Brendan Gleeson The Cup

Brendan Gleeson The Cup

The Cup

Cast: Stephen Curry, Brendan Gleeson, Daniel MacPherson, Jodi Gordon, Shaun Micallef, Bobby Fox, Tom Burlinson, Bill Hunter, Alice Parkinson, Colleen Hewett, Andrew Curry
Director: Simon Wincer
Genre: Drama, Sport, Romance
Rated: PG
Running Time: 106 minutes

Synopsis: At the heart of this true story is Damien Oliver, a young jockey who loses his only brother in a tragic racing accident, hauntingly reflecting of the way their father died 27 years earlier. After suffering through a series of discouraging defeats, Damien teams with Irish trainer Dermot Weld, and triumphs at the 2002 Melbourne Cup in one of the most thrilling finales in sporting history.

Release Date: October 13, 2011

It is called "The Race That Stops The Nation", but never in the history of Australia's Melbourne Cup has there been so dramatic a contest as the running of this Thoroughbred classic. Simon's Wincer's The Cup is the true story that chronicles the intrigue and the ambitions of the world's greatest horsemen as they vie for one of the crown jewels of racing.

A host of horsemen from Ireland, Dubai and Australia - each a character in his own right - rounds out the rich cast. From Ireland, the wily Dermot Weld, the most successful trainer in Irish history. From England, Europe's high achieving jockey, the celebrated Frankie Dettori and from the Middle East, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, the richest horseman on earth. But it is Australia's Damien Oliver who becomes the film's focus when the jockey's older brother is rushed to the hospital after a racing accident the week before the Melbourne Cup. A day later, Jason Oliver succumbs to his injuries, an event eerily reminiscent of his father's death 27 years earlier following a similar riding mishap.

Determined to overcome a cruel twist of fate, Damien insists on competing in Australia's biggest racing festival. Booked to ride in twelve races over two days, he loses every one - Badly. By the time he mounts up for the Melbourne Cup, it is a foregone conclusion he cannot win.

This only makes his astounding victory in Australia's greatest race even more inspiring. To his broken-hearted mother Pat, and his girlfriend Trish, Damien's triumph over a week of agony, is a gift from heaven. To his countrymen, still in shock from the Bali bombings, his gutsy ride speaks volumes about Australia's mettle. And to his fellow horsemen, hardened competitors who have "seen it all" his gritty performance in the face of unbelievable pressure is a testament to the one attribute that knows no measure: the human spirit.

The Cast

Brendan Gleeson: portrays Dermot Weld
Dermot Weld, known as the Irish Wizard, is one of Ireland's most successful trainers. He holds the record for the most winners trained in Ireland - 2,578 - set in August 2000. A qualified veterinarian and former jockey, Dermot Weld was the first international trainer to train the winner of the Melbourne Cup - Vintage Crop in 1993. In 2002 he arrived in Australia with two contenders for the Melbourne Cup - Vinnie Roe and Media Puzzle. The pundits thought Vinnie Roe was the best chance to take out the race. They didn't bank on the combination of Dermot Weld, Damien Oliver and Media Puzzle.

Brendan Gleeson was drawn to The Cup by the story. "There is something exciting about this true story that doesn't happen very often. Everyone comes out of it enhanced. There is a lack of cynicism. It is a story that transcends sport."

When he read one of the early drafts of the script Brendan Gleeson had some misgiving about the "Irish dialogue". He was reassured when Simon Wincer said he was happy to let him work on that part of the script. After all, said Simon Wincer, "It was written by a Texan and an Australian."

During the Melbourne Cup's 150th tour of the world in 2010, Simon Wincer travelled to Ireland and spent time going through the script with Brendan Gleeson. The journey also gave Brendan Gleeson the chance to meet Dermot Weld at the official VRC Melbourne Cup dinner in Dublin.

"He invited me down to his stables. It was interesting observing him. It was even more interesting to meet his wife Mary and get her take on him," explains Brendan Gleeson. "I was able to use this in the film."

Brendan Gleeson isn't a punter and hasn't had much to do with horses, except what he describes as an ill-fated syndicate with some friends. "She had a lovely character but we were just paying for the feed. She wasn't a champion."

