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'very sweet' Nora Jane Noone says co-star Nika McGuigan had 'a really good heart'

Nora-Jane Noone talks to Esther McCarthy about how her career got off the ground, and the bond she formed with the late Nika McGuigan on the set of her new film Wildfire

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Nora-Jane and Nika McGuigan play troubled ‘Irish twins’ in Wildfire.

Nora-Jane and Nika McGuigan play troubled ‘Irish twins’ in Wildfire.

Nora-Jane and Nika McGuigan play troubled ‘Irish twins’ in Wildfire.

They first met for a pint when a director had a hunch they could produce something special on the big screen. Nora-Jane Noone and Nika McGuigan instantly clicked - and their tale of troubled siblings in new movie, Wildfire, has been earning rave reviews.

Nika, daughter of former boxer Barry, tragically died from cancer just weeks after being diagnosed with the disease.

As her final performance comes to cinemas, Nora-Jane has told how working together on the movie sparked their close friendship and paid tribute to her friend, who was "full of playfulness and fun".

She hopes the film will reflect the vibrancy and talent of the late star, who died when she was just 33 in July 2019 having previously overcome leukaemia as a child.

Orchestrated by director Cathy Brady, who had worked with both stars on other projects, the women bonded from their very first meeting.

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Nora-Jane Noone is proud of her roots.

Nora-Jane Noone is proud of her roots.

Nora-Jane Noone is proud of her roots.

Nora-Jane says: "She just really wanted to get us together, get us in a room, so we met in Dublin. She sat back and watched us chat, getting to know each other. She felt there was a spark there, a sort of similarity, but a yin and yang at the same time. She was like: 'I just want to see what we can do with this'.

"A lot of the first workshops were about our chemistry, about how do we work together and where each of our strengths were, and then trying to push the other person to match it. That does happen in jobs, but not at the same depth, to the same intensity and not for as long as myself and Nika had together in doing that.

"It was just us together in a room, there was a lot of trust, there was a lot of space, there was a lot of time for us to really dig deep and create that relationship and all those memories."

The preparation - to a soundtrack that included Patti Smith and Van Morrison - paid off. Both stars are exceptional as troubled 'Irish twin' sisters in Wildfire, which has been winning rave reviews in advance of its theatrical release here.

Lauren (Noone) and Kelly (McGuigan) are reunited a year after Kelly drifted away and disappeared, leaving Lauren's life on hold. It leads to a surge of raw emotion for the sisters, who are forced to confront some family secrets.

But tragedy was to follow the shoot. After the movie was completed, Nika was again diagnosed with cancer, and died "after a brief but brave battle", her family told.

Nora-Jane has fond memories of the co-star who became a close friend.

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The late Nika pictured with her dad Barry McGuigan

The late Nika pictured with her dad Barry McGuigan

The late Nika pictured with her dad Barry McGuigan

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"She had this bright, excitable, very endearing energy, the minute you met her," she remembers. "She was just full of playfulness and fun. And she was very sweet, she had a really good heart.

"Normally, you really only go that deep, and you go through all the ups and downs and get to know someone so intimately, after knowing them forever or living with them. So it was really special to have that chance to get to know each other and to go through all of that together."

One of our most established big and small-screen stars, Galway girl Nora-Jane's life changed when she decided to go to a walk-in audition near her home city. That audition was for 2002's The Magdalene Sisters and the then teenager won wide praise for her ensuing role as Bernadette Harvey in the film, outlining life in a Magdalene laundry, which stunned viewers worldwide.

Although by then a big movie fan, the young star hadn't considered an acting career a possibility. She says: "My parents loved the arts, but there was no-one in the family who did anything creative for a career.

"It was my love of film growing up, and then getting the audition for The Magdalene Sisters which opened the door. But even then, I didn't believe that it was a real option. I didn't know, so I ended up doing a science degree in Galway."

She only began to consider a future acting career when the movie took off. "I had done the science degree and had filmed Magdalene in between, and it came out and did really well. I was touring a lot with that and trying to keep up with my lab work. It was a real juggle.

"Once I finished my degree in Galway, I went to London. I was just figuring that out as I went along, it was very much flying by the seat of my pants, and I was being given these great opportunities. I was doing everything I could to try and be ready for them, the accent classes and the physical classes."

She has gone on to enjoy a hugely successful career, with roles including the hit horror movie The Descent and opposite Saoirse Ronan in the Oscar-nominated drama, Brooklyn. Along with several other TV roles, she will soon be on our small screens in The Ipcress File, a spy thriller series set during the Cold War.

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In The Magdalene Sisters with Eileen Walsh.

In The Magdalene Sisters with Eileen Walsh.

In The Magdalene Sisters with Eileen Walsh.

Working on Wildfire gave Nora-Jane a passion for screenwriting and she's currently working on her second TV pilot. She says she's now glad that she followed her instincts all those years ago.

"I think for a long time, or at least the first five or so years of working as an actor, I had that imposter syndrome, for sure. I was like: 'Oh, I haven't gone to drama school. I don't have any of this training'.

"I look back now and I wish I just appreciated the intuition I had emotionally, and the instinct I had for story naturally, and really just trusted that and gone with it."

  • Wildfire is in cinemas now

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