How Michael Flatley’s Spy Thriller ‘Blackbird’ Attained Cult Movie Standing – The Hollywood

At a cinema in London’s central Leicester Sq., an space dwelling to frequent star-studded premieres, further screens have been swiftly added to the opening week’s schedule to deal with demand. A couple of hours’ drive away within the metropolis of Bristol, a former Imax display — the most important within the area — has been booked, as has a crimson carpet and a troupe of Irish dancers.

The film getting this further particular remedy forward of its Sept. 2 launch isn’t the latest Marvel outing. Neither is it the subsequent status drama from a buzzy director starring an ensemble of A-listers.

It’s removed from it — a four-year-old cult movie from a first-time filmmaker higher identified for throwing his oiled-up torso throughout phases all over the world. And it’s a movie whose cult standing has been attained, slightly uniquely, with out anyone having seen it.

Blackbird, the function directorial debut of famed, fast-footed Lord of the Dance and Riverdance legend Michael Flatley, is “a spy thriller of the basic style,” based on the 64-year-old Bostonian. It’s additionally a film he wrote, produced, directed, self-financed and stars in (because the lead, no much less) and a movie that had one thing of a contentious begin when it first got here to public consideration in 2018, after which it promptly — and mysteriously — vanished from sight.

And for one cinema programmer, that’s precisely what offers Blackbird its cult credentials.

“You’ll find just about something you need from the historical past of cinema nowadays,” says Paul Vickery, head of programming at London’s Prince Charles Cinema, a two-screen web site famed for its common film marathons (together with a recurring Nicolas Cage triple-feature) and month-to-month showings of Tommy Wiseau’s so-bad-it-is-good masterpiece The Room. “However when there’s a movie that has been seen by only a few and mentioned by many, a movie that persons are conscious of however has been taken away, then it turns into cult.”

In fact, it’s not strictly true to say that no person has seen Blackbird.

The movie — wherein Flatley performs Victor Blackley, “a troubled undercover agent” whose lifetime of retirement operating a “luxurious nightclub within the Caribbean” is turned the wrong way up when “an outdated flame arrives and reignites love in his life, however she brings hazard along with her” — had a glitzy world premiere at London’s Raindance Movie Competition in August 2018.

Nonetheless, for causes that may solely be speculated upon, the screening shut out press (invitations had been rescinded on the day) and produced zero opinions or reactions. The choice might have been linked to a spot of on-line backlash over two early posters that includes Blackbird’s older, sharp-suited and really a lot credited male stars (together with Eric Roberts and Patrick Bergin) alongside an assortment of youthful, bikini-clad and uncredited ladies (notably Nicole Evans). However makes an attempt to seek out out had been met with silence.

It then went darkish, even on Flatley’s social media pages, beforehand full of excitable updates in regards to the movie and sun-soaked behind the scenes snaps. Had Blackbird been buried in considered one of Flatley’s gardens? Had he made the movie purely to fulfill his personal cravings to get in entrance of a digital camera and play James Bond?

With movie followers’ curiosity piqued, a following slowly started to emerge.

Nothing was then heard about Blackbird for nearly three years till it made a peculiar look because the opening evening movie of 2021’s inaugural Monaco Streaming Competition (a screening, regardless of the competition’s identify, not really streamed), the place Flatley gained the perfect actor award. Then silence once more.

However in early July this summer season it was introduced, very a lot out of the blue, that the movie — which lots of its watchers had assumed would by no means see the sunshine of day, at the least publicly — was set to be popping out in cinemas in Eire and the U.Ok. Wildcard Distribution, a Dublin-based banner finest identified for releasing a number of famous indie titles throughout Eire, had been behind the discharge. Aided by its first trailer — which instantly attracted consideration due to a big dollop of melodrama, plus a wholesome assortment of unique areas, enticing ladies, blood-splattered white tuxedos and Flatley sporting a jaunty fedora — the news was met with wild celebration (and a contact of comedy derision) on social media. For the various on the market who hadn’t been conscious of the movie earlier than, the rapid response was largely considered one of dumbfounded shock. As one tweeter succinctly famous: “holy fuckballs”.

