Michael Flatley has urged young people to “do it” as he discussed his motivation for making his feature film debut, saying people told him it was “impossible”.
The dancer-choreographer, 64, wrote, directed and starred in the spy thriller Blackbird, in which he plays former MI6 agent Victor Blackley, who is drawn back into a world of espionage he left behind.
The film was screened at last year’s Monaco Streaming Film Festival, where Flatley received the Best Actor award.
He told BBC Breakfast he was proud to give a variety of talent their first roles in the film, adding: “Young people are remarkably talented and I love the young minds.
“And I’ll tell you what, the big motivation for me to do Blackbird is all the people who said, ‘Impossible. You can not do it. You can’t be an actor – you’re a dancer”. I mean, I’ve been hearing it ’til I’m blue in the face, and you just gotta do it.
“And there are so many people out there who dream of doing something or being someone or doing something great and they’re paralyzed with fear. “What will everyone think? What will other people say?’
“Don’t let that stop you, get up, throw your best shot and let the chips fall where they want.”
Flatley added: “Especially the young people, go for it. Don’t listen to other people. You just have to go for it. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
“There is no shame in failing, the shame is in not getting up and trying. That’s how I see life.”
Born into a working-class Irish-American family in Chicago, Flatley rose to fame with the Irish dance production Riverdance, which premiered as an interlude in the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest.
It expanded into a full-length show and opened at Dublin’s Point Theater in 1995, followed by Flatley’s own stage show creation Lord Of The Dance.
He created, produced and directed other productions including Feet Of Flames and Celtic Tiger.
Blackbird also stars Hollywood actor Eric Roberts, Robin Hood’s Patrick Bergin, Game of Thrones actor Ian Beattie and Nicole Evans, whose credits include a role in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger.
Recalling how his mother encouraged him to pursue acting, Flatley said: “For 25 years we toured the world with Lord Of The Dance. We’ve sold out every major venue from Mexico to Moscow, from Tokyo to Madison Square Garden in New York, we’ve been very blessed.
“And on Sundays my dear old Irish mum would call and say ‘quit the dance and do some movies’ and I would say ‘mum, 200 people rely on me for a living and sold 15,000 seats and earn a few quid,” if I may say so.
“I didn’t want to give it up.
“But of course I’ve put a lot of miles behind me and my body was starting to fight back and as a result, St. Patrick’s Day 2016 was my last dance at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and she was on the phone and said, ‘You did no more excuses’. So I gave her my word and here we are: Happy Days.”
His mother Eilish later died in 2016, but Flatley said he knew she was taking care of him and that she was proud of it as Blackbird is the kind of film she “would have loved”.
The dancer revealed that since the trailer was released, there have been offers for other projects and he is currently working on a dance film called Dream Dancer.
He said the latest film, which follows a girl who dreams of “fabulous dance sequences,” has his attention right now and he knows a lot of people in America are interested in a project about dance.