The professionalism of the film crew wasn't a surprise to Brendan Gleeson. "The Australian crews are renowned all over the world for their efficiency. They are good at what they do. We've had huge shots to do with 500 extras and mad horses and it should be mayhem and tortuous and slow, but it hasn't been like that at all. We get our shots in and it doesn't feel pressurised. The set up is there and all I have to do is just swan on and do my job. It's been a good experience and it's been fun."

Brendan Gleeson puts the feeling on set down to director Simon Wincer. "The mood always comes from the top. If you come across a fractious shoot it invariably comes from the top. Simon Wincer is calm - camera problems, crowd problems - nothing fazes him. And he pushes it along. We work at quite a lick. The atmosphere is calm and efficient - a pleasure to work in."

Brendan Gleeson has a great love of Ireland and the Irish culture, a love that has kept him living in his homeland rather than moving to the US. He has a love of music and can still be found playing the fiddle in the pubs of Dublin - but not so often now his profile makes him the centre of attention rather than the music. Brendan Gleeson loves the fiddles, the pipes, the gigs and the reels.

Brendan Gleeson came to acting late in life. He was teaching English and Gaelic for 10 years while performing with a local theatre company. "I didn't see it as something I could do fulltime. I always thought that was for other people. I didn't want to act for the sake of it. I didn't want to do washing powder ads in order to maintain my life."

Brendan Gleeson also didn't want to deprive his wife, Mary, and four sons a good life, saying he was "terrified of not having enough money".

When Brendan Gleeson finally took the step he knew it was the right one. "I felt I'd misjudged the situation. I knew I was home when I had to reapply for a passport and put my occupation down as 'actor'."

The years spent teaching the Irish language reinforced Brendan Gleeson's love of the culture, the music, the history and the stories - what he describes as the "folk memory". He doesn't agree with some schools of thought that Irish is a dying language, but even though the young people appreciate the language he can't see it re-emerging as a spoken language.

Brendan Gleeson's sons all play the fiddle and have their father's love of music. And two have his love of acting. He never encouraged the boys to act when they were young.

"I can't deny it is an instinct, but I wouldn't have it when they were younger even though there were opportunities. Kids need to be anonymous."
Like all parents he has only one concern about his children.
"All I care about my lads is that their spirit stays intact."

Brendan Gleeson's extensive credits include Braveheart, The Butcher Boy, The General, Steven Spielberg's A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York. He is well known to younger audiences for his portrayal of the defence against the dark arts professor "Mad-eye" Moody in three Harry Potter films. Last year he played Winston Churchill in the historical drama Into the Storm which earned him an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a miniseries or movie. In 2008 he appeared in the Oscar nominated film, In Bruges. Brendan Gleeson has also been nominated for two BAFTA awards - best supporting actor in 2009 for In Bruges and best leading actor for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Into the Storm.

Stephen Curry: portrays Damien Oliver
Damien Oliver was Australia's leading jockey in 2002. He had already won the most prestigious race in Australia, the Melbourne Cup, in 1995 on Doriemus. In 2002 he won the Jockey of the Year Scobie Breasley Medal for a record fourth time. He had the world at his feet. When local trainer Lee Freedman didn't have a runner in the Melbourne Cup Damien agreed to ride Media Puzzle for Irish trainer Dermot Weld. Then, just days before the race, Damien Oliver's world was rocked by the tragic death of his brother, Jason Oliver, in a riding accident in Perth. The Oliver brothers had followed their father Ray Oliver to the racing game even though he was killed in a race fall in 1975 when Jason Oliver was five-years-old and Damien Oliver only three. Following Jason Oliver's death it wasn't so much a question of "will Damien Oliver ride in the Cup?" but, "will he ride again?"

Stephen Curry showed dedication to his craft and enormous discipline when preparing for the role of Damien Oliver. He shed 12 kilograms by giving up some of the things he loves - potato, rice, pasta, bread and beer. Admitting he's not a "natural horseman", Stephen Curry still learnt to ride the thoroughbred racehorses portraying Media Puzzle.

