Galway born actress Nora-Jane Noone has been revelling in the success of Brooklyn since the film appeared on Irish screens last month. The movie has certainly lived up to its billing, after it caused quite a stir at its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival last January. A bidding war for distribution rights began and Fox Searchlight Pictures sealed the deal for $9 million which was one of the biggest money deals to ever emerge from the festival.
Brooklyn is a beautiful picture, directed by John Crowley, who is well known for his work on another headline Irish film Intermission and is also working on TV series True Detectives. Based on the award winning novel by Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn tells the story of Irish immigrant Eilis Lacey (brilliantly acted by Saoirse Ronan ) who makes the wrenching decision to leave home in Co Wexford and make a better life for herself in New York. Noone plays the part of Sheila, Eilis’s fiery house-mate in a Brooklyn boarding house run by Mrs Keohe (played by the great Julie Walters ).
It is a film about emigration, family, love, and loss and is certainly the stand out Irish movie of the year. Ms Noone says she is thrilled to be part of the success story. “I’m very proud to be part of such an amazing cast and such beautiful and moving storytelling by director John Crowley. I have so much respect for his work.”
It is a significant milestone for any actress to be involved with a production of this magnitude. Ms Noone explains the casting process. “I auditioned for the role in London and had a recall when I was visiting LA so I had to do the audition over Skype with the casting director Fiona Weir and director John Crowley. I had a friend reading in and the reception was terrible but thankfully it went well despite the technical glitches and I got the job.”
The actress, who trained at the Performing Arts School in Galway, also holds a science degree from NUIG. which she completed before moving to London to pursue her career. She says that leaving home at such a young age herself meant Brooklyn was a story that felt very familiar. “I found it very emotional. Its a story that resonates with so many people for many reasons.”
The Irish scenes were shot in Wexford and Dublin last year and the production then moved to Montreal, Canada for a four week shoot at the memorial chapter house of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. The actress says it was a pleasure to work with Saoirse Ronan, who is being touted for an Oscar nomination for her performance in the film. “Filming was a great experience. The costume and make-up were amazing, they sourced so many genuine 50’s pieces and images to help create our characters. I loved the attention to detail. Saoirse is fantastic, she’s such a pro. She is very down to earth and engages with everyone on set. We all had a lot of fun shooting the scenes around the table at Mrs Keohe’s boarding house. There was a serious debate amongst everyone about whether stew should be eaten with a spoon or a fork!”
Nora-Jane is probably still best known for her powerful lead role as Bernadette in The Magdelene Sisters, despite the fact the film was released in 2002. She says it is the film that the public always associate her with. “Definitely, a lot of people still talk about The Magdalene Sisters. I think it’s because it was such an impactful story and I’ll always be very proud of it because films like that don’t come around very often. People also seem to mention The Descent a lot because so many people love a good horror! I think online viewing has changed things though, now more and more people mention the TV and independent films I’ve done. I’m a big fan of independent film so I think it’s amazing that a film doesn’t need a big release to find an audience.”
The busy Galway woman, who is currently based in LA, is working on plenty of other projects. “I play the lead role in Brand New U, a sci-fi romance that is currently touring festivals around Europe at the moment and will be released next year. I’m also devising a feature film with director Cathy Brady that we’ll shoot in Ireland next summer and I’m meeting for roles here in the US. I just want to keep working with talented people I can learn from, and play interesting characters. I feel pretty lucky to have done that so far.”
So does she find it a bit surreal to watch herself on the big screen, or is it just something one get’s used to? “It’s always odd to watch something you did a year or two ago knowing your a different person now and would probably do it differently but I get over it pretty quickly nowadays and its great to be able to watch the movie in its own right -after the first time through my fingers!.”
Since moving to the US, Nora-Jane doesn’t get home to her beloved Galway as much as she would like and unfortunately won’t be coming west this Christmas. “I used to get back 3-4 times a year but it’s a bit less now I’m farther away. I’m trying to talk everyone into having their holidays here. It is only the second Christmas I’ll have missed at home. Thankfully I can Skype and see all my family. They all went to the cinema to see Brooklyn which was very sweet and I’ve had some lovely messages from cousins and friends. They’ve always been very supportive, it means a lot.”
The beautiful brunettte is certainly multi talented as she is also a proficient dancer and musician -playing piano to Grade 7 level. It is no surprise that her favourite things about Galway centre around music. “When I am home, I usually have a pint of Guinness and listen to some music in Tig Cóilís. I just love catching up with friends around town in the cafe at the Galway City Museum, or Ard Bia is lovely as well. O’Connell’s and An Púcán are the best for their beer gardens to chat and listen to live music. I also love walks along the coast.”
You can take the girl out of Galway, but you can’t take Galway out of the girl.