we take for granted: that we can see, how we can walk around, how we taste and hear.”
As Meyer expanded on her original concept, she began constructing a more serious, deeper story than she had in any of her previous novels. “The Twilight books are about romantic love and the way it makes you feel at 17 or 18,” she notes. “There’s nothing else in the world. You would do anything and be anything for love. That’s a fun place to visit as a fantasy.
“The Host is about finding balance in life,” she continues. “Certainly there’s romance, but it is a much more grown-up and realistic story, aside from the science-fiction elements.”
But the sci-fi elements do set the stage for the story in The Host. “The world has been invaded Body Snatcher-style,” explains Meyer. “These new entities, who call themselves the Souls, are a very peaceful, harmonious, homogenous group. They fix many of the problems of our world. There’s no more hunger, no more disease or fear or violence. No one lies or cheats or steals. The idea that a stranger might harm you doesn’t even exist anymore.”
The handful of humans who have not been taken over by the Souls are understandably unable to see the beauty in a utopia in which most of their loved ones are gone. “They’ve lost everything, including the people most important to them,” Meyer says. “But this story is told from the perspective of Wanda, one of the aliens, which is rarely the way it has been approached before.”
The Host was published in 2008 and spent 26 weeks at No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list and 36 weeks on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list.
Producer Nick Wechsler recalls getting a call from Meyer’s agent asking if he was interested in putting together a film based the material. “I’m an avid sci-fi fan, so I jumped at the chance to read it. The theme, the characters and the conceit of the book leaped out at me. What I didn’t understand was why a best-selling book by Stephenie Meyer hadn’t already been bought.”
What he discovered was that conventional wisdom in the film industry dictated that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to make a realistic film in which two characters shared one body. “It never seemed like a huge challenge to me or to Nick,” says Meyer. “We figured all we needed was a really fantastic actress.”
Based on Wechsler’s history of making acclaimed adaptations of other novels, including Requiem for a Dream, The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Road, Meyer believed he could be counted on to make the best possible movie version of the book. “Just look at his track record,” she says. “He finds books that he loves and translates them as meticulously as he can to the screen. He was a dream to work with because he wanted the same things I wanted.”
Wechsler approached Steve and Paula Mae Schwartz of Chockstone Pictures to partner with Meyer and him as the film’s producers. “When Steve, Paula Mae and I do a project together, we develop it with our own money,” he says. “That gives us more creative control, which was extremely appealing to Stephenie. We agreed that we would treat this property with care and make an epic adventure, not just a popcorn movie.”
The Schwartzes were excited by The Host’s delicate balance of romance and speculative fiction. “There’s a human element to this story that we felt we don’t often see in sci-fi,” says Paula Mae Schwartz. “The relationship between Melanie and Wanda explores love and jealousy and the difficulty of change. Forced to share a body, each one gains something from the other and ultimately becomes a better version of herself.”
When the producers began the process of selecting a screenwriter and a director, Wechsler asked Meyer about her favorite science fiction movies. “I told him that my number one is Gattaca,” she says. “I love that it’s not about gadgets and lasers and fighting robots. It’s about humanity, not how cool a space ship can be designed in CGI. We are transported into a world other than our own, but one that we can imagine ourselves in because of the performances and the story.”
As it happened, Wechsler has a longstanding relationship with Andrew Niccol, Gattaca’s writer and director. “Stephenie liked the rhythm of the way the characters spoke and the style in which Gattaca is directed,” he says. “I love Andrew’s taste and his vision.”
The Host, with its seething inner conflict, seized the director’s imagination right away. “You can talk about characters in roles having inner conflict, but in this case it is literally true,” says Niccol. “Our main character has been inhabited by an alien being. The two personalities go to a war with one another. It’s a great concept.”
Niccol observes that science fiction offers a subtle way to deliver a message to an audience. “It’s almost easier to say something about today by going into a future period,” he notes. “It’s a Trojan Horse of sorts. The audience is thinking that if it’s about the future it has nothing to do with them and then you slip an idea to them.”
Niccol agreed to direct the film, as well as to write the screenplay based on Meyer’s novel. “Obviously I was aware of the popularity of Twilight,” he says. “But I simply wanted to do justice to the book and its fans. Any pressure I felt was more creative than commercial. The idea of catching lightning in a bottle twice is a little much to expect. On the other hand, I wouldn’t bet against Stephenie.”
Having been through the adaptation process several times before, Meyer came to the table with strong opinions about what the final script should look like. “Any adaptation is 95 percent compromise and 5 percent frustration,” she says. “I believe that everyone on the creative side of filmmaking wants the best result they can get. We want the best because we care about how the story’s told, not who our market is and how we position this at the box office.”
The first major challenge was turning a 600-plus-page book into a 120-page script. “That’s a challenge for any filmmaker, especially when you have an author whose books are so beloved,” says Wechsler. “But the whole process went fairly quickly and we got a script that we really believe in.”
It was, by all accounts a satisfying and productive collaboration. “Stephenie definitely has her opinions, but she doesn’t impose them,” Niccol says. “She’s very savvy. She cares, but she’s not precious about her ideas. She’ll accept changes that seem quite sweeping without any kind of handwringing. Some elements and characters had to be sacrificed. I love soccer, but there’s a soccer game in the book that I knew was never going to make it into the movie. You have time for that kind of digression in a novel, but not in a film.”
“Working with Andrew was a lot of fun,” Meyer says. “He is so much more visual than I am. I really like to delve into the words and how people interact. Andrew concentrated on the physical world. He brought in elements that take it to a level I hadn’t envisioned. There were things he came up with that made me kick myself a little bit because I liked them so much better than what I’d done.”
For example, in the novel, the Souls use human weapons, turning the earthlings’ guns and explosives against them. “Alien beings are usually depicted as the enemy,” says Niccol. “We thought, what if the aliens are more humane than humans? With Stephenie’s blessing, I used that idea and replaced the guns with a futuristic spray called Peace that gently immobilizes its target.”
The final script for The Host still contains a compelling romance, according to Niccol, but it also encompasses a good deal more for audiences to think over. “I like that at its core it still is a love story, but it does have these broader themes,” he says. “We’re dealing with the survival of humanity. We’re also asking if a species that actually heals the planet has a place on Earth. These are themes that are far more profound than any in Stephenie’s previous work. It’s hard to say what each person will take from it, but I do hope it entertains and gives them something to chew over.”
Directed by: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Diane Kruger, Jake Abel, Max Irons, Bokeem Woodbine, Phil Austin, Chandler Canterbury
Screenplay by: Andrew Niccol, Stephenie Meyer
Production Design by: Andy Nicholson
Cinematography by: Roberto Schaefer
Film Editing by: Thomas J. Nordberg
Costume Design by: Erin Benach
Set Decoration by: Cynthia La Jeunesse
Music by: Antonio Pinto
Studio: Open Road Films
Release Date: March 29, 2013