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A 'Lovely' role for Saoirse

"I think it's a coincidence that that happened," the 15-year-old film star told the Irish Echo in a recent phone interview.

"At the time, the quality scripts that I was getting were dramas. I would love to do a comedy because I am a happy person who loves to have fun and it would be great to put that on screen, as well. It's the way things worked out, really. But I do love a challenge," added the actress, who had recurring roles on the TV series "Proof" and "The Clinic," and who was most recently seen on the big-screen in last year's "City of Ember."

In Peter Jackson's new film adaptation of Alice Sebold's beloved novel, "The Lovely Bones," Ronan plays Susie, a girl who was brutally murdered. Her character is now stuck in the gorgeous, fanciful place between Heaven and Earth because she can't completely let go of her affectionate, heart-broken family, played by Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon and Rose McIver. Stanley Tucci plays Susie's killer, and Michael Imperioli the police detective trying to find him. The movie is set in 1970s Pennsylvania.

"When you first hear what it's about you think: 'Oh, that doesn't sound great. It's about a girl who's murdered, no.' But people connect to it so well, especially people who have lost someone," Ronan observed. "It gives you such a positive feeling when you read that book and when you see the movie, as well. There's this sort of sense of hope, I suppose, that there is an after-life. Just the way Alice writes is beautiful and the way the story is told from Susie's point of view, you realize she's safe right off . . . You know instantly she's OK."

Since her character is isolated for much of the movie's storyline, Ronan said she found herself acting by herself quite a lot. Not that she minded.

"I kind of like acting on my own," confided Ronan, an only child in real life. "I like doing it with people, as well. It's lovely to be on set with other actors, but sometimes it's sort of like going into your room and sitting on your own for awhile. I like it. I like doing things by myself and with people, as well. I had done that before. With 'Atonement,' I was on my own pretty much all the time. And it was great. It was just me and the director."

The actress was born in the Bronx, N.Y., and raised in Co. Carlow by her Irish parents Monica and Paul. Her father is also an actor, familiar to audiences for playing the character of Edso TV's "Ballykissangel," and for his work in the films "Veronica Guerin," "The Boxer," "Ordinary Decent Criminal" and "The Devil's Own."

After earning an Oscar nod for her breakthrough performance in the 2007 drama "Atonement" and spending months traipsing the red carpets at glitzy galas around the world, the younger Ronan resumed her traditional education back home at Kilkenny College in Kilkenny. The actress said working hard at her studies and staying close to her family and friends has helped keep her grounded.

"Because we live in the country, it's very different than the Hollywood scene," she explained. "It is easier to remain normal and not really forget who you are."

"The Lovely Bones" is in select theaters now; it will open nationwide Jan. 15.

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