‘Almost mythical’ Michael Flatley thriller Blackbird gets September release

Almost four years after it premiered and promptly disappeared, a spy thriller written, directed, produced, financed by and starring the Irish-American dancer Michael Flatley will be released in Irish cinemas in September.

According to its blurb on IMDb, Blackbird is about a “troubled secret agent” who retires and opens “a luxurious nightclub in the Caribbean to escape the dark shadows of his past”. Then, in a bittersweet development for the eponymous former spy, “an old flame arrives and reignites love in his life, but she brings danger with her”.

As the Hollywood Reporter noted, the film has acquired “almost mythical status” in the years after “its glitzy world premiere at London’s Raindance film festival on 28 September 2018, a premiere that famously shut out journalists and produced zero reviews or audience reactions on Twitter”.

On Thursday afternoon, however, Flatley confirmed that fans and critics wouldn’t have to wait much longer.

“I’m thrilled to be releasing Blackbird in cinemas across Ireland,” he said in a statement. “The pandemic has brought about many unprecedented production delays, but we’re finally there. As well as filming on location in Barbados and the UK, we filmed many scenes in Ireland, so premiering here was always the first choice. There’s nothing more breath-taking than the Irish landscape.”

The Riverdance and Lord of the Dance star said he’d enjoyed being surrounded on set by the “great talent” of fellow cast members Eric Roberts, Ian Beattie, Patrick Bergin, Nicole Evans and Mary Louise Kelly. He also revealed that Sinéad O’Connor – “truly one of Ireland’s treasures” – had recorded the song for the film’s closing titles.

“We’ve all put a lot into this project, and for me it’s very personal,” he added.

“This was a new endeavour for me professionally and something I’ve always wanted to do. My mother, when she was alive, always encouraged me to pursue this dream. Sadly, she will never get to see it, but I know she is watching over me.”

Michael Flatley dancing in Irish dance show Lord of the Dance.
Michael Flatley became known for Irish dance shows Riverdance, and Lord of the Dance. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Flatley also said he had received great support from the film industry, especially in Ireland, adding that winning the best actor award at last year’s Monaco film festival for his performance in Blackbird had been “very rewarding”.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter in September 2018, Flatley insisted the film was not a vanity project.

“The reason I did it this way was because, in my shows over all these years, I’m used to directing it, producing it, starring in it and sweeping up the place,” he said. “And that’s kind of what I did on this film. I was my own cheapest labour to do as much of it as I could.”

Alex Ritman, the Hollywood Reporter correspondent who interviewed Flatley four years ago, said he was delighted by the news of the 2 September release date.

“Four years after I was banned from attending the world premiere of Michael Flatley’s directorial debut Blackbird, making it a film I’ve been desperate to see more than anything else, I finally get to write about its release,” he wrote on Twitter. “This is a great day.”

But journalist and author Patrick Freyne ventured a cautious prediction.

“I think the big twist in Earth’s last season is going to be that Michael Flatley’s Blackbird is good,” he wrote. “‘Shit, this is good,’ we’ll say, as Trump becomes the new prime minister and all the ducks go on fire or something.”