Glam Adelaide's Kat Nicholson met with Stephen Curry and director Simon Wincer to chat about their new Australian film The Cup, following its Adelaide premiere. The Cup is based on the true story of Damien and Jason Oliver, two jockeys and brothers separated by tragedy just days before Damien was due to ride in the 2002 Melbourne Cup. The movie will be released on October 13 and also stars Brendan Gleeson, Daniel MacPherson and Shaun Micallef.
Kat: Firstly, I have to ask – how did you film those racing scenes with the horses coming right at the camera?
Simon: Very long lenses. We also have what you call a “tracking vehicle”, so you get the tracking vehicle to run alongside them or in front of them or wherever and the vehicle’s travelling at the same speed or faster than them. You can’t do a lot of takes with the race horses though because they run out of steam pretty fast, so we had to have a lot of horses. New technology’s allowed us to get right in, tiny cameras and things right now that just didn’t exist ten years ago which is great, things that didn’t exist even five years ago.
Kat: How did you shoot the scene of the fall, Jason’s accident?
Simon: Well, that one was a combination of live-action, CGI, a green screen, an animatronic horse on rails and the beauty of modern technology. You can do that stuff now and it can be seamless, whereas again even five years ago even that shot would’ve been very challenging.
Kat: Did you both get to meet with the real Damien Oliver and was he involved with the project?
Simon: Oh yeah, Steve could tell you more about that but yeah. He saw it as a way of paying tribute not only to his brother but his best mate, Jason.
Stephen: Mmm, he was great. From the word go Damien was on board and he has very much a vested interest in seeing the story told right, so as a result we kind of felt a responsibility to make sure it was told in the most sensitive way possible. He was fantastic, he allowed me to follow him around to race meetings. I saw what he goes through, what all those men and women go through on a daily basis. It was a real eye-opener for me just to realise how dedicated these sportspeople are.
Simon: Yeah, they really have to love what they do. Obviously they love their horses and they love their racing because it is the world’s most dangerous sport.
Kat: Simon, you seem to make a lot of horse films. Why? Is there an affinity with horses?
Simon: Yeah, there is an affinity with horses because I’ve been around them since I was a very little boy. I’ve got a farm and riding is my hobby, if you like. I’m more drawn to those kinds of stories or animal stories because they’ve got a great emotional inner line. I’m drawn to films that have are highly emotional, I suppose, so that’s the connection I think.
Kat: Free Willy – I loved that when I was a kid.
Simon: Well yeah, there you go, there’s another one. That’s another animal story, but it’s very emotional. When I first read that script, I thought that if I could deliver that moment where the whale leaps over the wall, then you’ve got a really great movie. I first saw it in the theatre at a test screening in the San Fernando Valley and the audience just cheered. That’s the moment of truth for a director, when you show it to an audience.
Kat: How is it, having to watch the film over and over on screen at the premieres around the place, do you start to over-scrutinise it?
Stephen: Simon’s seen it a lot more than I have, having cut it together and all, but I find it’s best not to watch it too many times because you start becoming very finicky –
Simon: As I am now, yeah.
Stephen: Yeah, so Simon would see the bit where you think you could have cut half a second earlier, whereas actors you know, we start to think “Why did I blink there?” It’s best to just watch it a couple of times and then put it to bed, so we watched it in Perth and we’re going to watch it in Melbourne again, but we only watched about the first five minutes the other night.
Simon: I always check the sound and stuff, but we heard about this really good Indian restaurant in Adelaide, so we went there instead.
Kat: Fair enough, see the sights. Where do you like to hang out when you’re in Adelaide?
Stephen: The Exeter’s one of my favourite pubs. Love the Exeter and the Gov, the Governor Hindmarsh is always an entertaining place to go and watch a few live acts. God, I’ve just mentioned two places where you drink booze!
Simon: I know!
Stephen: Uh, I hang out at all the churches and in the Botanic Gardens.
Simon: Of course, of course. Also, Adelaide Oval.
Stephen: Oh yeah, there you go. Adelaide Oval, I think, is the best venue to watch cricket in… well, one of the best in the world. I’m a bit of a cricket tragic and I’ve come over here numerous times purely just to watch cricket and yeah, I love it. I love the Adelaide Oval.
Simon: Adelaide’s a beautiful city and it’s been well preserved compared to a lot of our other cities that’ve been a bit bastardised with modern architecture. It’s got a lovely feel about it. The arts feel is very strong, the Adelaide Festival was the first big cultural festival in the country, I think. From that point of view it’s a great place to come.
Kat: Stephen, I’ve heard you’re a bit of a prankster and can get up to some on-set hijinks, like during the filming of Rogue…
Stephen: Ha! Well, Rogue was a different beast, we had a lot more down time –
Simon: Well, you had a lot more downtime.
Stephen: Well, yeah, that’s right. There were a large number of like-minded rogues on Rogue, which made it more of a school camp. Unfortunately with this one we were pretty busy and I’m loathe to muck around too much when it’s a drama, because the most important thing about this is I guess not to be selfish about it. You know, everyone else is trying to be respectful to the material. For this one I think I had to almost be a grown-up.
Kat: Did you get to do much of your own riding and have you done much riding before?
Stephen: I hadn’t before I met Simon, but he took me up to his property and I just slowly learnt to ride on a few nice, placid little horses. Then got up to thoroughbreds and realised that –
Simon: Your life changed!
Stephen: Yup. I was bucked off. The one moment that I did muck around on this project I paid for it. Instant karma. I was, shall we say, dislodged from my mount for being a bit of a smart aleck.
Simon: In front of all the media. In front of Damien Oliver –
Stephen: Five hundred extras… in front of my parents. Basically, just in front of everyone.
Simon: And got the front page of the Herald Sun!
Stephen: Basically, what happened is the audience has made a bit of a noise, they were cheering for Damien Oliver. So the horse has shied a bit, I’ve managed to land it and stay on the horse so I’m pretty impressed with myself. I’m a bit shameless in front of five hundred people, so I thought here’s a chance to get a gag out. I let go of the reins and went “I’m a natural!” The horse didn’t agree with that, so all of a sudden I was underneath the horse. Yes, I slipped once and went back into my old habits and didn’t do it again after that, did I?
Kat: Having been so immersed in the Melbourne Cup – any fashion tips for this year’s Cup and the spring racing season?
Stephen: Any fashion tips! Wow, that’s a new one.
Simon: That’s good! It’s easy for us guys, wear a nice suit and you know, maybe a lilac shirt but yeah, for you ladies… well, gosh.
Stephen: Here’s what I’d say. Now, I’m not a lady. However, I would say someone needs to invent a high heel that is really comfortable–
Simon: A retractable high heel!
Stephen: Yes, a retractable high heel so the ladies can walk back from the races at the end of the day without having to hold their shoes. So if someone could just invent a retractable high heel, because we’re very lucky again – my shoes are comfortable at the start of the day and they're comfortable at the end and the poor girls don’t get that.
opens nationally in cinemas on October 13.
Photos by Brent Leideritz.