“Wildfire” is about the bond between two sisters dealing with a shared trauma, but director Cathy Brady and star Nora-Jane Noone had to cope with their own trauma when Noone’s co-star Nika McGuigan died as the film was being edited.
Brady dedicated “Wildfire” to McGuigan’s memory, and both Brady and Noone talked about the challenges of promoting the film at TIFF without her. McGuigan died in July 2019 at age 33 from a cancer-related illness after having recovered from leukemia when she was a teenager, and both Noone and Brady said how much of a shock it was for someone so close to them could pass away so young and within weeks of getting her terminal diagnosis.
“It didn’t hit home, it didn’t seem possible that she would pass away. You hope against all hope that because she was young and so healthy and so mindful of her health,” Noone told TheWrap at the Toronto virtual studio.
“It’s just even hard to imagine she’s not here and she can’t talk,” Brady added. “It’s incredible, it’s incredible she’s not here with us, because she’s such a fierce talent, you don’t think a light as big as that can be extinguished so quickly.”
“Wildfire” is the story of two “Irish twins” who reunite after one of the sisters has been missing and living alone for a full year. Though they’ve been apart, they’re both still haunted by the mysterious circumstances of their mother’s death, and as they go looking for answers, they unearth far worse consequences.
Brady actually decided to make “Wildfire” after she met with both Noone and McGuigan and saw their instant chemistry, even though there was no script in place.
“It’s probably very unusual to cast your film before you’ve written it. It had to do with Nika and Nora-Jane’s energy,” Brady said. “They were fierce women, and I was very excited about the idea of developing a story for them. So we spent a few weeks if not month talking about character and what we were interested in, and we gravitated toward sibling stories.”
“Because the workshops in the beginning were so free and so open and anything was possible, I think we were just both so excited by it all, and you could feel that between the three of us, the excitement of the discovery and finding those moments of being so excited for what it could be down the line,” Noone said.
The film is set in modern day, but the Northern Ireland community where the film is set and was shot still has the roots of the Troubles and the Good Friday Agreement embedded into the story, and “Wildfire” considers, because of the economic and political impacts of Brexit, “old wounds have cracked open,” as Brady says.
“Everyone wants peace in Northern Ireland, that’s why the Good Friday Agreement spent many years in the works and ceasefires in the works, it’s a very precious thing for our community,” Brady said. “It’s quite unusual to be back here as Brexit is happened and the Good Friday Agreement is at risk again and the chance for a hard border is happening again, and with my own eyes, you can see the impact of that where there is starting to be a little bit of unrest.”
Check out the interview with Brady and Noone above.