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She gave a voice to his word, and fire to his passion.
James Joyce (Ewan McGregor), one of this century's greatest modern writers, was a young man grasping for funds and desperate to make his mark as a writer. Walking down Dublin's Nassau Street in his yachting cap and canvas shoes, he met Nora Barnacle (Susan Lynch), a tall, brown-haired girl from Galway. She was a proud, straightforward, outspoken country girl who had recently moved to Dublin, where she'd found work as a chambermaid in Finn's Hotel.
The young Joyce fell in love with her immediately.
Nora offered Joyce all the qualities he yearned for in a woman - faithfulness, trust, tenderness, dominance and wit. she combined innocence and earthiness, fulfilling his longing for purity and desecration and in recalling their encounter on 16 June 1904 he later wrote of "A sacrament which left in me a final sense of sorrow and degradation". Their encounter had a lasting effect on the young Joyce and it was that day when he told Nora "You made me a man."
Though Nora could never fulfil the role of intellectual companion, she was his life-long love, his inspiration, his muse and without her, the world would be without his literary legacy.
In October 1904, in true Nora Barnacle spirit, she left Dublin with a man she hardly knew, to set out on a European adventure. By March 1905 the lovers had set up home in Truest, where Joyce was offered a position with the Berlitz School.
During the next ten years, the couple had many high points, many low points and two children, Giorgio and Lucia. Those years are charted in Pat Murphy's haunting and revealing screen adaptation.
Also starring Andrew Scott as Michael Bodkin, Vincent McCabe as Uncle Tommy, Veronica Duffy as Annie Barnacle, Ewan McGregor as James Joyce, Aedin Moloney as Eva Joyce, Pauline McLynn as Miss Kennedy, Neili Conroy as the maid, Daragh Kelly as Cosgrave, Alan Devine as Gogarty Joyce, Peter McDonald as Stanislaus Joyce, Paul Hickey as Curran, Kate O'Toole as Miss Delahunty, Martin Murphy as George Russell, Karl Scully as John McCormack. Directed by Pat Murphy.
Cinematic intelligence sources
Special Agent Matti
Security censorship classification
106 minutes (1:46 hours)
Not for public release in Australia before date
Film: Undated 2001
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"We set Natural Nylon up because we all wanted to work our way, we wanted more control over the ways films were made and this was born out of frustrations we'd all felt from making them for other people. We all wanted more control over scripts, the people we worked with, the way a film is shot and to generally draw on a talent pool.
"The Natural Nylon name originated from it being a New York/London thing. We were going to be split between New York (NY) and London (Lon). Nylon sounded too synthetic and manufactured, so we called it Natural Nylon.
"This isn't a film about James Joyce, it's a film about Nora Barnacle's relationship with the man. It spans quite a few years and ends just before Dubliners is published.
"Playing Joyce, I'm working on my instincts. It's very different to playing someone like Nick Leeson, as I could watch video footage of him and interviews. With Joyce, I had his writing, his letters and photographs, but no-one knows exactly how he moved, that's really up to my interpretation. It's quite bizarre to think so many people know so much about him and here I am playing him. You can never please everyone, so I've just got to make him my character.
"The first time I read the script, it just blew me away because Nora and Joyce's relationship was so honest and open. It's incredible exposing that kind of emotion. This isn't a Hollywood kind of romance. This is very real, with all its ups and downs - and believe me, it's very big ups and very big downs because they fought like a couple of bastards. Because of the intensity of their relationship, you're not simply watching a period movie, you're seeing real people and I think it will help the audience to be more aware of that period.
"Joyce always talked about being oppressed by the people around him and by the church. He always believed in nurturing his talent and rightly or wrongly, arrogantly or whatever, he felt his friends were keeping him down and holding him back. There's this enormous feeling that he had to get out of Dublin and that he considered himself exiled from Dublin."