Aussie actors Stephen Curry and Daniel MacPherson give the performances of their careers in “The Cup”, director Simon Wincer’s true-life tale of jockey Damien Oliver’s (Curry) rousing win of the Melbourne Cup a week after the tragic death of his jockey brother Jason (MacPherson). When Clint Morris caught up with the duo in Melbourne recently they were keen to talk up the film, which they’re as proud as punch to be associated with, but amusingly enough, just as keen to talk up decades old Kevin Smith comedies, “cock socks”, and the inappropriatness of cracking jokes at some film premieres.
Saw you on Rove’s new L.A-based show, Daniel. How was that? Good guests…
Daniel : I grew up with his… I grew up with his films. And my best mate… My best mate gave me a copy of Mallrats. I must have been about 15 and I didn’t tell Kevin, but my brother actually stole a copy of Mallrats from the local video store. I didn’t know he stole it. They kept sending me bills for it because it was overdue. And my brother said we hadn’t got it. We had a $250 letter, the most expensive copy of Mallrats ever.
You didn’t hear much about ”The Cup” on Rove’s show?
Daniel: Yeah, no, it turned out it was myself, Kevin, and Anna Faris and all films were released on the same day.
Stephen: Oh there you go.
There was definitely a mention I think of ”The Cup”. There was definitely a plug in there somewhere. There was some stuff about your sex scenes I think?
Daniel: Yes, yes. There was plenty of stuff about awkward sex scenes on the side.
You were discussing the old cock sock.
Stephen : Oh really? Well the thing about the cock sock, the low of that, is… There aren’t many things uglier than a man’s package. No, and I don’t mean that in any way in the homophobic way. I mean visually. It’s not an impressive thing. If you whack a lolly bag on there, it somehow makes it worse. I’ve done nude scenes. In Changi, I had to be nude three days in a row, three days straight. Being nude and bashed half to death by a Japanese soldier and then kind of nursed back to health all naked and stuff. And this wardrobe girl after the first take of lying down… This is the first scene of me naked and I’m just lying down on the bed and I’m naked and the whole crew is seeing me naked whatever. This poor, she’s like an attachment, this poor wardrobe girl kind of came over after cut and she put this kind of a face-washer over my dick and [chuckle] I’m lying there going… I thought “bugger this” and I stood up and I said, “Ladies and gentlemen this is my penis. And if anyone has a problem with it I will cover it up. If everyone’s okay I’m just going to have it out for the next three days.” They all said, “Alright” and this poor girl comes up and kind of took a picture.
Daniel : My story is…In the Heat of Passion, the actress… She was a very good actress, just… It wasn’t happening with 10 crew staring at you next to bed. And I look down and there’s the cock sock…so I’m just whacking away….
Stephen : Whacking!?
Daniel : I think the word I used was “thwacking.”
Daniel : I’m going, “Oh fuck, what do I do? Back to the scene.
Well let’s talk about ”The Cup”. People are going to come on the site and read this and wonder why the hell you guys are talking about sex for twenty minutes [Laughs]
Stephen: Yeah, right [Laughs]
So, onto the pressing stuff… the sex scene in ”The Cup” got cut?
Stephen : With Jodi Gordon playing Trish, It might have been good to rework the story lines.
Daniel: It just doesn’t work for a family film [Laughs]
Then let’s segue onto your trip to LA. Is ”The Cup” becoming a nice showreel for you?
Daniel: It certainly will be. Yeah. I’ve been using the trailer to show people over there. And it will… I think Simon [Wincer] was saying that this week in fact they are having screenings in America and I’m hoping to head back there on Wednesday and… So certainly to be billed next to Stephen Curry and the great Brendan Gleeson.
Stephen : My name. That’s going to help you over there [Laughs]
Daniel : But in all seriousness, “The Cup” is just shot so beautifully and lovingly and yeah, it’s just kind of…
Stephen : This is such a great story regardless of whether you know Damien or Jason or the history of the race or what not, but as a film it will translate… It will work any where because it’s a lovely, lovely story.
And what’s the thing that immediately attracted you guys. Was it the story or was it Simon Wincer attached as director? Or a bit of both?
Daniel : Everything, everything about it. The script, the director, the man at the center of it, the nature of this not just beautiful sporting story, not just beautiful Australian story, but this human tale. Compelling, astonishing, and above all true. As you said to Tom today, if it wasn’t true, you probably won’t buy it and you’d say, “ummm”
Stephen: Yeah. “You’re laying it on a bit thick there mate with the script, with the father and the brother and the love story and then he wins the race, come on.” But then you put in some of that real footage along with the story in the film, and everyone tears up and I teared up for the second time and I’ve seen it three times, and then last night at the premiere. Simon’s films are all made with so much heart. He is a traditional and classic Australian sort of filmmaker; that was pretty evident straight away when I got sent the script and went to meet Simon and actually went and bought Phar Lap the day before and watched Phar Lap the night before I went in to meet him.
