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Lindsay Lohan is 'at her best' in Netflix's new rom-com 'Irish Wish,' director says

Director Janeen Damian and co-star Ed Speleers discuss the magic behind the Ireland-set Netflix romantic comedy.

A white-gowned Lindsay Lohan trotting in
Lindsay Lohan stars in Irish Wish. (Patrick Redmond /© Netflix /Courtesy Everett Collection)

Lindsay Lohan’s Hollywood comeback continues with a whimsical romantic comedy for Netflix.

In Irish Wish, Lohan plays Madeline “Maddie” Kelly, a talented book editor secretly in love with the author she’s working with, her “dream guy” Paul Kennedy (Sanditon’s Alexander Vlahos). After he gets engaged to one of her best friends, they travel to picturesque Ireland for the wedding. Unhappy her life hasn’t panned out the way she envisioned, Maddie spontaneously wishes — at a wishing tree, no less — that she were the one marrying Paul, altering her fate when she magically wakes up to discover that she’s now the lucky bride.

Rom-com shenanigans ensue: An initial airport meet-cute between Maddie and a charming, nomadic English photographer, James Thomas (You’s Ed Speleers), snowballs into many more fated encounters between the pair as the 93-minute movie progresses. From an accidental romantic day-date at the Cliffs of Moher to a sudden rainstorm that forces them to spend the night together, Maddie starts questioning whether her new reality marrying Paul is all that she initially bargained for, with James worming his way into her heart.

“The opportunity to do a classic rom-com that is a throwback to the '90s was really exciting. And with Lindsay of all people — the rom-com queen. How lucky was I?” director Janeen Damian tells Yahoo Entertainment.

Irish Wish marks the second Netflix team-up for Lohan and Damian, who previously worked together on 2022’s holiday romance Falling for Christmas, one of the most-streamed movies that year.

“She is such a smart actor in what she focuses in on,” Damian says about Lohan, who also serves as a producer. “She is very involved in the story and really communicative. She's really easy to work with that way. She prepares and she studies and she comes in with an idea of who her character is — not just in the dialogue but also what she is going to wear and all the different elements that speak to who her character actually is.”

Damian believes Irish Wish is an organic next step in reestablishing Lohan’s place wearing the romantic-comedy mantle, when she made her mark with Mean Girls, Just My Luck and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, following significant time away from the spotlight.

“This was a conscientious choice for her to give her audience what they've been missing,” the director says. “She's so solid and lovable, and it's a multi-layered performance. She's at her best.”

Part of it could be credited to Lohan’s real-life happiness. In 2022, she married financier Bader Shammas after three years of dating. In July, Lohan gave birth to their son. “She's a happy person in her life, and I think she brings that joy with her onto the screen," Damian says.

Lohan was equally hands-on during the casting process, Damian says. The film’s ensemble cast is rounded out by Jane Seymour, Ayesha Curry and Elizabeth Tan. Finding a suitable love interest who could match wits was a tall order because a rom-com often lives or dies on the chemistry between its leads.

They found an actor more than capable of holding his own in Speleers.

“It felt like a chapter that I needed to explore,” Speleers tells Yahoo Entertainment of entering the movie genre. “[Rom-coms] appealed to me because they are, by definition, incredibly romantic. They are uplifting, they offer hope, they have levity, and quite often we’re in a world where that isn’t taking place. Anything that offers those positive emotions is a good thing to be exploring."

Ed Speleers and a red-haired Lindsay Lohan side by side on an Ireland hilltop.
Ed Speleers and Lindsay Lohan in Irish Wish. (© Netflix /Courtesy Everett Collection)

Speleers speaks highly of Lohan, whom he calls “a great physical comedian,” adding that scenes in Irish Wish felt like nods to “what she’s achieved previously” in her career.

“She's also got great timing. She's very dedicated to trying to deliver the performance she wants to get. That probably gave us the dynamic that we needed to make the characters [Maddie and James] work well together,” he says.

Despite the fact that a lot happens in the movie in a very short period of time — mere days — it intensifies the stakes that Lohan’s character, Maddie, faces as she grapples with what to do: stay the course and marry Paul Kennedy or try to undo her wish and make things right. It’s a classic rom-com ultimatum.

For Speleers, his favorite scenes are the driving sequences where Maddie and James spend time together traveling around the idyllic Irish countryside.

“It felt that those were where we really got to harness their dynamic. We got to see the chemistry or frisson between the two of them develop. They can make each other laugh, they can enjoy each other's company, they're having a great time, and they get swept up in the romance of Ireland in a great open-top convertible.”

It also marks a major turning point in their relationship, Damian says.

“They’re not supposed to be together by themselves, and there’s banter. They’re not getting along but they’re getting a kick out of each other. That moment on the Cliffs of Moher when they talk about her career, what’s important to her, why she can’t have her ideal wedding and he’s encouraging her to have her own voice, that’s meaningful to her. They start seeing each other in a different way,” she says.

Damian recalls one specific scene at a crucial point in the movie that involves Maddie revisiting the wishing tree to try to unwish her original wish away.

“When Lindsay goes to unwish, there’s no wind, there’s no magic, there’s no anything, and she’s just gotta make it happen,” the director explains.

Temperatures were freezing that day even though it was sunny, and a shivering Lohan had a giant jet fan blowing on her.

“She pulled out that performance,” Damian says.

Irish Wish is streaming on Netflix.