A long wait for a kiss

Jayne Wisener tells Paul Byrne about Irish movie A Kiss for Jed

Paul Byrne

IT'S close to a baptism of fire, making your screen debut opposite Johnny Depp in a big-budget Tim Burton movie, and for a 17-year-old from Ballymoney in Northern Ireland, life has never been the same since. The movie in question is Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street, which came out in 2007, and the wide-eyed young girl was Jayne Wisener.

Since then, the work has been steady -- with appearances in The Inbetweeners, Misfits and last year's big-screen awards magnet Jane Eyre, but now Wisener is finally stepping front and centre for the Irish feature film A Kiss For Jed.

"And it's just so thrilling to have a movie out there where I'm actually the girl on the poster," smiles the 25-year-old Wisener. "Finally, a poster I can stick up on my bedroom wall, as proof that this is what I do for a living. Because sometimes, when you haven't managed to get a gig for a few months, you do begin to wonder ... "

That Wisener has had to wait three years for A Kiss For Jed to make it to the big screen reflects not so much on the film's quality as the commercial reality when it comes to low-budget Irish films. Back then, it was called A Kiss For Jed Wood, but a certain John and Edward Grimes put paid to that name. "People just kept asking me if I kissed Jedward in the movie," she laughs.

Written by Horslips founder-turned-screenwriter Barry Devlin, A Kiss For Jed concerns reality-TV show winner Orla Cassidy, leaving her native Antrim for New York, where she's determined to grab a kiss from US country superstar Jed Wood (Neal Bledsoe) in time for the next week's show.

On camera duties is reluctant documentary filmmaker Ray (Mark O'Halloran, of Adam & Paul fame), whilst holding the overhead mic is jaded soundman Mike (Lee Arenberg, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl), their plight taken up by morning radio show host Carter (Jay Thomas).


Up until the 11th hour, Sarah Bolger (In America, The Tudors) was lined up to play the role of Orla Cassidy, but fearing the role might be a little too adult for her, the rising Dublin actress -- who's four years younger than Wisener -- bailed.

Was it tough for Jayne, stepping into the film so late?

"It was kind of exciting for me, actually," she answers. "Because I hadn't been at the casting process, the whole thing just kind of came out of leftfield. I read the script and I thought it was hilarious. So, I was just delighted to be part of it."

And figuring out who Orla Cassidy really was -- strong and independent, naive and clueless -- wasn't too much of a challenge either. Teenage girls are, after all, only ever truly understood by other teenage girls.

"It's very rarely that I'll read a script and know straight away who that person is," says Wisener.

"But I could see where Orla was coming from, all the different aspects of her personality. I mean, I'm not saying that she's me -- by no means is Orla like me -- but there are elements that I could draw on from my own experiences. I could just see her way of thinking."

As for the film's three-year slow boat ride to the big screen, Wisener accepts that, for most actors in the business, that's just another day at the office. Nonetheless, she did find the wait a little heartbreaking.

"Well, because I was so passionate about the film, it was very frustrating for me to have to hear again and again that, no, it's not coming out just yet. I had such a good time doing it, and then for it to just go into this blur ...

"People would ask me, 'What's going on with that film?', and I wouldn't have an answer. Now, finally, I do. And I have the poster to prove it!"

A Kiss For Jed hits Irish cinemas on Friday