Belfast Telegraph

Hollywood stars Colin Farrell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers tipped for roles in Easter Rising film

By Patricia Devlin

Hollywood stars including Colin Farrell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers could be jetting into Belfast this year for a multi-million pound film project set to bring the story of the Easter Rising to the silver screen.

The A-Listers have been tipped to take up lead roles in The Rising alongside award-winning Ulster actor Colin Morgan in the screen version of the 1916 rebellion.

Armagh-born Merlin and The Fall star Morgan is set to play Irish rebel leader Sean McDermott in the film which is being billed as a thriller.

Enniskillen born producer/director Kevin McCann told Sunday Life he expects more big names to be announced soon for the film, planned for release in 2016.

Filming is due to take place at different locations in Belfast, Dublin, Leitrim and the US, with Northern Ireland Screen providing funding towards the £4m project.

Morgan, 29, is the first big name actor to be confirmed.

Sinn Fein supporting singer Sinead O'Connor is also on board and is being tipped to play revolutionary and artist Constance Markievicz who became the Republic's minister for labour in 1919. Sinead may also pair up with Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan to sing on the soundtrack.

Fermanagh man McCann, who is behind The Rising, told Sunday Life in an exclusive interview: "We are still in development and have a number of actors in mind."

He hopes that with Morgan committed to the lead role other big names he has approached will follow.

"We haven't talked to Colin (Farrell) yet. Jonathan (Rhys Meyers) is very well established, he's a strong actor. Perhaps he would be a good Padraig Pearse.

"Our casting is a big thing," said McCann. "We can't really use people like Killian Scott or Liam Neeson because they're identified very closely with other Irish films. Our casting director Carla Stronge, who is from Belfast, was the casting director for The Fall. She's critical to the film and I also think that there's room for people that we haven't seen before.

"There's a lot of talent out there, a lot of good Belfast actors."

The award-winning producer revealed he first considered US Transformers star Shia LaBeouf as the film's hero Sean McDermott, but he soon changed his mind after social media users backing the film's Kickstarter campaign suggested Merlin star Morgan for the huge part.

"Shia LaBeouf is an extremely talented actor but we soon discovered that our thousands of fans would not like an American in the lead role," he said.

"We have a very good social media team and we were asking people, who do you think could play Sean Mac Diarmada? We posted it, and Colin Morgan came to the fore.

"So I said, OK, let's have a look at this. I hadn't watched Merlin and I don't watch a lot of TV, but I watched a couple of episodes and you only have to watch about 10 seconds of Colin Morgan to know that there's something going on there. And then I met him.

"We spent hours and hours talking about McDermott and I couldn't ask for a better actor."

McDermott is not as famous as Patrick Pearse or James Connolly but he was among the first to sign the historical 1916 Proclamation.

McCann, whose Cavan-based production company Maccana Teoranta is producing the film, said The Rising will examine what the revolution meant to McDermott and to the other men and women whose names now mark the streets in Dublin.

Already the film has gained support from across the world due to producer McCann's crowd funding page on Kickstarter which aims to help fund the film.

"Spike Lee funded his last film with Kickstarter; Zack Braff from Scrubs raised millions of dollars through Kickstarter. It's now being seen as a new form of funding for film," he said.

"We've raised over £50,000, but it wasn't just about finance. We also wanted to use it as a way of spreading the word globally, and we now have 13,500 fans on Facebook, so we're pretty pleased that it's a success."

McCann, who said the film is still open to funding, is due to jet back to America to meet with investors.

His previous work included the 2009 documentary The Boys of St Columb's which featured the Derry school's famed alumni, Seamus Heaney, John Hume, Paul Brady and Phil Coulter.

"You can make a movie for half a million dollars, but you cannot make a film set in the early 1900s with that, you need finance," he said.

"I've talked to millionaires and billionaires about getting on board, some of them are interested and some are waiting to see who will get on. Some are here and some are in the US."

He added: "I think in 2016 the entire world is going to know about 1916 and people are going to go and watch this movie and I think it's an incredible investment opportunity. If you're going to put a punt on a movie, does it have a market? Yes."

McCann said the film will "tell the truth about the most defining cultural and political episode in recent Irish history".

He said: "This is not a pro-British film or even a pro-Irish film, this is a film telling a human story about particular men and women in a particular time.

"I think that in 2016 people will be crying. They won't know why they're crying but I think we all know deep down inside that we owe something to the people that have come before us and whether we agree with them or not we should respect that."

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