Rachel Griffiths’s biopic about Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne, Ride Like a Girl, will remain unchanged despite horse trainer Darren Weir being banned from horseracing for four years.
- The producer of Ride Like a Girl has elected not to change anything in the film after the controversy surrounding key character and horse trainer Darren Weir
- Weir was banned earlier this year from horseracing for four years for using electronic prods on his horses
- Director Rachel Griffiths said the controversy was “not relevant” as she wanted to make a feminist sports film “that would make men cry”
Weir played an integral part in Payne’s history-making ride on Prince of Penzance, with actor Sullivan Stapleton (Animal Kingdom, 300: Rise of an Empire) cast to play him.
Police and racing authorities raided Weir’s Warrnambool and Ballarat stables in January this year.
He was arrested and released, but was later banned from racing for four years by Racing Victoria for using electronic prods known as jiggers on his horses.
It was a dramatic fall from grace for one of Australia’s leading horse trainers.
It was also an unnecessary headache for the filmmakers of Ride Like a Girl, who were deep into the film’s post-production when the scandal broke.
So what do you do when a character in your feelgood horseracing movie becomes a villain in real life?
No late scratchings
The answer to that question fell to producer Richard Keddie, who also produced Hawke and Oddball.
“It was my call and I didn’t change anything in the film,” Keddie said.
“Darren had been a great supporter of Michelle, a fantastic supporter of [her brother] Stevie [who has Down Syndrome]. He’d given Stevie a job, he kept Michelle on the horse when others wanted to take her off.
“He was incredibly decent to us so I didn’t have any problem at all.
“We know there were problems down the track but it was nothing to do with our race so we were really comfortable about it to be honest.”
When asked of the impact of the Weir scandal on the film’s production, first-time director Rachel Griffiths, said the controversy was not relevant to the film.
“I think it’s so unfair,” she said.
“This extraordinary film celebrates 15 years of a woman’s determination and resilience to realise her dream, and I just hope that the conversation is dragged back to some other man’s behaviour.
“It’s not really relevant to me.”
Griffiths said Ride Like a Girl was exactly the film she set out to make.
“I wanted to make a PG feminist sports film that would make men cry, and I think I’ve done that.”
The champion rides high
As for the heroine herself, Payne said she did not think the scandal surrounding Weir would overshadow the film.
“Darren looked after Stevie so well, he gave him an opportunity, [he trusted someone with] Down Syndrome with millions of dollars of horse flesh [and that’s] absolutely incredible,” Payne said.
“And he gave me an opportunity in the Melbourne Cup, so I felt like it was really nice to still have him in the film because to me that was very special.”
Payne said she was overjoyed with Ride Like a Girl.
“I think it’s a really nice, feelgood story,” she said.
“It’s a story of family and tough times that everybody has, and you have to get them, and we go through them together.
“I’m really proud of the way Rachel and Richard have portrayed my family.”