Director Neil Jordan’s vampire drama Byzantium is finally getting a Canadian release this weekend. The melancholy film stars Saoirse Ronan (The Host) as Eleanor, a vampire (although that word is never used) tired of living on the run with Clara (Gemma Arterton, St. Trinians). The DLB had the chance to speak to Ronan during last year’s Toronto International Film Festival during a roundtable with the young Irish star.

The film’s tone is quite melancholy, isn’t it.

Yeah, I love it, and I do kind of like that Eleanor is very melancholy the whole way through. She’s tired of her life, and even though she’s grateful to Clara for giving her this gift because otherwise she would have lost her life very early on, it’s something that doesn’t really rest easy with her. I think she’s saddened by it. That’s why she tries to give as much mercy as she can through the victims that she chooses and things like that. So I love her character for that because she’s almost like an angel in a way.

Ronan with her Byzantium co-stars Gemma Arterton and Caleb Landry Jones

Ronan with her Byzantium co-stars Gemma Arterton and Caleb Landry Jones

What vampire character from popular culture is your favourite?

Well, you can’t go wrong with a bit of Dracula, the Bela Lugosi one I suppose. I haven’t really seen that many of them to be honest. I remember when I was younger I used to watch a cartoon about a vampire. She was this kid who would dress up as a vampire, Mona the Vampire. She was great but she wasn’t my favourite. I don’t know what my favourite is.


What about Twilight? You’re doing The Host so there is a connection there.

There is a connection. It’s great actually, Stephanie [Myers] is so lovely. Stephanie was on set with us most of the time and she’s great. She’s like a buddy, and it was great having her around. The Host I think is a bit more grown up, and the concept is so amazing because it’s something to really think about. It was quite complex, not that Twilight isn’t.


Did you see Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire?

Oh I did. I love Kirsten Dunst’s vampire. I thought that she was pretty cool in that actually. That’s quite beautiful, and that was another thing that excited me about working with Neil that he’s able to bring beautiful imagery on to the screen, these gorgeous gothic atmospheres on the sets.


Did you have to do any homework to make this take on the vampire universe?

No, because the imagery and all that kind of stuff was really up to him. That wasn’t really homework; they just wanted you to enjoy it.


What’s your best memory of the shoot?

Learning the piano I think. I got to learn the piece that plays throughout the film. So I had never played the piano before and I had always wanted to learn. So I started to learn, and I had about ten weeks to learn. It was amazing, it was a great experience, and I’ll have to go back and do it now. I loved doing that, and I really loved being in Ireland because we shot most of it in Ireland and I had never worked with an Irish crew before on a film or anything like that. So that was a real pleasure.


SWhy did you want to do this film, and what do you like about Eleanor?

I wanted to do this film because I wanted to work with Neil. I was very interested in the idea of making a film about vampires that wasn’t a vampire film. What I like about Eleanor is the fact that she’s saddened by her life. She’s old fashioned and has beautiful hand writing. I like how traditional she is.


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