Nora-Jane Noone was finishing up her final year of high school in Galway, Ireland, when she auditioned for the movie The Magdalene Sisters. After her final callback, the then 17-year-old gave her parents very specific instructions. “I told them, ‘If they ring you and tell you that I have it or don’t have it, don’t tell me,’ ” recalls Noone, now 19. “If I found out I got the part in the middle of exams, I’d be like, ‘Whoa, who cares about school.’ ” On the last day of exams, she came home to find balloons on the clothesline and her parents ready to burst.
She was cast as Bernadette, a young woman sent to a Dublin Magdalene asylum—a laundry operation run by nuns and housing “fallen” Irish girls—in the 1960s. Prostitutes, unwed mothers and daughters who had
shamed their families were sent away to these institutions, often to be used as slave labour for the rest of their lives. In the film, Bernadette’s only crime is being too attractive to boys. “A temptress,” is what the nuns called her.
It is estimated that one in four people in Ireland have seen The Magdalene Sisters, raising awareness of this dark part of Irish history. The popularity of the film has also made Noone a known commodity. But the actress is pursuing a science degree before jumping into movies full-time. Maybe that’s why on her first trip to North America, to promote the film, she’s more interested in being a tourist than a movie star. “What I really need to do,” says Noone, “is pick my
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