Wednesday, April 6, 2011

WonderCon 2011: We chat with 'Hanna' director Joe Wright and star Saoirse Ronan

At WonderCon there was the usual fare of comic book movies being promoted; But there was another movie that everyone was talking about.  That was Focus Features upcoming movie Hanna.  It doesn't center around a superhero, but you wouldn't know it from the action that it delivers.  

Hanna is a teenage girl, played by Saoirse Ronan, who is raised by her father (Eric Bana), to be the perfect assassin.  The idea is to get her closer to her target.  Her target has also been pursuing Hanna her entire life.  But it's not that simple as Hanna realizes there is more to her own life that she never knew.

To promote the movie during WonderCon, Focus Features had advance screenings in San Francisco so people could see what everyone was talking about.    

In the midst of all this, we were able to spend some time with Saoirse Ronan and director Joe Wright.  We spoke about everything from becoming the character to what it was like to do action for the first time.

With the question of whether or not it was a concious choice to move away from dramas, Wright said, "I wasn't looking for an action movie.  It just kind of happened.  Saoirse was sent the script and suggested I direct it.  I read the script and was intrigued by the character of 'Hanna'.  Although, I was really fascinated by the challenge of  shooting the action, and really enjoyed it."

Joe told us that he was a little nervous about shooting fight scenes for the first time, but he didn't want to study other action movies.  He realized that it was just like shooting a dance and was able to approach with techniques he was already familiar with.  

On that I asked Wright if movies, like the Jason Bourne series, have changed how some action movies are now dramas as well.  "Very much so.  Paul Greengrass and the makers of the Jason Bourne films showed us that you could make an action film with a social and moral conscience... On the other hand, the cinematic style of those movies has been imitated a lot, and I wanted to avoid immitating and falling short of what Paul had done.  So I wanted to come with new and interesting ways to shoot the action.  But thematically I think they influenced a lot."

I wanted to know from Saoirse what it was like to take on an action movie with a complex character like 'Hanna'.

"The action was exciting.  That was initially what attracted me to the role, because I thought that's just what she would be.  An action heroine.  But then as we went along, Joe came on board and the story really developed and turned in to a messed up action/fairy tale.  That gave us room to breath and kind of create what ever wanted and do what ever we wanted.  As an actor that's brilliant because you can mess around and be a bit weird, while not being so realistic all the time."

Some wondered since the character of Erik (her father) is an ex-CIA operative, if there is an underlying political message in the movie.  Wright feels that the main issues in the movie aren't really political, nor do they deal with any particular foreign policy.  "It deals more with social issues, like the treatment of women in society, consumer and celebrity culture, the objectification of women and female empowerment issues."  He feels that those issues have been re-appropriated by a commercial industry.

We asked if he was referring to anything in particular.  He said, "You look at films that have been released very recently and they have young heroines wearing mini-skirts and crop tops and ponytails.  Yet these females are sexually objectified; and they kind of suggested that's female empowerment.  To me that stinks and I resent those words being re-appropriated for purely cynical, commercial gain."

In regards to what he wants for the audience when watching Hanna, Joe said, "I hope that the film works on different levels.  It can be seen as a fantasy/action movie; but also I think it's important that we make work that is responsible and has layers to it that can be enjoyed by an intelligent audience.  I think a lot of films underestimate audiences intelligence.  I think people can cope with story, entertainment and thought provoking issues at the same time."

Saoirse let us know how that translated with the performances of the rest of the cast.  "What's great about the performances in this movie, I'm not talking about my own, is that they come from a very real and honest place.  To play someone like 'Hanna', I needed to basically wipe my mind of any experiences I've ever gone through.  Because she has never gone through any of that.  Technically she's a teenager, but she's not really.  Like there's this scene where she looks up and sees an airplane for the first time.  Using your imagination you're able to really appreciate how fascinating something like this is."

On whether anything in particular influenced how she interpreted the character of 'Hanna', Ronan said, "I don't really draw from personal experiences when I'm playing a character.  Once you've gone over the script and in your head; where she's come from and what she's trying to achieve and who she is as a person, it's natural to slip in to that state of mind.  I understand why she's doing what she's doing, and it is quite a human motivation.  Which is love, safety and protection of her, her father and their life."      

Outside of the drama and the action, there is another part to Hanna that Joe Wright is very excited about.  The movie's soundtrack, which is composed by The Chemical Brothers.  "It's so f***in' good!  I've been a fan of theirs for over 20 years now, and I wanted to work with them on a soundtrack.  The Chemical Brothers create a new dimension in bass that is so bone-rattlingly exciting, to me."

You can experience all of this when Hanna opens in theaters this Friday.

For more information on the movie, visit Hanna online:
www.hannathemovie.com
www.facebook.com/HannaMovie
www.focusfeatures.com/hanna

Thank you to the team at Focus Features and Hanna for spending time with us.

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