He spent a lot of time with Damien Oliver before and during the shoot. "He is one of our finest jockeys, respected by everyone in the racing community and the broader community. It's an honour to play him," says Stephen Curry "He's been very kind, letting me follow him around on race day. I saw his meal - half a bottle of Gatorade and a handful of jelly babies. Being a jockey is a thankless job and they diet even harder than I did! You know, I'm not going to become a jockey!"

When he first began learning to ride, about two years before filming began; Stephen Curry would go to director Simon Wincer's farm for lessons. "I enjoyed that a lot - and then I got onto thoroughbreds - and I didn't enjoy that at all. I don't think they love me. Then tend to buck a lot when I am around. And they rear up and knock me off in front of 500 extras. I am sensing the horses have a fair inkling I don't know what I am doing."

The 2002 Melbourne Cup is an enduring memory for Stephen Curry, an event he says is a truly inspirational story. It drew him to the film.

"You can't help but become emotionally attached to the characters and what they've gone through. It was a horrible moment in one family's life. Playing a real person does add pressure. You want to get it right."

And Stephen Curry believes it is important for the Australian film industry to tell Australian stories.

"They are an integral part of our culture. We have the people to tell our stories well. Films like The Cup will help bring Australians back to see Australian films, and there will be an international audience.
"We have a rich history of making films that appeal to a great cross-section. This is a great achievement, considering the lack of funds in this county. But that is more than made up by the ability of our technicians."

Getting it right was made easier by Simon Wincer, the man Stephen Curry describes as "the consummate director - a calm, relaxed man who is passionate about the project".

"It was a great honour to have him invite me on to the project and trust me to play Damien Oliver," says Stephen Curry. "Apart from dieting and spending time with big scary creatures - this film has been great. The story attracted me in the first place and working with Simon Wincer."

The Cup also gave Stephen Curry the opportunity to work with actors he knows and admires - like Brendan Gleeson, the man he describes as "one of the best actors in the world".

Portraying Jason Oliver was Daniel MacPherson. He and Stephen Curry have been friends for years. "I went to his 21st birthday party," says Stephen Curry. "He has a great energy and is invaluable to have on the set."
He also worked with Shaun Micallef, his on-stage partner in their two-hander, Good Evening - the Peter Cook and Dudley Moore stage show.

"Shaun Micallef was keen to work on the film. He wanted to meet Simon Wincer who came to see us doing our show. When Simon Wincer arrived backstage, Shaun Micallef looked at me and said "Damien that was one hell of a ride". He had the role from that point!

Stephen Curry praised Tom Burlinson and Bobby Fox, saying, "they do the job and do it right - and they enjoy themselves. They bring a great energy to set with no ego."

Stephen Curry is one of Australia's most acclaimed young actors winning Best Lead Actor at the 2007 Australian Film Awards for television drama as well as Most Outstanding Actor at the 2008 Logie Awards for his performance as Graham Kennedy in The King. He is fondly remembered as the youngest member of the Kerrigan family in the hit movie The Castle.

Daniel MacPherson: portrays Jason Oliver
Jason Oliver and his brother Damien Oliver were not just siblings - they were best mates. They both followed their father Ray Oliver into the world of racing, despite his death following a race fall at Kalgoorlie in 1975. On October 30, 2002, just days before the running of the Melbourne Cup Jason Oliver suffered severe head injuries after a fall during a barrier trial at Perth's Belmont Racecourse. He never regained consciousness. Following the tragedy Damien Oliver wondered whether he would ever ride again.

Daniel MacPherson is a lover of horseracing and an owner of race horses so The Cup has been a dream job. Daniel MacPherson's grandmother introduced him to horseracing when he was three-years-old and the 2002 Melbourne Cup was the first he missed. He'd just moved to London.

Daniel MacPherson first met Damien Oliver when he moved to Melbourne as a 17-year-old and had started working on the television series, Neighbours. "I have spent time with Damien Oliver and Trish at the races. To be involved in the telling of his story is very special."

