Son’s birth brings director to town as his latest feature film, “Hanna,” opens on Friday
By Diana Saenger
Saoirse Ronan stars as “Hanna” in the new thriller hitting theater screens on Friday, April 8. The story instantly mesmerizes as a young girl pits her survival skills against an animal twice her size and strength, Mother Nature, and her own father. “Hanna,” a mix of genres that blend seamlessly, excites and intrigues thanks to an inventive story by Seth Lochhead (screenplay by Lochhead and David Farr), and superb direction by Joe Wright.
The British-born Wright is in La Jolla to promote the film and be near his wife’s family. “Four weeks ago my wife gave birth to our first child, a son, born at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas,” Wright said beaming. “Baby and wife are fine, and baby’s 90-year-old grandfather is very proud.”
Wright has an impressive resume — he directed “The Soloist” (starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr.), “Pride & Prejudice” and “Atonement,” the latter two garnered him many awards.
Wright said he worked with the young Ronan in “Atonement,” for which she received an Academy Award nomination at age 13. In an exclusive interview with the La Jolla Light, Wright said it was Ronan who suggested to the studio they hire him to direct “Hanna.”
“She was on board before me, and as soon as I read the script I wanted to do it for Saoirse (pronounced “sear-sha”) and me, too,” Wright said. “I was intrigued by the character of Hanna and by the challenge of an action film, which I had not made before.”
Eric Bana plays Hanna’s ex-CIA father, Erik, who has raised her in a North Finland forest, taught her to recite knowledge like an encyclopedia, and to dream by listening to fairy tales. Hanna knows she has an important mission to fulfill that requires her to leave the safety of her father’s love and home. The story has it all — adventure, action, danger and espionage. Wright said he had a lot to think about in planning his direction.
“Filmmaking is a long process, so it’s dangerous to think of it all at once,” he said. “This film took 18 months to make, and you build it brick by brick, slowly building the structure.”
As a former puppeteer, Wright said he eagerly responded to the folk-tale aspects of the script. “I recognized it had kind of a fairy-tale structure as it was about a kid growing up in a secluded, relatively safe environment, and at one point, is given a chance to embark on a journey out into the world and the dark forest, and encounter evil and overcome it.”
Even if Ronan hadn’t been on board, Wright agreed he would have hired her. The young star is a standout in her films and earned many awards for her role as Susie Salmon in Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones.”
“I would have been dubious about anyone else playing that role or if anyone else could have done it,” Wright said. “Saoirse is an extraordinarily talented human being, and I had a very clear idea of how we could make this film with her as Hanna.”
Wright said he was also thrilled to have Bana and Cate Blanchett on board.
“The father figure in fairy tales, for instance in “Rapunzel,” is often a woodcutter. So I wanted someone who had that kind of masculine solidity. He needed to be someone who is strong, dependable, and not vain. Eric was perfect for that role.”
Academy Award-winner Blanchett plays Marissa, a career CIA agent tied to secrets that involve Hanna and Erik. When she joins agents in the deadly pursuit of Hanna, she more than meets her match in the young girl who will not be captured.
“I had a clear idea who Marisa could be and knew Cate would be the woman to do it,” Wright said. “She’s an extraordinary actress, and I relished working with her.”
Wright resides in London where he grew up in somewhat of a fairyland. His parents founded Islington’s Little Angel Theater, for puppets. He attended Camberwell College of Arts and trained as a filmmaker at St. Martins College of Art & Design in London. In 2007, Wright became the youngest director in history to open a film (“Atonement”) at the Venice Film Festival. Wright is currently juggling several films, including a new version of “Anna Karenina.”
If you go:
Plot: A 16-year-old, raised by her father to be the perfect assassin, is dispatched on a mission across Europe, tracked by a ruthless intelligence agent and her operatives.
Opens in Cinemas: Friday, April 8
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