Saoirse Ronan on Her Devious New Black Comedy ‘Violet & Daisy’

For someone so physically angelic and gentle in demeanor, Saoirse Ronan has played some pretty tough roles. We first saw the 19-year-old actress as the young Briony Tallis in Atonement, before she took on the leading role of Susie Salmon in Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones and the titular role in Joe Wright’s teen assassin drama Hanna. But in the last year, her subtle force and ability to morph into the skin of any character has made her one of Hollywood’s most coveted young talents, with upcoming roles in Neil Jordan’s Byzantium, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut How to Catch a Monster. And although the film had its premiere in Toronto back in 2011, writer and director Geoffrey S. Fletcher’s Ronan-led black comedy Violet & Daisy will finally see it’s theatrical premiere this weekend.

Co-starring alongside Alexis Bledel, Fletcher’s idiosyncratic partner-in-crime teen assassin film tells the story of two young women on a surreally violent journey after having a life-altering encounter with an unexpected target (played by James Gandolfini). As Daisy, Ronan plays the foil to Bledel’s Violet, as a very sweet, younger counterpart who willingly goes along with their murderous ways. With the incredible desire for a very expensive dress as the catalyst for what they believe will be an easy job snuffing someone out, the two end up in a bizarre situation when their target turns out to have put a hit out on himself. Violet & Daisy is a pop-like film that mixes dark humor and violence to expose the inner workings of its two teen girls and illustrate the delicate bond that ties them together. 
 
Last week, I got the chance to chat with Ronan about what attracted her to the story, growing close with her cast members, and her current work with Ryan Gosling.
 
Are you in Los Angeles right now?
Oh no, I’m in Detroit—the opposite of Los Angeles.
 
Are you shooting something out there?
Yeah, I’m shooting How to Catch a Monster
 
How’s filming been going?
It’s great. Everyone’s brilliant. Ryan’s awesome and he’s a very great director. The whole thing’s been really lovely so far, very creative. 
 
I’m sure with a cast and director like that’s it’s a pretty enjoyable film to be a part of.
Yes, and even just him, he’s so open-minded about whatever we want to do. It’s nice.
 
Moving back to Violet and Daisy, how did you become a part of this film? It’s been quite a while since you were shooting that.
Yeah, it was a while ago now but I think Jeffrey had sent the script to my agent, it was nice that he wanted me for the film. I was a bit hesitant about doing another hit girl role since I had just done one the past year, but then I read the script and it was so different and out there and quirky and over-the-top in a lot of ways, yet really underplayed. I liked the idea of being involved in a black comedy.
 
Is that something you’d want to do more? You’ve done a lot of dramas but comedy isn’t something we’ve seen you explore much.
Comedy is the hardest thing to do, I think everyone could agree with that. So I would like to do more of that if I could. 
 
When you signed on for Violet & Daisy, did you know Alexis would be your co-star? And had you been a fan of hers before this?
No, I didn’t know at first and then I heard that she’d been cast and was excited because I’ve always loved Alexis. When I was a kid I loved Gilmore Girls and I just loved her, and even now when I look at the things she’s been in, she’s just very instinctive and even when you’re on set with her everything just naturally works. It was great working with her, it really was and we got on really well and had a good time together. 
 
Your characters are so close and spend most of the film on screen together, did you bond before shooting or did that happen mainly on set?
We did rehearsals together for a few weeks before we started. She came over for dinner and we connected, but I was quite a bit younger at that stage, so we couldn’t really go out quite as much as I would now. Usually when you’re working on a film with someone in every single scene, if you get on well with them, you do become very close because it’s such a contained environment and it’s so intimate between everyone—the cast and the crew and the director—that you become very close in the first two weeks of shooting.
 
Especially with a film like this that is very contained.
Yeah, and a lot of the time before Jim comes into it, it’s just those two people and the world that they’ve created. 
 
Did you find that you could relate to Daisy, even though her world is so far removed from yours?
I could certainly relate to the relationship she had with Violet and that kind of close bond that two friends have. In a way, they’re very child-like, so their relationship they have with one another is one that people have when they’re young. I could definitely tap into that from my own experience and to the closeness I’ve felt to friends. But I was glad she was so different to me, she’s very easy going about what they were doing because she loves Violet so much and was more than happy to just follow her lead really. I don’t know if I would have necessarily stood for that as well as Daisy did.
 
Were there any specific films or characters you looked to for inspiration?
No, not character wise, but at one stage we watched Carlito’s Way. I remember we watched that because there was a time when we were going to have really thick New York accents—which I was excited about—but it was probably going to be too distracting for the film. So we watched but it really has nothing to do with the film. Violet & Daisy reminded me a lot Tarantino films—just really zany and really violent, but also really cartoon-like as well in many ways. A lot of the time I thought of it as a comic book being made into a film.
 
How was working with James Gandolfini? I imagine he’s an incredible person to learn from.
He’s the best. He’s so cool and I think when he came on set everyone was aware that Tony Soprano was there, just because of the kind of force Jim is. He’s the nicest guy and he was so protective over me and really looked after me. I loved the scenes that I had with him—these scenes with long dialogue we had together. It was just a great experience getting to work with an actor like that who really doesn’t take any of the bull at all, he’s very much about work and that’s the main thing for him.
 
[More by Hillary Weston; Follow Hillary on Twitter]

Watch the Trailer For Teen Crime Film ‘Violet & Daisy’

Between Spring Breakers and The Bling Ring, 2013 is already shaping up to be a year of films about young women portrayed by popular actresses turning to a life of crime. But if neither the Skrillex-soundtracked haze of the former nor the based-on-a-true-story appeal of the latter tickle your fancy, there’s the more traditional life on the dark side story of Violet & Daisy, the long-germinating crime action-comedy-drama from Precious: Based on the Novel Push By Sapphire writer Geoffrey S. Fletcher. The film premiered back in 2011 at the Toronto International Film Festival to favorable reviews, and is now finally ready for the big time.

Violet & Daisy’s florally-named characters, played by Oscar-nominated Saoirse Ronan and Alexis Bledel, most recently of Mad Men, are two teens who take on assassin jobs. When an enigmatic man named Michael (James Gandolfini) becomes their target, he seems like an easy mark, but as tends to happen in these kinds of movies, things aren’t always what they seem. And summer action movies may be a dime a dozen, but this one has quite a cast—in addition to Ronan, Bledel and Gandolfini, we have the fantastic Marianne Jean-Baptiste and, because he should be in everything, Danny Trejo. Watch the trailer below.