But Daniel MacPherson hasn't called on this friendship to ask Damien Oliver about his brother, Jason Oliver. "I've been respectful about how much I have asked Damien Oliver about the relationship. Trish has been forthcoming and so has Neil Pinner. It's a very sensitive subject and it means a lot to Damien Oliver. I am gentle around the subject, but there have been some bits of advice.

"I feel an utmost responsibility and respect for Jason Oliver's memory. I have put as much life and energy into this character to make Jason Oliver full of life and a great mate - a guy you'd like to hang out with. I hope I have done Jason Oliver's memory proud."

One highlight of working on The Cup for Daniel MacPherson was the chance to ride a thoroughbred. "If you are a fan of horse riding and get to ride a thoroughbred it is like being a formula one fan and getting to drive the car. It's so cool. You have a unique relationship with each animal. They have their own personalities. I enjoy working out how to get them comfortable and me comfortable on them - finding their quirks and traits."

The jockeys working on the set were happy to pass on advice to Daniel MacPherson about his techniques and would point out if he was doing something wrong.

"Everyone has been so generous of their time and their knowledge. There's a great feeling about this movie throughout the racing industry."

To get comfortable Daniel MacPherson transformed his body, shedding just under 10 kilograms and developing muscles he didn't know he had. While he enjoyed the physical side of it, the new look body came at a price. "I didn't eat one biscuit on set!"

Daniel MacPherson has always been moved by the theatre of sport. "It is so unscripted. There is so much emotion. And this is one of those moments when the theatre of sport takes over. If you scripted a story like this no one would believe it.

"And in the hands of someone as talented as Simon Wincer and the incredible crew and talented and diverse cast, the story is a well crafted piece of cinema. Australian audiences have the history of it. They know where they were in 2002. And it has all the elements for overseas audiences."

Daniel MacPherson says that working with Simon Wincer has been disconcertingly easy - so much so that he was worried. "I'd lost all this weight and horse riding training and we'd just do a couple of takes!"

Daniel MacPherson loves being at the track. He loves the great characters of racing. And despite the expense and frustration he has enjoyed being a racehorse owner.

Daniel MacPherson began his acting career as Joel Samuels in Neighbours. In 2001 he moved to London where he played both Jesus and Judas in the West End production of Godspell. This led to the regular role as PC Cameron Tait in the long-running television series, The Bill. He returned to Australia in 2004 and has appeared in the series City Homicide, the telemovie Black Jack. Most recently he has been the host of Dancing with the Stars and Beat the Stars.

Tom Burlinson: portrays Dave Phillips
Dave Phillips is Dermot Weld's travelling foreman, getting the horses prepared for their races. In 2002 he travelled to Melbourne with Media Puzzle and Vinnie Roe. He called on the local knowledge of his brother, Niall when Media Puzzle raced in the Geelong Cup to qualify for the big race.

Tom Burlinson is no stranger to Australian horse movies. He credits The Man From Snowy River as the movie that "changed his life". This led to his role as Tommy Woodcock in Phar Lap. On both projects, Tom worked with Simon Wincer.

"Simon Wincer and I have a longstanding association and a very good working relationship. He can deliver a really good picture and a really good horse picture. He is the right person to direct this movie. This is his baby. He is passionate about the story and that is infectious.

"It is an Australian film maker telling an Australian story and that is a good thing."

Tom remembers the moment when Damien Oliver blew the kiss to the heavens after winning the 2002 Melbourne Cup. "It is one of the great moments of Australian sporting history and it touched everyone, whether they were race going fans or not.

"When I first read the script, and this doesn't happen all that often, I found myself becoming very involved in the story and moved by it. I had been looking for something to get me back into movies. I just had to get the role."

On set, Tom Burlinson took Bobby Fox under his wing. Tom Burlinson knew what it was like to be a "first-timer" on set with much more experienced cast members.

Tom Burlinson was able to draw on his experience of working with horses from his earlier productions. He knows the horses don't understand why they stand around on set for hours and do the same thing over again.

"Horses can't act, but if you build up a relationship off the set they will look to you for reassurance when they are on the set. I did this with "the big horse" in Phar Lap. And I was able to talk to Bobby Fox and Stephen Curry about this."

