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WHO IS SAOIRSE RONAN?

She’s the 13-year-old daughter of actor Paul Ronan, and soon you won’t have to ask who she is. That’s because Saoirse has drawn demanding roles of her own in three new films and is said to perform them with astonishing depth, holding her own with the likes of Vanessa Redgrave, Susan Sarandon, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, James McAvoy and Keira Knightley (seen below with Saoirse).

 

ATONEMENT: Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Vanessa Redgrave, Romolo Garai, Saoirse Ronan, Brenda Blethyn, Juno Temple (Directed by Joe Wright; Written by Christopher Hampton; Focus Features) In the wake of her frantic yet flimsy contributions to the achingly trivial “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy, Keira Knightley apparently decided it was time to get serious. So she took on the challenge of playing the tormented Cecilia Tallis in “Atonement,” Christopher Hampton’s adaptation of the Ian McEwan novel. This heavy-duty drama has been directed by Joe Wright, who, in 2005’s “Pride & Prejudice,” helped Knightley reveal the wit and vulnerability beneath her glossy, high-fashion façade. Her spirited portrait of Emma Bennet earned an Oscar nomination, and the fact that “Atonement” was selected to open the 2007 Venice Film Festival suggests she may well be among the Best Actress nominees when the next batch of Oscars are handed out on the night of February 24, 2008. Keira--or, rather, Cecilia Tallis, the heroine of McEwan’s 2002 Booker Prize winner--is a privileged member of a prominent 1930s British family who is home from Cambridge in the summer of 1935 with handsome classmate Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), the son of the Tallis’ cleaning woman who has risen to the enviable position of Cecilia’s lover. Witnessing an intimate exchange between the two, Cecilia’s dangerously imaginative 13-year-old sister Briony contrives a story so shocking that it results in the imprisonment of Robbie. Life soon becomes a nightmare for the Tallis clan and for those unfortunate enough to have been part of their not-so-charmed circle. Their anguish endures through many stages and does not end until the dawning of the 21st century. So who plays the deceitful Briony? Saoirse Ronan, at the time of the big lie; Romola Garai, at the age of 18; and , blessing of blessings, Vanessa Redgrave as the older, presumably wiser, Briony. For the Variety review of "Atonement," click here; to read about more new movies based on books, click here. Opens 12/7/07


 

 

 

 


THE LOVELY BONES
: Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Michael Imperioli, Saoirse Ronan (Directed by Peter Jackson; Written by Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh; DreamWorks) In a welcome change of pace, Peter Jackson is taking a vacation from the tricky, sometimes tedious special-effects world of the “Rings” trilogy and “King Kong.” His new film will be an audacious attempt to mix reality and fantasy. As readers of Alice Sebold’s imaginative, deeply disturbing 2002 novel know, the heroine of “The Lovely Bones” (played here by newcomer Saoirse Ronan) is raped, murdered and dismembered by a neighbor at the age of 14. But that is not the end of the story; in her afterlife, the girl focuses intently on the torment of her grieving family, including her parents, played by Mark Wahlberg (who replaced Ryan Gosling the day before shooting began) and Rachel Weisz, and her grandmother, played by Susan Sarandon. And, on occasion, the murdered girl pays very close attention to the fiendish scheming of her unrepentant killer (Stanley Tucci). Jackson, whose finest achievement is “Heavenly Creatures”--the haunting 1994 film in which two emotionally entwined adolescents (Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey) commit an especially horrific murder--seems the perfect person to bring “The Lovely Bones” to flesh-and-blood life. Opening date to be announced


DEATH DEFYING ACTS: Guy Pearce, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Saoirse Ronan, Timothy Spall (Directed by Gillian Armstrong; Written by Tony Grison and Brian Ward; The Weinstein Co.) According to this mischievous thriller, there was nothing magical about Harry Houdini’s guilt complex. It was huge, and it stemmed from the fact that the extraordinary escapologist, played by Guy Pearce, was off performing tricks instead of being at his mother’s bedside when she passed on in 1913. If only poor Harry could have had the opportunity to at least apologize to his neglected mom’s ghost. Actually, that’s precisely the chance he thought he was being given 13 years later by a conniving Scottish psychic and her deceitful daughter (Catherine Zeta-Jones and Saoirse Ronan). And this little miracle would only cost the gullible magician $10,000. Could it be that somebody was about to follow Mother Houdini into the great hereafter? Opening date to be announced