‘You can’t listen to the naysayers’: Michael Flatley in flying form at premiere of debut film

Riverdance star wrote, directed, produced and took lead role in anticipated spy thriller

Strolling in white Armani runners down the red carpet at Dublin’s Light House Cinema on a balmy Wednesday evening, Michael Flatley was serving us vintage Michael Flatley. The 64-year-old dance legend was in flying form for the premiere of his wildly anticipated spy thriller movie, Blackbird, even if, Tom Jones-style, he had forgotten to close several buttons on his white Tom Ford tuxedo shirt exposing a carpet of grey chest hair.

“It’s surreal,” the Lord of the Dance turned Lord of the Spies beamed to the waiting press. “Everybody told me it was impossible but I’m here, it’s happening. I’m thrilled. I’m excited. I couldn’t be happier”.

Even before release, the idea of his self-financed directorial debut Blackbird was the subject of thousands of incredulous, sometimes mocking, often hilarious comments on social media. Flatley wrote, directed and produced the movie also taking the lead role of “troubled secret agent” Victor Blackley.

He said it was his late mother, Eilish, who encouraged him to make movies. “This is for her, God rest her soul,” he explained, blessing himself. Was he bothered by less than flattering commentary about his film? “It’s just about getting the film out there, people will say what they say… if one or two of them don’t like it that’s okay by me.”


How did he feel about the suggestion that what with him footing the bill for the movie and his name appearing multiple times in the credits, Blackbird is a vanity project to feed his ego? “I don’t know what to say to that, it’s a crazy idea. My motivation is all the young people, especially in Ireland, my message to them, is that they have a dream to do something special in life, to be somebody… you can’t listen to the naysayers, just get up and take your best shot and get on with it.”

Flatley’s Irish co-star Patrick Bergin, star of films such as Sleeping With the Enemy, was also on the red carpet. “It was joy and delight,” said Bergin of the film made back in 2018, which also stars Nicole Evans and Eric Roberts. “I didn’t get to the Bahamas unfortunately but we filmed in London and stayed in the Savoy and then retired to Michael’s mansion [Castlehyde] in Cork and filmed there.”

Earlier, Flatley told reporters some people didn’t take him seriously as a film-maker given his background in dancing. “I took him seriously because it was a good script,” Bergin said. “It’s a shame if people are being mean,” he added when asked about snarky comments that greeted the movie trailer. “Just go see it and enjoy it. There’s a bit of begrudgery around of course but Michael is a very intelligent, very successful person and some people resent that, don’t they?”

The tagline of the film is “some things are still worth dying for”. Asked what he would die for, Flatley said: “My wife and son. And my country.” The former Riverdance star was accompanied by his wife, fellow dancer Niamh O’Brien in shimmering silver sequins, and the couple’s 15-year-old son Michael St James, a talented musician.

“I’m just looking forward to bringing my wife for a martini afterwards,” he said.

A blackbird never flew on one wing.

Róisín Ingle

Róisín Ingle

Róisín Ingle is an Irish Times columnist, feature writer and coproducer of the Irish Times Women's Podcast