As the centenary year of the 1916 Easter Rising marches ever closer, the producer of a full-length feature film on the subject is still raising funds and awareness to complete the project. Kevin McCann, the producer of “The Rising,” intends to make another swing through Boston and other Irish-American strongholds this spring as he seeks more investors before filming begins in the fall.
The timing is tight, but McCann told the Boston Irish Reporter that it is well within reach. “We have a schedule and our window to shoot it at the end of the fall— in October and November— and then editing through the winter. We’d be ready for a release around St. Patrick’s Day next year,” said McCann. “It’s ideal that we’re aiming to film in winter, actually, as it’s a wintry film.”
“The Rising” will focus on the events that led up to the actual uprising on April 1916 – and the man who served as its mastermind – Seán MacDiarmada, or John McDermott. The 33-year-old Irish Republican Brotherhood leader was captured and executed alongside James Connolly a few weeks after the six-day Easter rebellion was finally put down by British forces.
MacDiarmada was born and raised in County Leitrim and some of the filming will be done on location around his childhood village of Corranmore. “MacDiarmada was born right in the middle of this mysterious land surrounded by megalithic tombs and famine houses. This was his playground. And the magical thing is that it has been preserved really through the millennia and there’s a spirit within it. He was very much influenced by that spirit,” explained McCann.
“We’re very lucky that MacDiarmada’s cottage is still completely intact and is protected as building of national heritage. His home town will be featured heavily in the film,” he added.
Casting for the film continues from McCann’s base in Belfast. The lead character of MacDiarmada will be played by Colin Morgan, a 28-year-old actor from the North who is best known as the lead in the BBC show “Merlin.”
“He’s a huge star in the UK, but not a superstar in the states yet,” said McCann. “We expect to have some major Irish stars in supporting roles and they want to see the script. There are some parts — like Padraig Pearse— that are open. We’ve had actors like Stephen Rey who have already expressed their interest.”
Importantly, the film has won support from the Northern Ireland Screen board and its counterpart in the Republic, the Irish Film Board, has recently agreed to fund the project as well. McCann and his partners are now doubling back to the US to renew their request for further financing from Irish-American investors.
“There is a strong possibility that this film will do well next year,” said McCann, who makes a pitch that the 100-year anniversary of the actual rebellion will help fuel a box office return.” There are too many films in circulation and many get drowned, but with this project there will be a large amount of free publicity because of the 1916 anniversary. And there’s only one movie to serve that appetite.”
“It’s almost as if it’s a calling,” said McCann of the budding interest at home and abroad. “It’s not an easy thing to do because it’s very politically sensitive in Ireland. 1916 is tough for the Irish to deal with. All too often the Easter Rising is portrayed as a failure and that they were naïve and romantic. To call something that James Connolly and Pearse did a mistake, it’s us avoiding engaging with why did they do it – they did it because there was an injustice in their land and they did something about it.”
In Boston, McCann has found a welcome audience from Mayor Martin Walsh, with whom he met earlier this year. “We’ve found that people want to see this movie. We’ve had a successful crowd-funding campaign that’s raised over 50 thousand Euro,” said McCann. “I suppose part of the reason—maybe the main reason—is that we are saying to the world that there is such a thing as an Irish hero. There really are not many examples on film.”
For more on the film project, visits the website therising.ie.