In The Seagull, Saoirse Ronan Self-Destructs, Chekhov Style

Saoirse Ronan, photographed on the set of The Seagull. : Brigitte Lacombe.

The Seagull has a big, bustling ensemble, but the character of Nina exists at its center. She’s a glossy dreamer, drawn into the coterie of personalities at a famous actress’s (Annette Bening) country house. Anton Chekhov’s tragic heroine is the star of the play, and Michael Mayer keeps her at the front of the film adaptation of the family drama, set during the last languid days of hot summer. Nina is madly desirous of everything — fame, love, attention, talent — until that passion corrodes her. She breaks up with her writer boyfriend Konstantin (Billy Howle), only to have her heart broken by a more famous (and more cynical) writer (Corey Stoll). “I think ultimately it becomes a sort self-sabotage, but initially, I do think that she wants to have this wonderful life filled with excitement and incredible people, like people that she’s met in the house. She’s so full of hope and innocence and youth, and you pretty rapidly see this young girl become quite broken and lost.”

For the three-week shoot upstate, the cast lived nearby, and used the house’s bedrooms instead of trailers. “It was so warm and so humid. I remember the bullfrogs. They make the most bizarre noises,” Ronan says. Chekov filled The Seagull’s summer house with frustrated, narcissistic artists. Which does Ronan herself relate to most? “Probably Konstantin,” she says. “You are definitely putting yourself out there when you’re an actor, but you’re still able to hide behind someone else a little bit, whereas with your own writing, it’s solely coming from you. I think he’s just sort of striving to do something that feels real to him. Not Nina!”

*A version of this article appears in the April 30, 2018, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

In The Seagull, Saoirse Ronan Self-Destructs, Chekhov Style