Tom Burlinson is one of Australia's most popular and successful contemporary actors and entertainers. Being cast in the title role in the feature film The Man from Snowy River led to Tom Burlinson being offered a succession of leading roles in Australian and international films and mini-series over the next several years. These included Phar Lap, Eureka Stockade, Flesh and Blood, Windrider, Piece of Cake, and The Legend of Kootenai Brown as well as The Man from Snowy River 11. In 1991 Tom Burlinson sang the voice of the young Frank Sinatra in the Warner Brothers mini-series Frank Sinatra. This was his first professional singing engagement and opened up a new career in Australia and internationally.

Jodi Gordon: portrays Trish Oliver
Trish Oliver was Damien's support following the death of his brother, Jason Oliver. She has inner strength that helps get Damien Oliver through the tough times. Now the mother of his two daughters, Trish Oliver, was trackside when her husband failed to ride a winner in 12 races during the Spring Racing Carnival in the lead up to the 2002 Melbourne Cup. She was there when he rode Media Puzzle to victory with the hearts of the nation riding with him.

Jodi Gordon says that meeting Trish Oliver gave her an insight that helped with preparation for her first role in a feature film.

"It was fantastic. You read about people but when you meet them face to face you understand them a bit better. After meeting Trish Oliver I did tweak how I played the character, but we are not making a documentary. My portrayal of Trish Oliver is a mixture of the script and meeting her.

"I talked to her about her relationship with Damien Oliver and how they met. It gave me a feeling of how they work as a couple and I was able to incorporate that into the movie."

To make her more physically like Trish Oliver, Jodi Gordon changed her hair colour - becoming a blonde for the duration of the shoot. It took 18 hours over three days to transform Jodi Gordon.

The Cup was a learning curve for Jodi Gordon. She says she learnt something every day. "It's a whole new world. It is a very different pace to working on series television."

The progression from television to film was made easier by Jodi Gordon's fellow cast members and director Simon Wincer.

"I know Simon Wincer has done a lot of great work and it was amazing to work with him. He creates a really relaxed and encouraging environment. When I am relaxed I can give my best. When you are doing a difficult scene an actor can start to panic, but Simon Wincer calms you down. You talk about it and you get through it. Simon Wincerhas a real fatherly quality and he got the best out of me. I appreciated that."

Jodi Gordon admits the role of Trish Oliver stretched her, as it was so very different to everything she has done before. Along with Simon Wincer, her other cast members also made the transition easier for Jodi Gordon, particularly Stephen Curry.

"Stephen Curry is an incredible actor. He gives you so much and working off each other makes it easier. He is so talented and it has been wonderful working with him. Everyone was fantastic."

Jodi Gordon admits that until she read the book The Cup her interest in racing was the fashion stakes.

"But the script and the book have given me an insight into the world of the jockeys, the trainers and the horses. I had no idea and I have found it fascinating. It is not just that the Melbourne Cup is a big event it is the emotional journey that this family goes through. You feel everything they go through. It grips you and you cry - a lot."

And for Jodi Gordon there were many emotional scenes.

Jodi Gordon is best known to Australian audiences for her award-winning portrayal of Martha in Home & Away. For this role she was awarded the Logie Award for Most Popular New Female Talent in 2006 and was nominated for the Silver Logie Award for Most Popular Actress in 2009. Jodi Gordon has also appeared in Dancing with the Stars. Jodi Gordon is an ambassador for Tony Bianco shoes.

Bobby Fox: portrays Niall Phillips
Niall Phillips, Dave's brother, left Ireland for Melbourne and had established himself as a trainer working in the Geelong area in 2001. When Dave arrived in Melbourne with Media Puzzle the horse had to win the Geelong Cup to qualify for the Melbourne Cup. It was partly Niall Phillip's inside knowledge that helped Media Puzzle across the winning line and the road to equine immortality.

Bobby Fox had not worked in front of the camera before his first day on the set of The Cup but he was not a newcomer to the entertainment industry. Bobby Fox had been wowing audiences with his portrayal of Franki Vali in The Jersey Boys.

