Saoirse Ronan, Oscar veteran at 23, laughs off her chances

Saoirse Ronan arrives for the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA) at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Britain, February 18, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 20 February 2018
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Saoirse Ronan, Oscar veteran at 23, laughs off her chances

PARIS: Saoirse Ronan is not like other Hollywood stars.
Spread out on a sofa in a luxury Paris hotel in a “Mary Magdalene, sorry Maggie Marilyn” pyjama suit looking like a vamp from “The Great Gatsby,” she is joking about her bad skin.
The sideburns of acne she has in “Lady Bird,” the acclaimed coming-of-age movie that has won her a third Oscar nomination at the age of 23, were very much her own, she laughed.
“No, they were real!” she told AFP. “I had a bad skin at the time so we just didn’t cover it up.
“Weirdly I never got bad skin as a teenager at all,” said the Irish actress, who was first nominated for an Academy Award when she was only 13 for “Atonement.”
“It was only when I was 21 or 22 when I was doing loads of press that I got it. So, it was you that did it,” she laughed.
Ronan is often talked about as one of the most talented actors of her generation — she won a best actress Golden Globe last month for “Lady Bird,” her “sensational” portrayal of a Sacramento teenager in the last year of high school whose lofty ambitions are often at odds with reality and her family’s precarious finances.
She is also one of the most down-to-earth, seemingly unphased by having grown up in front of the camera as a child actor from the age of eight.
“My Mam came away with me on every job till I was 18, and my Dad is an actor, so they understood the pitfalls.”
Even so, “going through puberty on screen can very easily be terrifying. You are so aware of what you look like, and to have a lens pointed at your face,” she told AFP as she promoted “Lady Bird” in the French capital.
“So you have to have the attitude that it is more important to get what you are doing right than worry whether you look pretty.”
Doing good work has been Ronan’s watchword since she was very young, carefully choosing quality films rather than playing the fame game.
“I was offered an action film at the same time as ‘Atonement’ (when she was 12) but I knew even then that was not the direction I wanted to go in,” she said.
She was a more obvious choice to play an Irish immigrant in “Brooklyn,” and Ronan insisted that hooking up with indie star Greta Gerwig for her directorial debut on “Lady Bird” was also a “no-brainer.”
“When you read a script where one of the introductory scenes is someone arguing with their mother and jumping out of a car it is a massive selling point. With Greta I knew it would be smart, interesting and funny,” she said.
Gerwig, who made her name both writing and starring in “Frances Ha” and “Mistress America” with director Noah Baumbach, said it was a marriage made in heaven.
Even though the film is semi-autobiographical, Gerwig said she didn’t really “understand the character until (Ronan) started saying the lines... she is this flawed but amazing heroine.”
And for her part, Ronan said she cried when Gerwig was nominated for an Oscar. Incredibly it was only the fifth time that a woman had been nominated for best director.
“She deserves it so much. It was a really momentous thing for the times we are in to have at least one woman nominated and completely deservedly. That means a lot to all of us,” said Ronan.
In terms of empowerment, “getting to play a confident teenage girl” also mattered hugely, she said.
“It’s so rare to see a teenage girl just own it in a film — someone who just goes for it and isn’t afraid to fall on their face. There is a strength and a bravery you can catch from that person.”
Ronan is acutely conscious that “Lady Bird” has already become a key cultural reference for many teenage girls.
“She is quite outspoken which I am too. She is trying to find her people and her places. When I was around 18 I knew (like her that) I needed to get out and find who I was.
“Like Greta and Lady Bird I wanted to go to New York. I was only there eight months but it was enough to say, ‘I’ve found myself!’” she laughed.
As for finally lifting an Oscar next month at the third attempt, Ronan insists that she “hasn’t thought about winning. When you win you have to do all the press afterwards, and you don’t get a chance to have a dance. So it is also quite nice losing because you can enjoy the night.”


Kyrgyz singer receives death threats over feminist video

Updated 21 September 2018
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Kyrgyz singer receives death threats over feminist video

  • Zere Asylbek’s music video ‘Kyz’ became a sensation in the Central Asian country following its release last week
  • In the video Asylbek sings that ‘a time will come when nobody will tell me: Don’t wear it, don’t do it’

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan: A 19-year-old singer in Kyrgyzstan has filed a complaint with police after receiving death threats over a music video she released targeting gender discrimination in the ex-Soviet republic.
Zere Asylbek’s music video “Kyz” became a sensation in the Central Asian country following its release last week but has angered conservatives who say it insults national values, focusing on the singer’s visible underwear.
Asylbek said that she had filed reports with police in the capital Bishkek after receiving numerous threats of physical violence including several death threats.
One threat posted by an anonymous Facebook profile to a group on the social media platform threatened to kill her if the video was not deleted.
Another user whose post Asylbek sent as a screenshot to AFP wrote that they “would gladly join” the first commentator, and “rip your head off.”
“Kyz,” which means girl in the Kyrgyz language had had more than 217,000 views on YouTube by Friday and is Asylbek’s first released song.
Asylbek said on Thursday that the video’s main message was to “respect the person you really are” while also “respecting the choices, opinions and ways of life of others.”
The video features Asylbek dressed in a suit jacket and skirt with a purple bra underneath, a woman wearing a hijab, a woman wearing a Kyrgzy-style headscarf and a woman with a partly shaved head, showing Kyrgyz society’s diversity.
In the video Asylbek sings that “a time will come when nobody will tell me: Don’t wear it, don’t do it.”
She also calls on the other women featured in the clip to “join me, create our own freedom.”
Asylbek said that she had expected her choice of different women representing different facets of society to be understood as provocative but was surprised at the online attention devoted to her purple bra.
In a Facebook post her father Asylbek Zhoodonbekov voiced support, calling his daughter “a free-thinking daughter of a free Kyrgyzstan.”
He said she had grown more politically conscious after a recent incident in which a man killed a young woman in a police station after attempting to abduct her for a forced marriage.
The murder in May sparked protests in Kyrgyzstan, a poor, majority-Muslim country where thousands of women are kidnapped for marriage every year in a practice dating back to the country’s nomadic past while law enforcement is accused of ignoring the problem.