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Dubliner Alisha Weir (13) shines at Irish premiere of new Matilda movie after landing lead role

She said she enjoyed putting on an English accent for her role.

Alisha Weir with Sunday World reporter Eugene Masterson

Promotional shot for Matilda The Musical

Eugene MastersonSunday World

DUBLINER Alisha Weir is urging other young Irish teenagers to follow their dream after she won a life-changing role starring as the lead role in the new Hollywood version of Matilda The Musical.

Alisha (13), who’s being dubbed ‘the new Saoirse Ronan’, attended the first Irish screening of the new film last night when it was shown before a VIP audience in Movies@Dundrum in south Dublin.

The young actress from Knocklyon won the role to star alongside Emma Thompson and Stephen Graham after auditioning for her first major part.

Alisha is mesmerising as happy-go-lucky Matilda, perfecting an English accent for her in a brand-new take on the Tony and Olivier award-winning musical based on the Roald Dahl book.

“My agent sent me through to see if I wanted to do a self-tape (audition), and I had to do a song and a piece of dialogue,” Alisha explained at the screening in Dundrum on how she applied for the part.

“So, then I did that and then they were looking for me to fly over, but because it was during Covid I couldn’t fly over.

Alisha Weir speaks for the movie Matilda

“So, throughout the year I did like some more on Zoom and that went through like the whole year, and then in December when Covid had died down they were wondering if I wanted to go over and do one in person, so I went over and did one in person.”

Alisha then flew home.

“Then two weeks later we got the call on my mum’s birthday to say that I got the role of Matilda,” she smiles.

She said she enjoyed putting on an English accent for her role.

“I didn’t find it too challenging because I think even beforehand I would always put on the accent, and I also a new dialect coach and I actually really enjoy doing the accent side,” she confirms.

Asked what her favourite part of filming was, she replies: “Well I loved meeting all the people. Because I was coming over from Ireland I got to meet loads of new friends that I’m still friends with today, and also meeting all the amazing actors and actresses. Especially looking up to them, all like the main cast, just looking up to them, because I had grown up seeing them in all these movies and then actually to be in a movie with them in my first ever big film was really crazy.”

She has some tips for youngsters who want to follow in her footsteps.

“Well I think if you really enjoy it and you like singing or dancing or acting, well then I think you should definitely join a stage school and I think the main message is not to give up and keep trying no matter what happens,” she points out.

“Because you’re going to get a good few no’s, but you just need to keep working until you get that one yes and it could happen out of nowhere, you just never know when it will happen, but it could possibly happen when you least expect it so I think you need to push yourself for those that maybe you don’t think you’re going to get, but you could end up getting it,” she stresses.

Matilda The Musical– which goes on release here on November 25 – tells the story of an extraordinary girl, with a vivid imagination, who dares to take a stand to change her story with miraculous results.

Producer Jon Finn explained about their mission to find the perfect young actor to portray Matilda.

“It was all about finding the right person. We needed someone authentic and real, who you can believe emotionally, who can sing and deal with this huge beast of an adventure.,” he said.

“We got down to a shortlist of eight kids and they were all fantastic but none of them really felt right. So about two months before we were due to start filming, we started the search over again.

Promotional shot for Matilda The Musical

"We went all over the place. We called every casting director we knew in the States and in Europe, we looked in Scotland and we looked in Ireland again. We remember seeing the tape for Ireland and thinking Alisha Weir had something quite incredible. It was very obvious, even from her tape, she had an intensity and delight that makes you want to watch her. We flew her over to audition and she was remarkable. We were convinced from the first moment we saw her we had found our Matilda.”

Alisha recalls her first days of filming.

“I didn’t really know what to expect because I’d never done anything like this but it was amazing,” she notes.

“In February, I left school, said goodbye to everyone and flew to London to start rehearsals which is where I met all the cast who were really kind to me. We rehearsed for two months and then started filming the school scenes. I met all the kids at that point and have made some really good friends.”

Talking of her favourite song in the film, Alisha said. “My favourite song would have to be ‘Quiet’ or ‘Naughty.’ I loved ‘Naughty’ because I was able to dance, sing and act – all the things I love put into one. I also liked ‘Quiet’ because it was so cool. They had this big fan blowing in my face and the next thing you know, I was up in an air balloon. It was really crazy.”

She said meeting Emma Thompson was a thrill for her.

“The first time I met Emma, she wasn’t in costume and she was so lovely,” she smiles. “ Then I saw her as Trunchbull and she was terrifying, I’m tiny compared to her in these huge boots. It was really scary because she is so good at the part and makes it feel so realistic but after the scene she is lovely again.”

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