At the heart of the plotline of Peter Jackson's film adaption of The Lovely Bones, beneath the murder, loss and desperation, is a tale of first love and of a loving family. The bond between Susie and her sister Lindsey is especially important to the film, and Buzzine's Izumi Hasegawa was excited to sit and talk in Hollywood, CA to the young actresses playing those key roles, Saoirse Ronan and Rose McIver alongside their director and the actor playing the man that links them in the film, Stanley Tucci.
Izumi Hasegawa: How did you meet and bond to play sisters in this film?
Saoirse Ronan: We met in Pennsylvania, and I had just come off another movie so I went straight over to meet everyone. I think we met the first day.
Rose McIver: Yeah, we spent a lot of time at the Salmon House where we would shoot. We did a little kind of getting to know each other as a family and getting to know the dog that would play Holiday.
SR: We just sort of bonded for those two weeks, and I think because Rose and I are pretty close in age – - well, there’s six years difference, but we feel like we’re very close — we bonded from the off really. We get on very, very well. She’s one of my best friends.
RM: And neither of us have sisters so we kind of took each other.
SR: Aww. Isn’t it sweet?
RM: Bring your tissues.
SR: It’s great, though, because even though we didn’t really have that many scenes together in the movie, we got to hang out when I was in New Zealand, and we still keep in touch and everything.
IH: Rose, what attracted you to the role, and how did you handle that difficult scene at the end?
RM: I’m a New Zealander, so we’re pretty proud of Pete, and the opportunity to work with him was, obviously, very exciting and a real honor. I read the book when I was 13 and I was a huge fan of the novel. I was Lindsay and Susie’s age, going into high school. I guess it just was resonant with me, and I never thought I’d have the opportunity to play Lindsey, but when I read her in the script, I felt like she was very much the character that she was in the book. I don’t think I’m hugely similar to her necessarily, but I really respect and admire her, so that makes her a character I would love to play. She got to age from 11 to 19, which was going to be kind of interesting and a wonderful challenge to take on.
IH: Was it tough to tap into those emotions?
RM: I didn’t know it was going to be as easy as it was, because when I met Stanley, I thought, “This man’s too nice. He’s not going to be Mr. Harvey, and how am I even going to be scared of him?” But when we were shooting that, it was in New Zealand and it very much contained fear. Whenever we’d cut, it would go back to normal, but I certainly was actually terrified. The idea of Lindsey putting herself in that position and having already lost her sister, putting herself at stake and being so vulnerable… it’s brave, but it’s dangerous. I think the nature of the script made it a very easy emotion to tap into.
IH: Were there any moments on set where your character’s feelings overtook you and you had to come back to reality?
SR: There was always one scene that stuck out and that I got very emotional, and I was drowned in the scene for quite a long time. It was the barley field scene near the end of the movie, where Mr. Harvey’s victims come to take Susie to heaven. That’s one of my favorite scenes in the film and definitely my favorite to shoot as well; it was so emotional and touching, and I think we did it for a day or maybe even more. I think everyone on set felt the same way. We were all touched and very emotional, so I always remember shooting that.
IR: Saoirse, can you talk about doing those scenes by yourself?
SR: There were quite a few scenes on my own in the in-between, and we actually did go on location as well in New Zealand, which was beautiful – it was a great experience to do something like that. But when we used blue-screen, we used different things that they figured out would help me, and of course how well-written the script was. Everything I needed, or most of it, was in the script already. We would also play music during the shots — music that would reflect the mood of the scene, so that would help me so much. We would do that all the time, and Peter would talk to me during the takes as well and describe what was going on around me, so I was able to react to that. It was nice because I never really felt like I was on my own because I felt like I had my little guardian angel there.
IH: Saoirse, did you read the book beforehand, and what was your reaction to it?
SR: I waited to read the book. I hadn’t heard about the book before I heard about the film because, when it came out, I was quite young anyway. But when I did get the role, I waited to read the book after I’d made the film because I was just a bit too young to read it. I heard it was a tough read, especially the first chapter, and after reading it now, I realize it is quite tough. But I eventually did read it and it was beautiful, and I thought Pete and Fran [Walsh] and Philippa [Boyens] did a great job adapting it.
