Interview: Mark Mahon on his new £70m Brian Boru blockbuster

Interview: Mark Mahon on his new £70m Brian Boru blockbuster

“WE'RE a nation of people who overcome. Just look back through our history.

"We're in a dark spot right now but we will overcome it. Our history is our greatest asset and we will learn so much from this, we will end up becoming great again."

Mark Mahon is a passionate man. Passionate about his country, his craft and a forthcoming new film project that is already being described by industry insiders as potentially "Ireland's answer to Braveheart".

The journey from his native Cork to California has been a remarkable one for Mahon and it's about to get even more exciting.

The 40-year-old writer, producer and director is preparing to start shooting his new £70m (€80m) blockbuster based on the life of Brian Boru.

The screenplay will borrow heavily from his acclaimed graphic novel on the same subject, Freedom Within The Heart, and hopes are high that 2014 will be the year that Hollywood falls in love with Ireland all over again.

"To be very honest excitement isn't the right word at this stage," says Mahon.

"This has been many years in the works and there is still so much hard work to be done. It has all come together. We're talking to major Hollywood cast at the moment.

"I'll be excited soon enough, once we have the second stage signed off and it's all systems go."

The Irish government has given Mahon its backing for the hugely ambitious film, offering him the use of national parks so the world can see what a great location Ireland is.

He continues: "Look at what Lord of the Rings has done for New Zealand. Look at what Braveheart did for Scotland. Even the Scottish Tourist Board came out and said that that film did more for them in 25 years than anything else ever could have.

"The history of this story is over a thousand years old and there's really very little in between. As an artist this is brilliant because it means you effectively have a blank canvas. The story is based on Brian Boru and the first 30 years of his life.

"After he defeated the Vikings there was a lot of infighting between the clans in Ireland. We do have 'Kingdom of the Clans' in development so if this is successful we could end up with our own trilogy, our very own Lord of the Rings, if you like."

Mahon is a very driven man and when you learn more about his background perhaps you begin to understand why.  At the age of 22 he was severely injured in a workplace accident that put him in hospital for several months and left him in a wheelchair for more than three years.

During his convalescence he made up his mind that the film world was where he was destined to work, once he made a full recovery. And it has been a fantastic journey so far.

When he arrived in Hollywood, Mahon quickly made friends and was soon making his very first film, Strength and Honour, starring Michael Madsen, Vinnie Jones, Patrick Bergin and Richard Chamberlain.

It tells the story of an Irish-American boxer who accidentally kills his friend in the ring and promises his wife that he will never fight again.

For a while Mahon was living with Jones at his swish California pad, just until he found his feet Stateside. It was around this time that he also made friends with British actor Jason Statham.

"They are great guys, both of them and we're all still friends. It was an interesting time in my life; we were all out there grafting and trying to get through. We would go up to Vinnie's place and compare notes.”

Mahon has an even stronger contacts book these days and is intent on using it when he starts casting for Freedom Within The Heart.

"I will absolutely be using Irish talent for this film, let me say this here and now. And we will be advertising and auditioning. I believe in giving people a chance, the way people gave me a chance.

"There are very big international Irish stars out there right now and several of them I would know personally, like Colin Farrell, he's a great friend of mine. I intend on using the very best Irish talent there is for this project."

He is working flat out between writing and scripting, producing and directing, with every effort going towards making this film the runaway success of 2015 (Filming will start next year) and helping drive tourism to Ireland.

He continues: "The last few years have been very tough in Ireland, everyone knows that. But we will rise again. I once wrote in Strength and Honour that 'to know where you are going it is good to remember where you have been'.

"I like that. It sums everything up for me. Everything."

Freedom Within The Heart is published by Maron Publishing.