Saoirse Ronan and Kate Winslet each won acclaim as teenagers. Ronan was 13 when she earned an Oscar nom for “Atonement,” while Winslet was 17 when she burst onto the scene in Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures.” In their new films, both use accents that are not their own. Ronan headlines “Brooklyn,” playing an Irish girl who immigrates to New York in the 1950s. Winslet disappears behind a wig, glasses and a Polish accent for “Steve Jobs” to portray Joanna Hoffman, a friend and adviser to the Apple founder.
Kate Winslet: Playing Joanna Hoffman was an experience that I really wanted to have. It’s a wonderful thing to be 40 years old, which I am now, and all of that stuff that you sort of bother about in your 20s and early 30s just kind of evaporates. And actually, all you want, really and truly, is to work with lovely people and to be challenged as much as possible.
|Amanda Demme for Variety; Fashion available at Westfield
On Winslet: Chloe pants from Nordstrom and top from Tory Burch. On Ronan: Dior.
Saoirse Ronan: What’s the stuff that evaporates?
Winslet: The stuff that evaporates is: “What do I look like? What do you people think?” That just literally goes away. And I think that also has to do with having children. Playing Joanna was something so different to me; unlike you in “Brooklyn,” I don’t know anyone like this person. It was absolutely playing a role.
Ronan: Which is a treat to do. It’s such a pleasure to play someone like that. Because you can escape into it. Like with “Heavenly Creatures.” I mean, I hope you weren’t like that when you were 17.
Winslet: I don’t think I was a lesbian murderess at the age of 17. But now, maybe! But, no, it was a huge luxury to play somebody who absolutely was nothing like me.
Ronan: What did (Joanna) think of the film?
Winslet: She likes it a lot. Thank God she approved of the accent.
Ronan: For me, that’s the biggest thing. I know that’s the first thing I think about. I went into “Brooklyn,” and I said straight away, “I’m not using my own accent.” I’ve never used my own accent. The accent was something that — and I’m sure it is for you as well because you do accents so much and you’re so good at them — is one of the first things that I think about. When I read a script, the first thing that comes into my head before the visuals or anything is, “What is this person going to sound like?”
Winslet: And it’s lovely to be able to attach yourself to that, to be able to do a thing, isn’t it? It’s always so comforting, because I think when it is literally just you, it’s really scary. I mean you might as well be walking onto set with no clothes on.
Ronan: That’s what it feels like, and it’s very intimate. And I’ve always been so fascinated by it, I think because I was always surrounded by so many different accents and so many different sounds. I realized that your accent, in the best possible way, can really kind of define you.
Winslet: I was extremely young when I realized that I wanted to be an actress, but I have absolutely no idea how old you were. Did you have that moment of going, “Yup, I’ll do that”?
Ronan: My dad is an actor as well, like yours. We had moved back to Ireland. He was doing this short film, and they needed a kid. It was like a bizarre, weird, arthouse film. So he came to me and asked me if I wanted to do it. I remember I was on the set, and there was this guy, and he kept talking and talking and talking, and it was right before a take. I must have only been about 6 or 7. And I just turned around to him, and he must have thought I was such a little brat. I turned around to him, I was like, “Shhh! Quiet on the set!”
Winslet: I’ve had a similar moment to that with my own daughter. She actually had a small part in a film that I did a couple of years ago, as a teeny-tiny thing. But it was enough to already have that feeling of, “I think I need more of this.” I was on set with her, and she’d come to visit something I’d done when she was 8 or 9. And I was having a snack in between takes, and she went, “Mommy I really, really don’t think that you should be eating on set.”
Winslet: I remember really wanting to be cast as Mary in my school nativity when I was 5. I remember actively thinking, “It’s either Mary, or the angel Gabriel. If they give me the angel Gabriel part, I’ll still be OK about that.”
Ronan: It’s the dream role. Such an arc for Mary.
Winslet: Angel Gabriel just does kind of one thing. Mary, she goes on a proper, full journey.
Watch the full interview: