Castlewellan actress counts Saoirse Ronan as good pal
Local actress Eileen O’Higgins is accumulating as many new friends as she is acting roles as her career continues to reach new heights.
It’s been a meteoric rise to fame since her break-out performance in Oscar-nominated and Bafta-winning film Brooklyn in 2015, which not only set her on her way to more big parts but saw her form a lasting friendship with co-star Saoirse Ronan.
And a major role in television drama series Dead Still last year saw her form a bond with local actor and Luther star Michael Smiley.
Eileen (34) beamed: “I think he’s one of my favourite humans. He is just hilarious and charming and kind and we’ve become very good buddies because we worked together for a long time on that and we got on with each other very, very well.
“Michael is somebody who I think we should all be proud of.”
In between those two roles, the Castlewellan-born actress has starred in Misbehaviour with Keira Knightley, Mary Queen of Scots with Margot Robbie, Genius with Antonio Banderas and My Mother And Other Strangers with Ciaran Hinds.
And then there was Nowhere Special, a heartfelt drama filmed and set in Northern Ireland, with McMafia actor James Norton as a single Belfast father and seven-year-old Ballymena lad Daniel Lamont as his son Michael.
The story centres on John, a window cleaner who devotes his life to raising his boy as the child’s mother left them immediately after his birth — but as the father has only months to live he spends the days he has left looking for a new and perfect family to adopt Michael.
Eileen told Sunday Life: “Daniel was something very, very special. It just blew my mind, because I played Shona, the social worker trying to find a suitable family for little Michael, who Daniel plays, and he just was captivating. He really, really was.
“He really is mesmerising and the magic of the film owes a lot to the dynamic and the relationship between him and James’ character John, because those two together were just something really special.
“That’s the wonderful thing about being on set and is probably my favourite place, it just becomes like a big family.”
And that explains why Eileen has become so close to her best friend Saoirse Ronan, after starring with her first in Brooklyn and again in Mary Queen of Scots.
She said: “I think there are some little signs sometimes that you’re sitting on a wee bit of magic and from reading the script of Brooklyn I knew.
“That really did change the game and change my life quite a lot in loads of different ways. Friendships can last beyond jobs because they are such a journey and Brooklyn is one of them. There’s so many things that happen in addition to telling stories and you realise you’ve met a friend for life. These are very lovely generous people. I mean, I’ve been lucky enough to work with Saoirse twice and her talent? She’s just spectacular.
“I find it really hard to speak about her acting because she’s my best friend but she’s absolutely brilliant and watching her on set is just like watching a masterclass, it really is.
“There’s just something really amazing when you watch actors you love and respect doing their thing, it’s very special.”
Eileen is back home today for a question and answer session with the audience after the Newcastle screening of her film Nowhere Special as part of Film Hub NI’s programme bringing local films to local places. She added: “I absolutely love the idea that we’re taking a Northern Irish film made in Northern Ireland around the local cinemas.”
Eileen O’Higgins will be attending a screening of Nowhere Special at Newcastle Community Cinema tonight (Sunday). The film starts at 7pm with Q&A after.
Daniel Lamont will be attending the Ballymena screening on December 4 at Braid Film Theatre, 7.30pm.
Other community cinemas showing the movie are Dungannon Film Club (Dec 2), Subterranean Community Cinema, Omagh (Dec 3), Fermanagh Film Club (Dec 8) and Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart next year. For ticket info please visit www.filmhubni.org/now-showing-tags/collective/