"I was delighted when I was offered the role. This is the way I wanted to take my career. The first couple of days I wasn't sure what I was doing here, but it got easier as time went on."

And it was during those early days that Bobby Fox did most of his scenes with Brendan Gleeson. "I was instantly intimidated and that was perfect for my character. Niall Phillips was intimidated by him because he was only a surrogate member of the team, brought in by his brother."

And playing Niall Phillip's brother is Tom Burlinson, who became Bobby's surrogate brother on set. "He is an absolute gentleman. Tom Burlinson is the ultimate professional who has been so giving on the set. He plays my big brother and has been my big brother on this shoot. He understands the position because he's been there before."

Tom Burlinson also helped Bobby Fox with insights into working with horses. Bobby Fox had never had anything to do with horses.

Bobby couldn't believe the attraction the Melbourne Cup holds for Australians - the race horse that stops a nation. Now he thinks of the 2002 Melbourne Cup as "magical".

"I worked on the script, met Damien Oliver and Niall Phillip and then I watched the race. I was in tears. It was an epic thing. I tried to put myself in Damien Oliver's place but I couldn't. My heart went out to him. That one day was a tragedy mixed with a joyous and elative event. It is an important story."

Bobby Fox initially spent time on the phone with Niall Phillip before meeting him at the Geelong Racecourse during filming. "He was so giving, a really lovely fellow. He told me about his relationship with Dave - things that the Phillips family didn't even know. I got a real feel for his spirit."

The Irish dialect coach on set did help Bobby Fox. After living in Australia for seven years he had developed a "hybrid" accent. She helped him "turn it on for the cameras."

Bobby Fox is a world champion Irish dancer and has a feel for storytelling. He says that "actors don't have to sing or dance but dancers and singers have to act or they give a completely lifeless performance." This attitude was a great help on set.

And it was the story that impressed him. "The story is magnificent and to tell it all you need to do is just be truthful.

Bobby Fox has been wowing audiences around Australia for more than a year with his portrayal of Frankie Vali in Jersey Boys. Born in Longford, Ireland, Bobby is four times World Irish Dancing Champion. He came to Australia with Riverdance and decided to stay. He has appeared in many Australian musicals including Mamma Mia!, Dusty, Leader of the Pack, Sweet Charity and Spamalot.

Harli Ames: portrays Saeed Bin Suroor
Saeed Bin Suroor is the head trainer for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his Godolphin stables. He is a regular visitor to Melbourne for the Spring Racing Carnival, bringing the Sheikh's prized thoroughbreds. In 2002 Saeed Bin Suroor brought Pugin Hatha Anna and Bee Keeper to Melbourne. Even with international jockey Frankie Dettori in the saddle Pugin wasn't good enough. The Goldolphin stable has never won the prized Melbourne Cup.

Harli Ames can't believe how lucky he was to win the role of Saeed Bin Suroor and get paid for the privilege of coming to work every day. "I am very fortunate to have such a role."

"It has been a great experience - from Simon Wincer down to the driver there has been a wonderful energy around the set."

In the lead up to the shoot, Harli Ames went to early morning track work at Flemington and met many of Melbourne's leading trainers and saw them in action. He also watched footage of Saeed Bin Suroor at race meetings around the world, absorbing his demeanour and how he conducted himself. He didn't get a chance to meet the trainer but did talk to people who'd worked with him, including jockey Kerrin McEvoy.

Harli Ames was a little intimidated at the thought of working with Brendan Gleeson, "but once we were on set he was so funny and playful. He was wonderful to work with."

The Cup was Harli Ames' first major Australian film. "There was a great camaraderie on set. And Simon Wincer is a real gentleman. He is calm on set and makes the work fun. The people working with him have been with him for a while and there is a real sense of understanding about how everyone works."

The film has given him a real insight into the world of racing and racehorses, but Harli admits that he had the easy role when it came to the horses. "Unlike Stephen Curry and Daniel MacPherson, I didn't have to ride them."

Harli Ames was moved by the story. "The 2002 Melbourne Cup is an amazing story. No matter where you were it had an effect on you. It is a fantastic story, an amazing Australian story that everyone can relate to."

