An island is very representative of Joe Wright’s (“The Atonement,” “The Soloist”) latest creation, “Hanna.” All three leads, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana and Saoirse Ronan, were actually born on one – Blanchett and Bana in Australia and Ronan in New York City. Plus, the latter actress was raised on yet another water-surrounded body: Ireland. In the film, an isolated young Hanna imagines electricity, music and children her own age to talk to. These thoughts lap at the shores surrounding her island of naivety – until she decides she is ready to face them all.
Hanna is a biological experiment, born from a test tube. Although unknown to her at the start of the film, she was bred by an unnamed government agency to have superior strength, reflexes and intellect. The only person she has ever met is the father (Eric Bana, “Star Trek”) who raised her, educated her and trained her for lethal combat from the depths of a snowy tundra. Outside their wintry haven lies dangers for Hanna, but she knows this world from her father’s encyclopedia and yearns for it.
Behind the scenes of “Hanna,” however, Bana and Ronan developed more of a sibling relationship versus a paternal one.
“Saoirse is awesome. I’d seen her previous films and knew she had a good relationship with Joe [Wright], which I knew was going to be really important because this was a monster to shoot in terms of schedule and physicality,” Bana said in an interview with The Badger Herald. “Her being Irish and me being Australian, the onset dynamic became very quickly more brother-sister than father-daughter. She’s got a wicked sense of humor.”
An inescapable avenue that bonded the working relationship between Bana and Ronan was the hours of theatrical combat training the two went through, first apart and then together onset. A big fear when audiences get to see the film, released in Madison today, will be that the bionic Hanna will accidentally murder her father in their brutal, up-close-and-personal scenes of “play fighting.”
“When you fight with stuntmen, not only does it not matter if you hit them because they can just wheel another one out, but they’re usually guys you train with. There’s not a big loss to the production if they get hurt as far as their face being on camera, whereas if I was to belt Saoirse in the jaw we’re in trouble,” Bana said. “So to be honest I was concerned, but after the first second of training I wasn’t; I was more concerned about my own safety.”
Seventeen-year-old Ronan had little to no experience with firing guns or hand to hand combat before this film, she said before jokingly grasping at a butter knife – proving to the reporters her newly-instilled violent nature. Even if she had done a film like “Troy,” it’s likely nothing could have prepared her for the skills she’s needed for “Hanna.”
“[In the first scene] it was a real deer… and they put fake intestines in it and put fake blood over it and they had this machine that would let out steam so it would look like the deer was dying. It was very interesting to see, but my hands were in goo the whole time and it was cold on my fingers,” Ronan said. The crew also made an executive decision during shooting to bleach her eyebrows during shooting, to have an effect conducive to her character’s camouflage and survival.
“It was Joe’s idea to basically bleach me out and almost disguise me as an animal in a forest. It’s quite interesting that I don’t necessarily leap out when you see me in the forest; I blend in. We were going for the physicalities similar to a wolf really, a white wolf. I think it came out pretty well. They bleached the tips of my eyelashes as well so it was simply just my blue eyes that showed through,” she said.
One major scene to watch for when viewing the film takes place beneath a subway station, and is artistically shot in one continuous take. This is quite rare – cinematography enthusiasts are sure to be fairly excited about this point – and Wright cites the cut-heavy action of the “Bourne” films as something he tried to stray away from.< “It’s a huge challenge,” Bana said. “He told me the week before that the fighting we’d been rehearsing, we were going to do it in one. To be honest it’s an honor; it’s so rare you get that opportunity. Most of our hard work and choreography ends up on the floor because it’s cut to pieces… There is this moment where it becomes live performance… The whole day was devoted to getting just that [scene], we rehearsed all day. [We] just kept banging it out until we lost the light.”
Aside from becoming close with Wright and Bana – two men who tower over her in both age and stature – Ronan found a friend more her level in Jessica Barden. Barden played the character of Sophie in the film; a teenager with a colossal personality who befriends Hanna, becoming a sort of sister figure to the mysterious young girl.
“[Jessica] and I got on really well; she’s a really easy person to get on with,” Ronan said. “She’s absolutely mad, and talks like that all the time. She never shuts up. I really liked her, and she’s not quite as bad as Sophie but she’s quite similar to Sophie. She’s an absolute joy just to observe the way this girl is. There’s no pretense or anything, she’s just real. And we bonded over [Lady] Gaga and stuff. If I’m working with an actor that likes Gaga we’ve bonded straightaway, as it should be.”