IH: Did you find Ireland and New Zealand similar?
SR: Oh yeah, completely.
Peter Jackson: New Zealand is full of Irish convicts that got sent over there.
SR: Alright, that’s enough of that. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
PJ: We’ve got the dark side of Ireland, and it’s sort of been inbred into our culture.
SR: It is.
PJ: My partner, Fran Walsh, is directly descended from an Irish embezzler. It’s not even a murderer or somebody cool. It was somebody who fiddled the books in 1780 or something.
SR: Anyway! So I did find New Zealand similar to Ireland because of the people, obviously. I found that, ironically, although these two countries were very far away from each other, their humor was so similar, and their outlook on things was quite similar as well. When I went over there, I felt very comfortable. I’d always felt comfortable with Pete anyway, but especially when we went over there. I think [Pete] felt more relaxed and so did I, so I’d move there. I love New Zealand. It’s my favorite place to shoot. It’s one of my favorite countries to visit. The people, the food, the landscape — everything about it I love.
SR: We didn’t talk about it that much beforehand. I don’t think Stanley would have wanted to. It was quite a few months into shooting before we actually did the scene, so I don’t know about the crew, but both Stanley and I were quite anxious to get the scene out of the way, so we went in on the day and, as I’ve said before, everything I needed was already written for me, and Pete was there so I felt very safe. Luckily, Stanley and I were very comfortable with each other and we get on well, and I think that was essential in order to get that intensity on screen — that we were comfortable with each other, that we could bounce off each other and sort of freak each other out, in a way. Especially him.
Stanley Tucci: I couldn’t wait to finish the scene, I’ll be honest with you. You are concerned, certainly. As a parent, or just as a person, you are concerned when you are working with a younger person with this subject matter. You know you have to behave a certain way in order to get what you need or get what you need across to fulfill the needs of the screenplay, but after every take, I would say to Saoirse, “Are you okay? Because it just made me uncomfortable.” [Laughs] But Saoirse would also ask me if I was okay, and it turns out she’s the one who really, I think, in some ways, made us all feel comfortable, because she’s so mature. I did ask Pete, “Can we just get this done in one day?”, And he said “I’ll try,” and we weren’t able to; we shot another half-day the next day, and then it was over. I breathed a sigh of relief. It was one of the last things I did in the movie, and I was very happy when it was over. But also, in between takes, you joke around — you have to. Like Rachel said before, it’s your job to go and do that thing and then take it off and go home to your kids or go and have dinner. That’s your job.
SR: I know I wouldn’t have been able to stay in that place for the whole time, because when the cameras started to roll, it was extremely intense. It was interesting to see — Stanley is such a great guy, and to see how he changes is frightening. And for someone who certainly gets on well with him, it feeds whatever performance you need to get out. But I enjoyed it. I enjoyed doing the scene. [Laughs]
IH: Talk about the makeover scene…
RM: I think Susan just pushed me to see how far it could possibly go. We rolled and rolled, and I think Pete and everybody was just having a laugh at me, because I think there were about six or seven eggs in the end, and a whole pack of oatmeal. She just kind of went to town on it. I think I got some ash in my face, a drink spilled on me. It was a really humbling experience.
PJ: In shooting those scenes, I remember we didn’t want to make it very precise. Like in films, it’s often you do this, this, this and it’s just one little piece that you shoot. I remember setting up a couple of cameras, loading up the magazines, which means they can roll for like ten minutes, putting a bunch of eggs in a bowl, and Susan and Rose were there. I said, “Just be funny.” We started rolling the camera, and I just let these guys do all the work and just kept rolling for ten minutes. What you see in the movie is seconds of it.
RM: My skin was great the next day. I’m an advocate.
PJ: It was one of those great moments where improvisation is the best way to go, because what they could come up with is a lot funnier than anything I could tell them to do.
'The Lovely Bones' is in theaters now from Paramount Pictures