Vickery claims he had confirmed Blackbird for the Prince Charles Cinema, the place he says the movie completely falls into the world of “curio” titles it makes a speciality of, inside 24 hours of the U.Ok. launch being introduced (by way of THR).

“I booked this solely on the understanding that I do know that folks, myself included, are intrigued by this film due to its origin and its journey,” he says. “There’s simply going to be a pool of individuals on the market which can be determined to see what the hell it’s about. It’s going to be an expertise.”

British cinema chain Showcase goes a step additional and giving Blackbird the complete schedule remedy throughout all its 17 U.Ok. websites. “We’re very blissful to embrace it,” says its director of movie shopping for Richard Leonard. “Individuals are ready for one thing that basically goes to be enjoyable and one thing you could speak about forward of time. The truth that it’s already getting cult standing Shows there’s an enormous buzz. It’s such a unprecedented transformation, isn’t it? Has anybody ever had the picture of Michael Flatley as Russell Crowe?”

As a result of it’s not merely the weird four-year journey from world premiere to launch that has helped create Blackbird’s near-mythical standing. There’s additionally the person — a person who made a fortune from his frenzied toe-tapping and whose ft had been famously as soon as insured for $57.6 million — on the helm.

Leonard describes Flatley’s shift from super-hoover to super-spy as one thing not seen since “Liam Neeson first began chasing villains,” however others recommend it’s a way more dramatic leap.

“It’s type of like if [British TV gardener] Alan Titchmarsh abruptly introduced he’d made an motion movie,” says Timon Singh, founding father of the Bristol Dangerous Movie Membership, one of many U.Ok.’s best-known film golf equipment specializing within the celebration of enjoyably terrible titles.

“It’s obtained nothing to do with Michael Flatley himself, or the actual fact it’s a person of his age, health degree and experience, it’s simply such a wild swing from what he’s accomplished earlier than that has obtained individuals fascinated.”

Michael Flatley as Victor Blackley in ‘Blackbird’Courtesy of Dancelord Photos

There’s nonetheless the query of the place Blackbird will finally land when it involves movie categorization.

A lot of its early followers had been, reminiscent of Singh, followers of cinema that falls into the band of being so dangerous that it crosses the brink into one thing to be relished. Early clues definitely pointed to some tell-tale indicators, most notably Flatley’s multi-hyphenated credit (very similar to Wiseau’s). And, like The Room, as soon as described because the “Citizen Kane of dangerous movies,” it’s additionally a movie that seems to have been fueled by ardour and self-belief and made with out a shred of irony, in contrast to a number of B-list options usually put collectively by filmmakers with tongue firmly in cheek hoping to money in on cult infamy.

A number of on-line have famous that the trailer for Blackbird closely reminded them of the episode in The Workplace the place Steve Carell’s Michael Scott unveils his personal self-made spy movie Risk Stage Midnight (starring himself as Agent Michael Scarn).

For Rob Hill, creator of The Dangerous Film Bible and an professional in so-called “Egosploitation” movies, the important aspect for a foul film to transcend into the cult dangerous film realm is that it must be “fully delusional.” Basically, it must have given the filmmaker the chance to “present how they see themselves,” he says. So in The Room, Wiseau’s character Johnny isn’t essentially the good man or the perfect fighter. He’s the most well-liked man, beloved by everybody round him. “That complete film is simply individuals telling Tommy why they suppose he’s good,” says Hill.

In Blackbird, it must be famous, Flatley performs Blackley, a suave, well-dressed and highly-capable spy with a gorgeous (and youthful) blonde girl seemingly vying for his affections.

However vainness undertaking or not (Flatley assured The Hollywood Reporter again in 2018 that it positively wasn’t), what is obvious from the trailer is that Blackbird isn’t some cheaply thrown collectively affair.

For all of the overblown drama (a clip of an open-shirted and red-faced Flatley screaming “I’ll by no means get previous this!” has already turn into a much-tweeted favourite), it’s a really slick-looking manufacturing that a number of time, effort and sources have gone into. It additionally options settings that embody components of Flatley’s personal multi-million greenback property portfolio (a lot was shot at his Castlehyde mansion in Eire’s County Cork, not too long ago up on the market for Euro 12.5 million, whereas his dwelling in Barbados can be believed to have been used). And as for the music, when the launch was first introduced in July, Flatley excitedly revealed that none aside from Sinead O’Connor had recorded the closing tune.

