'Brooklyn' Star Saoirse Ronan Talks Sex Scenes: 'They Have to Be Choreographed!'

Saoirse Ronan is already getting Oscar-buzz for her role in Brooklyn

Photo: Todd Williamson/Getty

For those who mostly remember actress Saoirse Ronan from her early work as the child star in Atonement and The Lovely Bones you may be surprised to learn that the Oscar-nominated Irish actress is now 21 and happily taking on more emotionally-challenging adult roles, sex scenes-included.

Her latest film is the 1950s-set Brooklyn, in which Ronan plays idealistic yet practical Irish immigrant Eilis Lacey, who finds herself swept into a new life of romance and a difficult decision between allegiances to her home countries, old and new.

For Ronan, the more adult role was a welcome, if emotionally-draining challenge.

“I was very emotional because it was my mom and dad’s story,” Ronan tells PEOPLE. “They had moved over to New York in the eighties and I moved over to London about eight months before we started the film and I was experiencing homesickness. I put a lot of pressure on myself because I felt a huge responsibility to represent everyone and the story. As we went on I realized more and more it wasn’t just a specifically Irish story, it was just about anyone who left home.”

In addition to the emotionally relatable elements, Ronan gets to play the object of two gentleman’s affections. She shares a lovely onscreen romance (and love scene) with “Brando-like” actor Emory Cohen, plus heavy flirtation with Irish suitor Jim, played by Star Wars: The Force Awakens star Domhnall Gleeson. She says she most enjoyed the “lovely and classic” elements of her character’s “buzzing, bubbling chemistry going on underneath the surface”-type love story with Cohen and jokes that filming their big sex scene was more funny than awkward.

“I’ve done a few sex scenes now and I’ve never found them awkward,” Ronan says. “Kissing scenes are more intimate and you are just kissing so you do whatever, versus sex scenes it has to be choreographed otherwise it just turns into a nightmare,” she adds with a laugh. “Like, ‘What do I do with my hands? Do I take his shirt off?'”

When asked which handsome gent she would choose in real life, Cohen or Gleeson, Ronan cheerfully pleaded the Fifth.

“You know I can’t answer that,” she says with a laugh. “Listen there are two things on offer there: We’ve got a ginger on the one hand and then we’ve got a dark brooding Brando type on the other. They’re different dudes but they’re great. It’s really interesting too, they work in really different ways. I don’t know who I’d choose, they’re both terrific.”

Ronan did however cop to a personal affinity for her countrymen. “I do love the Irish boys I have to say, because our sense of humor is so specific” she says. “Nobody else quite gets it like us.”

Brooklyn is now playing in select theaters.

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