One of Hollywood's most respected producers has offered to provide half the funding needed to make the 1916 biopic about Easter Rising orchestrator Sean MacDiarmada a reality.
Steve McEveety of LA-based Mpower Pictures, whose previous films include Braveheart, has committed to a deal with Kevin McCann, producer of 'Rising', worth in the region of $2.5 million (€2.1m).
“It gives us the reassurance that we're doing the right thing, we're doing things the right way. This is a nod from Hollywood,” a delighted Kevin told The Anglo-Celt.
It's almost five years since the Belturbet filmmaker ventured to New York, San Francisco, Boston and Chicago in a bid to drum up interest among the Irish-American population to develop MacDiarmada's story for the big screen.
However, the major investment breakthrough came just two-months ago, with McCann having returned to Ireland as he and his team plot the course to take in order secure the remaining several million euro necessary to start work on the project.
“They loved the script and said straight away they would give us half the money we were looking for," says Kevin of Mpower Pictures reaction. “It's an incredible show of support, and one we're very excited about.”
Despite describing it as the “biggest breakthrough” since first starting work on Rising, co-written by Colin Broderick and James Ragan, McCann tempers his delight by recognising that the remaining half of the money must be secured from somewhere.
“[Steve] has said he will put up half, the question for us now is who is going to put up the second half? That's the question we're asking ourselves, and really that's where we're at and what we're going to focus all our efforts on achieving now in the months to come. We have made a lot of good contacts and we are confident someone will come through and match funds.”
Everyone who has committed to work on the project to date reportedly remain on board. Armagh's Colin Morgan will play MacDiarmada, while other roles have been earmarked for Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Pearse), Fiona Shaw (Markievicz), David O’Hara (Connolly) and Brendan Coyle (Birrell). Micheál Neeson follows in his father’s footsteps in the role of Michael Collins.
“Absolutely. I had a meeting with Mpower and Micheál [Neeson] was there too. That meeting was just a few months ago, and certainly it does help to have that level of star power behind the project, but it's the strength of the script really that has opened doors for us.”
McCann explains: “This is something myself and others have worked very hard on over the past number of years, a lot of meetings arranged, late nights writing, letters sent out, and thankfully and I really do feel that people are appreciative of that. This is not just a solo effort. I have had a lot of support both at home here in Ireland and in America.”
Emboldening McCann's cause further is the support for Rising shown by another famous Hollywood producer, Al Ruddy, who won Oscars for his work on The Godfather and Million Dollar Baby.
So impressed was Ruddy by the quality of the Rising script when he met McCann at his Beverly Hills home, that he forwarded it almost immediately to a “major Hollywood actor”.
“Everyone is sure we have a quality story, and one that pitches well to look very good on screen.”
One change McCann has welcomed since The Anglo-Celt first reported he was planning to develop a film detailing the life of the 1916 rebel MacDiarmada, is that more people are “now aware” of the Kiltyclogher-native's place in Irish history.
“Since I started reading the story of Sean MacDiarmada I've been intrigued by it. I just feel the man's story deserves to be known. We respect and honour the likes of Constance Markievicz and James Connolly, Patrick Pearse, but definitely Tom Clarke and Sean MacDiarmada were the figureheads of the rebellion which changed Ireland.
There are different political viewpoints on that, but I think people have to consider them as the visionaries they were, and the courage they showed in carrying that out.
There are many times I have faced hard challenges, but when I do I think of them and keep going.
“What I thought would take maybe four years at most, I now see it might take eight - so twice as long. But that's the nature of the game and the industry we're working with.”
If ever there was a sign the Rising was now heading in the right direction, McCann incredibly found it on his return to Ireland, while out swimming in Sligo's Lough Gill.
Diving five feet belong the water, McCann made the remarkable discovery of a sword sticking out from between the rocks and undergrowth, with the National Museum now contacted in relation to the discovery.
“It was most unusual. I had been wondering if coming back to Ireland at this time was the right thing to do. I suppose each and everyone of us look for signs to reaffirm we're on the right path, and along with the backing of the Braveheart producer, this certainly seemed like something significant. If you're not happy with that maybe it's a sign then that something is wrong,” he joked.