“On paper, it appears like an enormous ego journey, however the trailer appears rather well shot and clearly has some manufacturing worth. And I don’t know what Flatley is like as an actor, however he doesn’t look dangerous,” notes Singh. “And the entire thing about him having accomplished a Wiseau in that he’s written, produced, financed, directed and starred in it… I feel you’ll be able to solely say somebody has pulled a Wiseau if it fails. If it succeeds, he’s pulled an Orson Welles.”

Whereas “doing a Wiseau” could seem that very last thing any aspiring filmmaker, not simply Flatley, needs to be labeled with, The Room — as undoubtedly the best-known dangerous movie in existence, thanks partly to James Franco’s 2017 comedic making-of biopic The Catastrophe Artist — continues to be packing theaters all over the world. Vickery says the month-to-month screening on the Prince Charles Cinema incessantly sells out, usually with a brand new crowd every time slightly than simply returning obsessives, and Wiseau himself is booked to return in February to current a displaying — and spur ticket gross sales even additional — after a number of years away.

Whether or not Blackbird has the legs to enter the realm of a cult movie that warrants repeat theatrical viewings is sort of completely depending on whether or not the viewers will get behind it and creates a momentum. The Room, in fact, landed with a near-silent thud when it was first launched in a single cinemas in LA in 2003, solely to be picked up by a small legion of movie fanatics and finally snowballing right into a must-see cinematic expertise all over the world, and all earlier than the age of social media.

“We’ll solely know if Blackbird is a month-to-month screening for rep homes all over the world in two or three years time,” says Vickery. “I hope so and everyone who I’ve spoken to who’s reserving it or has their eye on it’s hoping so. I’m not going to deride this film — I’m actually hoping that it’s obtained sufficient into it that I can have interaction with and luxuriate in it and take it for what it’s. I need the viewers to be on that very same web page with me, which at all times makes it extra enjoyable.”

A lot might relaxation on whether or not there are any stand-out — and maybe quotable — moments or operating themes from the movie that may assist embed Blackbird into fashionable tradition, very similar to the best way followers throw plastic spoons throughout screenings of The Room or repeat traces reminiscent of “oh hai, Mark”. “He must have a catchphrase,” notes Vickery. “Or put on the identical outfit all through.” Flatley’s ever-present jaunty fedora within the trailer may properly be one thing that audiences latch onto. Leonard says Showcase can be leaning closely on the road “I’m not the person I was” from the trailer in its advertising push, emphasizing Flatley’s unlikely transformation.

And whereas Wiseau has made a whole residing out of The Room and its extended ongoing afterlife, it’s not clear whether or not Flatley would wish to or, given his dance-accrued fortune, even must.

THR understands that he’s going to be doing the U.Ok. media circuit to advertise the movie forward of its launch, however the concept of him touring cinemas in the years that observe is one other matter completely. That being stated, whereas Blackbird’s funds hasn’t been revealed, as The Instances reported earlier this yr, the accounts for the Blackbird Movie Productions — the movie’s devoted firm owned by Flatley — confirmed debt of three.5 million euros ($3.6 million) on the finish of 2020, so there could also be stress from accountants for the movie to make as a lot cash as doable (an element that may very well be behind its surprising launch).

Given the thrill, the worst doable end result for Blackbird — and one that might instantly cancel out its cult standing credentials — is that it’s simply okay.

“If it’s spectacular or if it’s spectacularly dangerous, that’s superb both manner,” says Singh. “But when it’s simply by the books, and I’m sat there with 200 individuals and after 20 minutes I’m like, ‘oh god, that is actually boring,’ that’s the worst factor I can see taking place. But when it’s flashy and enjoyable and classy, and everybody’s having fun with it, even when it’s in a tacky manner or an ironic manner or an earnest manner, that’s nice.”

However after 4 years of wait, a mysterious and speculation-fuelled journey to display — maybe, most significantly — the mere concept of seeing Michael Flatley pulling just a few 007 strikes in a film he wrote for himself and paid for, expectations are excessive.

As Singh notes: “I feel the rationale everybody has a such a morbid fascination and curiosity round Blackbird is just because the Lord of the Dance has made a spy movie.”