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Michael Flatley reveals how Irish-born late mum persuaded him to make new movie

Sadly his mother Eilish passed away before the movie makes it to cinemas next Friday

Michael Flatley filming Blackbird© Brian Doherty

Flatley with his dad Michael Snr and mum Eilish

Michael Flatley in Blackbird

Flatley in a tuxedo

Flatley on the set of Blackbird

Eddie RowleySunday World

SUPERSTAR Michael Flatley has revealed how his Irish-born mother spurred him on to make his new movie, Blackbird, but, sadly, didn’t live to see it going into cinemas across Ireland from next Friday.

The Lord of the Dance supremo, who plays the lead role in the thriller, also tells how he battled against all odds to bring the flick to life and fulfil his ambition after numerous rejections.

“So many people told me it was impossible,” Michael tells the Sunday World in an exclusive interview. “I was told, ‘you can’t do a movie, you’re a dancer.’ All I heard was ‘impossible, impossible, impossible.’

“It was just like it was when I first did Lord of the Dance and everybody told me it was impossible. And I think that sort of ignites something in me. I think I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.

“But, also, I think that a big motivation is knowing so many people want to prove to the world that they are something special, but they are paralysed by the fear of what others are going to say.

Michael Flatley in Blackbird

“You can’t let that get in your way. You can’t let that stop you ever. I don’t care where you’re from or what’s your nationality, race, colour, religion, language… none of that matters if you have a dream and you’re willing to focus and work hard at it and sacrifice. You can have anything in the world, nothing is impossible. For me, Blackbird stands for that, I did it against all that.”

The Chicago-born entertainer, whose parents, Michael Snr and Eilish, were from Sligo and Carlow respectively, remembers dreaming of making a movie going back to his days as a child.

Flatley with his dad Michael Snr and mum Eilish

Michael says: “I grew up on (Hollywood legends) Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Charles Lawton, Jimmy Cagney and John Wayne. Those are the people that I saw growing up. Those are the movies that I loved, and I used to chase my mother around the kitchen telling her stories of what the movie would be.

“Then the dance thing took over and, thank God, that was successful and made a few quid. But it’s something I’ve wanted to do for years, and I finally got the opportunity when the legs gave out and I did my last dance in Caesar’s Palace on St Patrick’s Day 2016.

“My dear old mother called me on the phone and she said (mimics her accent), ‘Right, Michael, you have no more excuses, go off and make that feckin’ movie.’ I gave her my word I would. I wanted to do it anyhow, but she kept on pushing me for years. Sadly, Mom didn’t make it out of 2016 as God called for her on December 28 that year. But I kept my word and I’m glad I did.”

It takes a lot of bottle to create and stage a show like Lord of the Dance, but even more bottle to make a movie, which he self-financed.

“That’s for sure,” he laughs. “It’s been some journey. Oh my God!, anything that could go wrong did go wrong. But you know what, it’s been a great learning experience and I loved every second of it.”

Flatley reveals that he was floored by sunstroke while working against the clock to finish the movie’s final scene in Barbados – and he ended up being treated in an ambulance between shooting.

Flatley on the set of Blackbird

“On the very last day we had a shoot-out scene, which is one of the last scenes in the movie,” he recalls. “It was blistering hot sun and I got sunstroke on set, and so I spent half of the day in the ambulance with ice all over me and getting fluids, and then being taken in and out to do the shoot-out scene.

“Because of the time constraints there was no tomorrow, it had to be done now, so it was hard trying to focus on the guys across from you and seeing double vision. It was not an easy thing to do, but it came out really good in the end, thank God.”

His movie, which features a stellar line-up that includes legendary Irish actor Patrick Bergin and Oscar-nominated American star Eric Roberts – an older brother of Julia Roberts – sees Flatley take on the role of former MI6 secret agent Victor Blackley, aka Blackbird.

Flatley in a tuxedo

Blackbird had retired and opened a nightclub in Barbados to escape his past, but when a former lover comes to meet him she brings trouble, and he is pulled back into his past.

Flatley says that the skills he learned with Lord of the Dance helped him produce the movie. “It’s completely different, but in many ways it’s the same,” he says. “Every night I’m directing Lord of the Dance on stage I have to make split second decisions. And that show is not just about dancing, it’s also acting out bad guy and good guy roles.”

Blackbird has been linked in the media to the Bond movies. “I’m a big Bond fan, but my God this is nowhere near Bond and it’s not meant to be,” Michael insists. “I wish it was. I should be so lucky. My budget for this film is a small fraction of the budget of a Bond film, but we made it.

“I’m thrilled we did it and, as I said, I can’t encourage people enough to stand up and take your best shot, let the chips fall where they may, but at least you will have tried and that’s what this is about. Please God, people will be gentle with me when they see it.”

The premiere of Blackbird will take place at Dublin’s Lighthouse Cinema on Wednesday and will be in cinemas nationwide from Friday.


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