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HANNA

About The Production
Not yet out of her teenage years, Saoirse Ronan is already an Academy Award nominee whose performances continue to impress. But when asked what method she utilizes to get into character, the actress replies, "I don't know whether I have one. I'm not the type of actor who lives through the character.” Even so, as she explains, "I want all the roles that I play to hold challenges.

With lots of action and a layered character, Hanna had them for me. It's unlike any other drama that I've done. Here is a teenager who has been raised in a forest and has gotten all her education from her father; she's never even met anyone else before. We meet her as she goes out on her own, and when she does she is fascinated by everyone and everything she comes across. My favorite quality of hers is that she is non-judgmental; she shows an open mind to, and a fascination with, everything. She's a bit of a freak. But, I like that; I like freaks.

"Hanna discovers life for the first time, so the movie is not just about a girl who kicks butt – though she certainly does!”

Ronan embraced the concept. She remarks, "[Director] Joe Wright talked with me about how – as in a fairy tale – someone goes out into the world and it is overwhelming and scary and beautiful. Like any teenager, I can empathize with Hanna's desire to see the world, but for her it happens at 100 miles an hour.”

The actress – who would turn 16 during filming of Hanna – had boarded the project even before her once and future director, Wright. It was he who had cast Ronan in Atonement nearly four years prior, with their resulting collaboration earning awards and accolades all over the world.

She reflects, "I always thought that if we were going to work together again, it would have to be something different from what we did before.

"Joe and I didn't need to find our way; we are very in sync, even more so than before because we can tell if either of us is not completely happy, and we trust each other to try different things. Both Joe and I sympathize with Hanna because she does what she does to protect the people she loves.”

Seth Lochhead had written the original screenplay for Hanna in 2006. The script then continued on through development. Academy Award-nominated producer Leslie Holleran, who has successfully brought to the screen a number of literary adaptations, remarks that "it's extremely freeing – and even more terrifying! – to work on an original story. Hanna goes on a journey, and developing the script for a couple of years was a journey in its own right.

 

"With Hanna, Seth had written a character of mythic quality. She is a stranger in a strange land – namely, our world. I was intrigued by the human connections she would make.”

Holleran adds, "I wanted to find a director for whom this movie would be a departure. Joe's strong take was exploring the story through the prism of a fairy tale. What was also exciting was his thinking in terms of the action, the character elements, and even social commentary; this is a female empowerment story.

"I believe that his deep familiarity with Saoirse and what she is capable of as an actor gave him a confidence to be ambitious with the material.”

Once Wright was confirmed as the film's director, Lochhead reports, "Joe invited me back to work on many scenes – ones that had been in the script since 2006, as well as ones that had come into it in the years since.

"I felt like Joe understood what I was trying to do, and I could see where he was coming from, with the story. We saw the characters the same way, so it was very exciting to go back into Hanna's world.”

At the start of the film, the only person Hanna has in her world is Erik, her widowed father. Actor Eric Bana remembers, "The script reminded me of…nothing; I thought, ‘I haven't seen this film before.' I loved that this movie has a teenaged girl as the main character; what an exciting opportunity for Saoirse at this age. Joe's take on the story fascinated me, so I quickly jumped on board.

"Hanna has to grow up and take on responsibilities, as her parent relinquishes control. I'm a parent myself, and I saw Hanna as a heightened version of every parent's nightmare of their child going off for the first time.”

Bana was also drawn to his character's complexities. He notes, "There are very traditional fatherly qualities to Erik; he's a protector and a teacher. He's forever been preparing Hanna to survive battles both mental and physical, so he's also like a cruel drill sergeant with her.

"Yet, when a parent has done a great job of protecting their child from the world, the harsh realities out there are that much more shocking for the child, and Hanna is in real danger.”

The threat to Hanna is incarnated by Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett; she portrays the film's third major character of Marissa Wiegler, the cold-steel magnolia CIA agent who once upon a time worked in the field with Erik. Now based in Langley, VA, Wiegler's life has been "built around the telling of lies and the holding of secrets, and she has given her all to her job,” notes the actress.

As part of researching the role, Blanchett spoke with a CIA agent who illuminated for her "the tension that exists between those in the field and those who are at headquarters, in Langley.”

She elaborates, "Marissa worked undercover in Germany in the 1990s, and relished the cut-and-thrust of covert operations. The one she was involved with Erik in failed and was closed down, so she harbors incredible resentment towards the agency about the whole thing as well as self-loathing. When Erik and Hanna reappear, she goes back into the field to close them down. Finding Hanna starts out as a professional necessity, but becomes pathological, for her. She wants to possess this child; it's a bit like the Wicked Witch from the Hansel and Gretel story. The fairy tale elements add a heightened quality to the scenes.”

Like Ronan, Blanchett had a previous professional tie to Wright. She reveals, "Joe and I were preparing another project together, and that fell through. Then he sent me this script, which terrified me; my partner noted that I'd never had a reaction like that to a screenplay.

"So Joe and I got to work; it was important to him that Marissa be from Texas, and I tried to get the accent subtly so that it wasn't overpowering.”

Already at work was Wright's longtime production designer, three-time Academy Award nominee Sarah Greenwood. The director's frequent collaborator discussed adding "a fairy tale element through design, costume, and performances, and bring that quality to the fore.

"Lots of fairy tales originated as stories of warnings to children. As soon as Hanna steps into the world that Marissa inhabits, she learns fast lessons.”

Costume designer Lucie Bates adds, "Sometimes the dark fairy tale aspect was to be almost subliminal; Joe's vision of Marissa as the Wicked Witch of the story meant that her colors would be red and green. Sometimes it was to be more open, as with Hanna and Erik's cabin.”

Greenwood's team, which per usual included set decorator Katie Spencer, worked with local craftsmen and "really built our characters' log cabin out in the woods to look like it had been there for years,” marvels Bana.

The production designer reports, "Snow was the starting point in our design. The story begins, and the audience arrives in a place, and you don't know where it is, what century it is, or who the characters are. Hans Christian Andersen was our inspiration, but we expanded on tradit

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