Entertainment

Florence Pugh to start filming in Ireland next month

Sarah Slater

A psychological thriller for Netflix based on the 19th century phenomenon of the fasting girls is adding its name to the latest in a raft of international productions filmed here in the last three months.

The Wonder is adapted from the acclaimed 2016 novel by Emma Donoghue. Donoghue received one of four Oscar nominations for her adapted screenplay, Room, with the film winning best actress for Brie Larson and also securing best picture and director nominations.

Florence Pugh, who has made a name for herself recently with Midsommar, Little Women, and the Black Widow, has been tapped to star in the new adaptation. Sebastián Lelio, director of Gloria and A Fantastic Woman, is set to direct a script by Alice Birch. Birch wrote the screenplay of the 2016 drama Lady Macbeth, also starring Pugh.

Extras wanted

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Shooting is to start in August and MovieExtras.ie are now looking for additional cast members to join and so far “they are looking for men with long hair and beards, so hide the scissors,” a spokesperson said.

The production is to be based in the Irish Midlands in 1862. A young girl stops eating, but remains miraculously alive and well.

An English nurse, Lib Wright, is summoned to a tiny village to observe what some are claiming as a medical anomaly or a miracle - a girl said to have survived without food for months. Tourists have flocked to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O'Donnell, and a journalist has come down to cover the sensation.

The Wonder is a tale of two strangers who transform each other's lives, a psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.

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Donoghue’s ninth novel – her first historical one set in Ireland - was a bestseller in Canada even before publication, and was shortlisted for the Giller Prize there, as well as for Ireland's Kerry Group Novel of the Year and a Shirley Jackson Award for the literature of psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic as well as a Medici Award for book-club favourites.

There is currently no set release date for The Wonder, and so far, Pugh is the only cast member announced.

Donoghue has adapted (with director Sebastián Lelio and Alice Birch) The Wonder into a feature film with Element Pictures, with whom she made Room, and House Productions, shooting this Summer.

Fasting Girl phenomenon

The Irish novelist has said that she came across the Fasting Girl phenomenon back in the mid-1990s - so long ago that I can’t even remember where I first read about these girls and young women and very occasionally older women or men.

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“I was instantly intrigued by these cases, which seemed to echo medieval saints starving as an act of penance, and also modern anorexics, but weren't exactly the same as either. It seemed to say a lot about what it’s meant to be a girl - in many Western countries, from the 16th century right through to the 20th century- that these girls became celebrities by not eating.

“But I never found one real case that rang that little bell in me, telling me this was the story I had to tell in a novel. Some were too tragic, even for a writer with my dark tastes; Sarah Jacob, for instance, a little girl who died while being ‘watched' by nurses in 1869. Some were low comedy, such as the case of Ann Moore, exposed as a cheat in 1813,” explained Donoghue.

She added: “Finally it occurred to me that if I was still so fascinated by the Fasting Girls, two decades on, I should drop my usual method of writing a historical novel based on a real case, and let myself invent a story.

“I’d set it in Ireland, of course - not just because that’s my homeland, but because ever since the Great Famine of the 1840s, we’ve defined ourselves as a people intimate with hunger”.

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