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Star Wars fans are out in force: Bronagh Gallagher 'flattered' by attention after decades on screen

Exclusive: Commitments star in new Derry comedy drama

By John Toner

Hollywood actress Bronagh Gallagher has revealed she still gets Star Wars fan mail 20 years on from starring in Episode I - The Phantom Menace.

The Derry star (47) holds a unique place in Star Wars history as being the first person visible on screen to speak in her role as Captain Maoi Madakor.

Despite an illustrious film and television career spanning three decades, Bronagh revealed her brief stint in Star Wars is what keeps the fan mail coming.

"I'm the first Derry woman in space!" she joked. "No, but from a prequel point of view, I'm the first human you see to speak on screen.

"Star Wars fans, I think, are just the most passionate fans. I've only met them properly once at a comic con and there was so many of them queuing up to get things signed.

"Some of them told me they'd been trying to get my autograph for years.

"I used to get bags of fan mail filled with things to sign and send back to the fans - you just couldn't keep up with it sometimes.

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Bronagh Gallagher as Captain Maoi Madakor
Bronagh Gallagher as Captain Maoi Madakor

"They're fanatics, really. It was like running my own little post office at times trying to mail back so I apologise to anyone I never managed to write back to. Sometimes it was pictures of me or bubblegum cards or sometimes cards they'd made themselves," she added.

"Sometimes they even hang outside the stage doors when you're doing a play just to get your autograph which is nice after 20 years."

Bronagh's career took off as a teenager after starring in legendary Irish music comedy The Commitments in 1991. The band got together for a 20th anniversary reunion tour in 2011 but Bronagh ruled out appearing in another reunion or a sequel to the popular movie.

She said: "We had a reunion and played four fantastic shows which were great craic and it was lovely to see how much people still love the movie, but there won't be a sequel. I think I'll just leave it to classically age and bow out gracefully.

"I couldn't see us doing another reunion tour, either; I think it's done. We did it and you need to treat these things with a bit of respect. It's a national treasure, The Commitments. It was done in a classic way and I don't think it's worth dining out on it anymore."

Following the success of The Commitments, the young NI star's next role would see her appear in one of the most iconic Hollywood films in recent memory - Pulp Fiction.

She spoke of how enthralled she was to work with Quentin Tarantino and John Travolta at such an early stage in her career, adding: "It was a very tiny part but it was an amazing experience. Quentin was obviously a very gifted young writer at the time and is a brilliant director, one of the best people I've ever watched working.

"It was extraordinary and a great vibe in Los Angeles when we were shooting it, even though it was on a low budget.

"After seeing Reservoir Dogs with some friends when it came out, I thought it would be amazing to work with him and then I got the part. It was a great buzz and a really exciting, happy experience.

Bronagh added: "I was thrilled to meet John Travolta and Uma Thurman and it was a real honour to watch them work. Quentin himself is very much as you see him interviewed, he's very meticulous and leaves nothing to chance.

"I think his movies over the last 25 years have shown that he's one of the greatest directors of the last 60 years in American cinema. After Pulp Fiction the direction of cinema changed massively and it opened up a new genre.

"He actually got in touch a few years ago because he was coming to Dublin to premiere Death Proof and my two friends and I went down and had a great night. He had us up on stage and he was so lovely."

A Bump Along the Way, which stars Pulp Fiction actress Bronagh Gallagher and newcomer Lola Petticrew, is a bitter-sweet comedy drama shot entirely in Londonderry, with a cast of Ulster actors.
A Bump Along the Way, which stars Pulp Fiction actress Bronagh Gallagher and newcomer Lola Petticrew, is a bitter-sweet comedy drama shot entirely in Londonderry, with a cast of Ulster actors.

The film was produced by now infamous US movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexually harassing over 80 women during his career and sparked the #MeToo movement in the US.

Bronagh said she only met Weinstein briefly during her audition, adding: "He was just in the room behind a desk when I auditioned for the part. I just said hello to him and that was it. I never had any altercations or chats with him."

Bronagh was speaking to Sunday Life ahead of her new feature film A Bump Along The Way, a female-driven comedy drama written by Derry woman Tess McGowan and produced by Bronagh's sister Louise Gallagher.

She plays a 44-year-old single mum who gets pregnant again following a one-night stand, much to the anger of her daughter Allegra, played by Belfast actress Lola Petticrew.

She said of the film: "It's a story of women, and of a woman's war, coming up against oppressive men, fertility issues, isolation and the difficulties of bringing up children. That's the story really, it's not a Derry story as such but is certainly rooted in the Derry humour.

"I think it's a transcendent story that women anywhere can relate to, these are issues that women everywhere face. We're just so thrilled and blown away with how it's turned out, we're over the moon.

The Commitments (1991). Shown front row from left: Glen Hansard, Andrew Strong, Angeline Ball, Bronagh Gallagher,
Maria Doyle, Kenneth McClusky; back row from left: Felim Gormley, Robert Arkins, Johnny Murphy, Dick Massey, Dave Finnegan, Michael Aherne.
The Commitments (1991). Shown front row from left: Glen Hansard, Andrew Strong, Angeline Ball, Bronagh Gallagher, Maria Doyle, Kenneth McClusky; back row from left: Felim Gormley, Robert Arkins, Johnny Murphy, Dick Massey, Dave Finnegan, Michael Aherne.

"Lola and I worked really well together with the help of a great script. It's unique but it's a very real story. I think it's really resonant - we're surprised at the impact it's having on audiences, men and women. These are universal issues we're dealing with in the film but there is also humour in it. I hope people get some comfort and a good giggle from it," she adds.

"Louise has been absolutely 100% stellar, just bulletproof. She put the project together in such a meticulous way that when we arrived in Derry for the 18-day shoot it was very smooth."

  • A Bump Along The Way is due for general release across UK and Ireland cinemas on October 11.

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