She gave her heart and soul, says co-star of Barry McGuigan’s daughter
It was a television moment to stop viewers in their tracks. Barry McGuigan, a veritable sporting legend, could not hold back the tears as he talked to Ryan Tubridy on the Late Late Show about the loss to cancer of his daughter, Nika.
Nora-Jane Noone knows more than most about Barry McGuigan’s anguished grief.
She became close to Nika when they were cast as troubled sisters in the twin lead roles in the powerful new Irish film Wildfire.
The parts demanded that both actresses dig deep in their emotional lockers — and they did. The reward is an Ifta nomination for Noone — and a posthumous nod for Nika McGuigan.
“She was a really brilliant actor and there was so much more that she would have done,” Noone says, speaking via Zoom from the garden of her home in a sun-drenched Los Angeles.
“It’s very hard for me to watch the film now and to think back on all the things we went through together. I’m able to appreciate her [as an actor] when I watch it, but it’s tough because there are so many emotional scenes in there.
“Nika gave her heart and soul to it so fully — and there’s some relief in that she got to do that [in what would be her final film]. She was full of life — such a big personality and you do think of what she would have accomplished had she gone on.”
She pauses. Tears well in her eyes. “I’m sorry. It’s in interviews that it really hits because often in life you don’t have time. I’ve just had a baby and you don’t have a second. It’s very hard to sum up how I feel because we connected so strongly — not just as actors, but as people.”
Even without knowing Nika McGuigan’s fate, Wildfire makes for a tough viewing experience. Set in a small-minded community that’s still haunted by the fall-out of the Troubles, it centres on sisters who have been badly scarred by the tragic death of their mother while they were children.
It was inspired casting by writer-director Cathy Brady. With Galwegian Noone mastering a Northern Irish brogue and McGuigan shedding her English accent for the role..
Noone has been regarded as one of the country’s most gifted actors for the best part of 20 years. She made her professional acting debut in the most auspicious manner possible when she landed the lead role in The Magdalene Sisters when she was 17.
The 2002 film was directed by the uncompromising Scottish actor Peter Mullan, and it cast a cold eye over Ireland’s bleak mother-and-baby-home industry. It won multiple awards and was critically acclaimed and it captured the brutal reality for many.
“It changed my whole life,” she says of the film. “I think I would have found my way to creativity somehow, but I’m not exactly sure how or in what vein.”
Noone says she knew in her teens that she wanted to making a living in the arts. “But the film happened and it had such a huge impact. It’s such an important story and it felt special to be part of something that started a conversation that really needed to be happening in Ireland. I hadn’t known anything about the Magdalene laundries before I did that film and it really opened my eyes to what film can do, the kind of stories it can tell and how it can impact what’s going on in the world.”
Nora-Jane Noone has been nominated for Best Actress in tomorrow’s Ifta awards for her performance in Wildfire.