Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is set to play Padraig Pearse.
Many could be forgiven for wondering if the fabled 1916 film 'The Rising’ would ever be made. After all, it has been four long years since director and producer Kevin McCann first announced on the front-page of The Anglo-Celt his earliest ambition to raise €4 million in funding to bring the story of Easter Rising mastermind Seán MacDiarmada to the big screen.
Initially planned for release in time for the 100-year commemoration; that won’t now happen, accepts Kevin. However, the man behind Belturbet-based production company Maccana Teoranta remains committed to the project which has now secured an important agreement with finance partners in the States with a view to start filming later this year into early 2017.
“We have secured an agreement with finance partners in New York and Los Angeles, but because Ireland is such a small market, to have it ready for 2016, it makes no difference to them. Their priority is to make the best film possible, not to make it with a specific release date in mind,” Kevin told the Celt this week.
The award-winning producer explains that there had been times when The Rising team came close to sealing a deal which could have seen the project meet the centenary deadline, only for the arrangement to fall through at the last minute. Undeterred, Mr McCann and writing partner Colin Broderick, continued to strive forward, and the team now feel they are “on the right track towards making a very strong film.”
He explained: “The film industry has changed so dramatically in the last number of years that it is very difficult to get money for so-called mid-range budget movies of between €4-5 million.
“There are two ways of making such films. One is by making a big budget home movie, which sells at film festivals, but that is fairly risky. I thought this was how we were going to do it, getting backing from Irish people around the world. That hasn’t worked out. The second way, is by having a good script, great cast, and getting a production company with investment behind them to take an interest in it. That’s where we are right now.”
The Rising team’s hand is no less strengthened by the fact they have lined up a stellar cast for the film which tells the story of Sean MacDiarmada; a driving force behind the Easter Rising and a hero to Michael Collins.
The Kiltyclogher man was the last of the Rising leaders to be executed, alongside James Connolly. On the eve of his execution, in his last letter, he wrote: “I feel happiness the like of which I never experienced in my life before... I die that the Irish nation might live.”
To date, Kevin and his team have managed to assemble an acting team of enviable talent and experience, including Colin Morgan (MacDiarmada); Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Padraig Pearse); David O’Hara (James Connolly); Fiona Shaw (Countess Markievicz); Brendan Coyle (Augestine Birrell); and Michael Neeson, son of Liam Neeson (Michael Collins).
Three others have since been added to the cast, which include Canadian singer Mary Margaret O’Hara (Sean MacDiarmada’s mother Mary), Cavan’s Michael Harding (MacDiarmada’s mentor McGurren from Blacklion), and Saoirse Ronan’s father, Paul (Detective Daniel Hoey).
Meanwhile, Oscar-winning Sean Penn has been approached to play the role of Thomas Clarke.
“They are all still there. They are all interested and very committed. The script has been very well received by all the actors,” says Kevin.
Furthermore, internationally renowned recording artist Brendan Perry, with his band Dead Can Dance, will compose and record the original musical score, while Shane MacGowan from The Pogues will write the theme song for the film.
Female singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor had shown interest in contributing to the project, but Kevin could only comment: “Sinead is a great person. She is someone who supported the film, and has supported the film by reading out the Proclamation for us. But as of now, what part she will play going forward, I don’t know.”
While Kevin harbours some personal disappointment in not having The Rising released for the centenary commemorations this year, he remains buoyed by playing a leading role in a project he feels could go down as an important moment in Irish cinematic history.
Supported by Northern Ireland Screen, as well as Cavan and Leitrim County Councils, The Rising is set to be filmed using locations in several Border counties, Estonia, and in the US, and Kevin says the announcement to delay production has not been met with any degree of criticism.
On the contrary, reaction to the decision from the project’s burgeoning social media following has been hugely positive, the majority similar requesting that the team make the best film they can.
“When we said the film wouldn’t be ready for 2016 nobody said it was a pity. Everyone just said 'make a good movie’, that’s what’s important. There has never been a film on why 1916 happened. There is no doubt it’s a big project, but when it’s done it will be worth it. In five years’ time it won’t make any difference whether it was released in 2016 or not. People will still be watching it. We want it to stand as a defining moment in Irish film history. It has to be that and nothing less if it is to honour the magnitude of what occurred 100-years-ago. Otherwise, why else would we be doing it?” Mr McCann said.