Harli Ames - is a NIDA graduate and has appeared in several television series including the critically acclaimed East West 101, Killing Time, Rush and City Homicide. His film credits include Fool's Gold, Knowing and Mask II.

Martin Sacks: portrays Neil Pinner
Neil Pinner is Damien Oliver's long time business manager, confidante and friend. Neil Pinner was at Damien's side when Jason Oliver passed away and was there when he rode Media Puzzle to victory in the 2002 Melbourne Cup.

Martin Sacks admits that he drove Neil Pinner "a little mad" with questions on background and history. "He was very kind giving me a few keys to who he was and his relationship with Damien Oliver and Trish Oliver."

Martin Sacks also had the pleasure of dining with Neil Pinner and Damien Oliver along with Stephen Curry. "We sat opposite each other. Funnily enough Neil Pinner and I ate pasta and Damien Oliver and Stephen Curry had fish and salad!"

Playing a real person is a double-edged sword for Martin Sacks. He feels an intense responsibility to honour the essence of the person and to make it an authentic portrayal but there is the advantage of being able to get information on the person and build a background to the role. And with the role of Neil, Martin didn't have to starve himself!

Neil Pinner did visit the set when Martin Sacks was working and was impressed with his portrayal. "He did say that I was a bit greyer and a bit balder but he thought I'd be alright.

"Neil Pinner is very enthusiastic about the film being made. It will be wonderful to see his and Damien's relationship up on the big screen."

Martin Sacks had many scenes with movie newcomer, Jodi Gordon. "She's doing a great job. She will blow people away."

Martin Sacks puts the success of the film down to Simon Wincer. "He is the driving force behind this. He has lived with it for so long and he is so passionate about the story. I think that enthusiasm gets passed on to the cast and crew. Simon Wincer guides you. He's not imposing, just inspiring to work with.

Martin Sacks sees the film as a fantastic opportunity, especially as it is the type of film he can take his kids to, unlike some of his more recent roles.

"I was delighted to be offered the role. I just loved the story and the script. When I read it I knew I had to do it.

"It is a wonderful Australian story directed by Simon Wincer. He knows about horses and he knows about storytelling - he's the perfect man for the job.

Martin Sacks is best remembered by Australian television audiences for the role of PJ in the long-running series Blue Heelers. In more recent years he has appeared in Underbelly, portraying Mario Condello. He has also had roles in Sea Patrol, City Homicide and Rescue Special Ops. Martin Sacks is also a director having directed episodes of Blue Heelers, All Saints and his own short film, Crushed.

Shaun Micallef: portrays Lee Freedman
Trainer Lee Freedman had brought Jason Oliver to Melbourne to ride for him. When the partnership didn't work out, Jason Oliver asked Lee Freedman one favour - could he take a look at his younger brother, Damien? The rest is history. Damien Oliver and Lee Freedman are still a formidable double act. When Lee Freedman doesn't have a runner in the 2002 Melbourne Cup, Damien Oliver takes the ride on the Irish legend Media Puzzle.

Shaun Micallef had to change his look by dying his hair black to take on the role of Lee Freedman. "Well, it's only a mousse. I'm not a committed enough actor to actually dye my hair permanently. I come in an hour early and they put the mousse in my hair and it sort of washes out at the end of the day."

Unlike his co-stars Stephen Curry and Daniel MacPherson, Shaun Micallef didn't have to lose weight to take on the role. In fact he could have put on weight to look more like the trainer. "I wish I had put on weight. You win more awards if you put on weight than if you put mousse in your hair," jokes Shaun Micallef.

On a serious note, Shaun Micallef says that the relationship between Lee Freedman and Damien Oliver is an important role in the film. "It is an honour to be asked (to play Lee Freedman) and I feel a duty to serve the relationship well in the film."

Shaun Micallef didn't meet Lee Freedman prior to the filming but did get to speak to him on the telephone. He did meet Damien Oliver and says he is a "very generous soul to give this story to a film maker and to trust the story to be told to a large number of people."

