Call it a perk of the job.

In her new film, sci-fi romance The Host, Irish actress Saoirse (say “sir- shuh”) Ronan gets to lock lips with, not one, but two hot young actors.

She plays a girl, Melanie Stryder, whose body is inhabited by an alien “soul” named Wanderer. Melanie has a boyfriend, Jared (Max Irons), while another young man, Ian (Jake Abel), is drawn to Wanderer. Cue puckering of lips.

Saoirse ronan and max irons

The movie adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s novel of the same name is currently showing in cinemas.

So who was the better kisser? Irons, 27, the son of English actor Jeremy Irons and Irish actress Sinead Cusack, who was in thriller Red Riding Hood (2011); or Abel, 25, the American model-turnedactor previously seen in the fantasy adventure Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)?

Ronan, 18, says diplomatically over the telephone from New York in a thick Irish accent: “They’re both very talented at what they do, I couldn’t pick one. If I pick one, the other one will get really upset.”

She also quashes the idea of any romantic sparks off-screen, adding: “We all get on well and everything and we’re all mates.”

In any case, the actress, who once told Ireland’s Evening Herald that she is determined to keep her personal life private, was more occupied with the two characters she was playing: feisty Melanie, who was portrayed mostly through voiceovers, and the cool and calm alien Wanderer.

Saoirse ronan and jake abel in the host
Saoirse Ronan and Jake Abel in The Host

Ronan says: “I was drawn to the chance to play two characters who had the potential to be so different from each other.”

One could say that acting is in her blood as her father Paul Ronan, 48, is an actor. As a toddler, she was brought along to the sets of films such as crime thriller The Devil’s Own (1997).

When she was 12, she landed the pivotal role of precocious storyteller Briony Tallis in Joe Wright’s film adaptation of acclaimed novel Atonement. That was when she knew she wanted to be an actress.

She recalls: “It was such good company, such amazing actors and the film-makers involved are brilliant. It was just a very special job for me and I loved my character so much because there was so much depth to her.

“I don’t think I could ever not do this, you know, in some shape or form.”

Ronan more than held her own against more experienced actors such as Keira Knightley and James McAvoy and was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at, among others, the Oscars and the Bafta (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Awards.

High-profile roles in Peter Jackson’s supernatural drama The Lovely Bones (2009) and in Wright’s action thriller Hanna (2011) followed, along with more accolades and acclaim.

Away from the bright lights of the silver screen, Ronan has kept out of the tabloids and lives a normal life, “nothing crazy” as she says.

Saoirse ronan in the host
Actress Saoirse Ronan at The Host movie premiere

And like many a teenager, she too had read Meyer’s popular fantasy romance Twilight (2005).

Asked if she had watched the film, she laughs and jokes: “Never heard of it.”

One would think that starring in a Meyer project on the heels of the wildly successful Twilight films would be pressurising, but she plays it down.

The level-headed Ronan adds: “If you were dwelling too much on that, it could interfere with your work and I didn’t want that to happen.”

Acting is not just some teenage passion for her, but a craft she can see herself working at for a long time to come.

“It’s one of those things where if you really love it, it’s almost not a choice. You just have to do it, you know?”

The Host is showing in cinemas.

This article was first run The Straits Times newspaper on March 30, 2013; read more similar stories at You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.