"It is an inherently moving story and it touched so many people when it happened."

Working with Simon Wincer was appealing to Shaun Micallef. "For a first time actor in a non-comic role he was very tolerant. He didn't get cross with me at all and he didn't make me feel like an idiot, which is good because I feel like an idiot a lot of the time!"

Shaun Micallef admits he isn't a racing man. Not only has he never been to the Melbourne Cup his first visit to Flemington Racecourse was during filming.

Stephen Curry and Shaun Micallef have worked together off and on for the last six years. They appeared in The King together and have worked together on stage in the two-man Peter Cooke & Dudley Moore show, Good Evening.

"I know him very well and that helps a lot. We have an unspoken shorthand way of communicating. When Simon Wincer saw us on stage he saw that and I think that is what prompted him to invite me to take the role of Lee Freedman ...wonderful actor that I am, I think it was probably the relationship Stephen Curry and I have that could be transferrable to the story of Damien Oliver and Lee Freedman. "

Shaun Micallef tells the story of auditioning for Simon Wincer when he visited the pair backstage. "I said to him "Damien that was one hell of a race". There was an embarrassed pause but despite this Simon Wincer was happy to offer me the role!"

Shaun Micallef is one of Australia's leading funny men. He most recently hosted the Channel 10 series Talkin' 'Bout your Generation. His television credits include Newstopia, Thank God You're Here, Micallef Tonight, Welcher & Welcher, The Micallef Program which received Logies for Best Comedy Program, and Seachange. Film appearances include The King, Aquamarine, Through My Eyes, The Extra, Bad Eggs, and The Honorable Wally Norman.

Bill Hunter: portrays Bart Cummings
Legendary trainer Bart Cummings is known as 'The Cups King'. In 2002 he had already trained 11 Melbourne Cup winners. In 2002 he hoped Miss Meliss would give him his 12th win but he had to wait until 2008 to achieve that milestone.

Bill Hunter felt it would "get in the way" if he'd met Bart Cummings prior to portraying him in The Cup. "I feel it is a bit daunting to meet the person you are portraying. I have seen him on television over the years and that gives you an impression of the man. He's a very laconic sort of bloke with a dry humour. He doesn't mince words and doesn't waste any. I'm a little more erudite than he is."

Bill Hunter says he enjoyed portraying Bart Cummings, but says that playing someone who is still alive is a responsibility that puts a little more weight on the role. He loved the script because it was well constructed with just enough pathos and a touch of humour. "It is not too wordy which pays a compliment to the medium. A common fault of some scripts is they write the pictures." Bill Hunter has met Damien Oliver several times over the years and describes him as a "charming little bloke - an incredibly talented man." br>
Having "every vice known to man", Bill Hunter remembers the 2002 Melbourne Cup for two reasons - Damien's win on Media Puzzle and the fact his horse ran second. But his most vivid Melbourne Cup memory is 2008 when he backed the winner - Viewed trained by Bart Cummings - and had a big win."The people will remember the 2002 Melbourne Cup because of the courage of the man. It was extraordinary."

Bill Hunter didn't think twice about taking up the role of Bart Cummings when offered to him by Simon Wincer. They have worked together periodically over the past four decades.

"As long as he told me where to stand and what to say I was happy. Anyone who says there is any more to it than that is full of b#*@. It is a job. It is a craft, but there is no art involved. What you need is commonsense and a reasonable rough head. You put on the makeup and the wardrobe and that is half the performance. That upsets the purists, but never mind. They don?t work as much as I do!"

Bill Hunter has been in more films than anyone else in Australia and says he has only ever seen about 10 per cent of them. "I don't see much point. The damage is done. I don't go to the premieres, unless I can rely on bumping in to my old mates."

Bill Hunter's list of credits is so extensive there is an industry joke that you can't make a film in Australia without Bill Hunter appearing. He started out in television in the 1960s and has, as he puts it, appeared in more films than any other actor in this country. In 2005 his portrait won the Packing Room Prize in the Archibald.

Simon Wincer worked with Bill Hunter on at least half a dozen occasions and, despite the role of Bart Cumm