Daniel : I know. So did I… That is exactly what I did. Before I met for it, I went and watched Phar Lap.
“Phar Lap” is a classic. One of those films we all grew up on and shaped us..
Stephen : Yep, “Phar Lap”, “Storm Boy”…
Stephen: The Goonies.
Daniel : Weekend at Bernies
Stephen : Teen Wolf Too
Stephen : I need to reign the humour in in interviews don’t I!? [laughs] I noticed last night when we presented the film to four different cinemas and we cracked jokes every time. Thank god most of the people were at home watching [Daniel’s show Wild Boys aka] Packed to the Bushrangers. Every time I had to do it, I keep reminding myself this is a drama and Damien is right here and at the same time, I don’t know, the temptation is too great and…
Daniel: You have got a captive audience there staring at you and you are wired with a microphone.
Stephen: You have to have a couple of laughs, sometimes. I was delirious though at the premiere.
Was it hard to come down after a heavy day; shooting all the emotional stuff?
Stephen: You have got to play along. You don’t want… You don’t want yourself to get too bogged down but at the same time part especially a part of the respect to the material and part of the… Part of the sense of responsibility allowing it to have a go on the other part and without you mucking around and fooling around, there is a time and place and on set on this, it wasn’t. You just have to do your job and it was just important to pull up and go out…
Daniel: Make sure that we nailed the moment out of respect to the Oliver family, respect the story, and the sense of responsibility that we all took on to tell the story. You have only got one shot at this and we had to be in our game in the right moments and we had a lot of fun making the film.
It was your first film, Daniel? Notice many differences from working on it to TV?
Daniel: Not really…it was a really nice film for me to make the transition from television to film in that it was a very relaxed set and you were working with some of the most experienced film crew in Australia. And also a lot of this film, a lot of hard work was done prior to getting to set. So you get there and Simon has got Flemington with 500 extras and all the horses trained and you have made way and the wardrobe is… Literally you slip into it. There were a lot of people who work very hard to make us look really, really good. And I guess… So for me making the story wasn’t so much of a transition but for me learning is coming from watching and watching what they have used and what works and what doesn’t and so the adjustment of performance and size of the performance. It’s a really nice first film to make. It’s not… It certainly didn’t have the responsibility of playing the lead role like Stephen did. I was part of the supporting cast with some really great supporting cast around me also and it was a really nice way to take my first step into that world.
And Stephen, how about you? As Daniel said, you’re the headline up here. So does that put a bit of pressure on you?
Stephen : The most important thing, and we knew this from the start, was that if we get to the end of this and we can’t look Damien in the eye knowing that we’ve given it our all and produced something that is supposed to be true to his and Jason’s story, we’ve failed. So it’s as simple as that and everyone knew it and everyone felt it and everyone showed it with their dedication and their belief in it and their respect to do it. Everyone from Simon to the runner did their best.
It was a long journey for you too because you were attached for a couple years I think.
Stephen : Yeah, I suppose three years before we shot it. Yeah, may be probably longer. And you’d get a message from Simon saying, ‘We’re on my boy, we’re on !’. And then we wouldn’t be.
Daniel: I was doing something on the side during that and then there were windows of availability and I said great, ‘now it’s going to go in April. We’ll I’m off’. I couldn’t do it. There was this massive ocean liner just cruising through windows of availability and I just wasn’t going to get there and finally I did. Somehow the stars aligned.
Through that time did you guys happen to maintain a certain weight?
Daniel : I didn’t start working out until I got a contract because I couldn’t tell whether the film was on or off
Stephen: But you know, they didn’t ask you to put the weight back – that would be my choice [laughter]
Daniel : So, no. But I workout when I’m working on something and I like to get myself fit for every role I do, but I didn’t begin the required training for this until the film was officially on.
When you did start, were you hitting the gym? That kinda stuff?
Daniel : Hitting the gym three days a week, yeah. Yeah just… Basically looking at it and going what’s the right thing to do for this role? Just like any role, you do right things to get ready for the role
And with you both playing jockeys, I presume that meant cutting out all bad food?
Stephen: Everything you like. Everything that tastes good. But then you can have the crust. And I wouldn’t complain because as I said before, it’s very much a personal problem.If you’re looking for the job, you do what’s required.
So have you guys moved on to the next project yet?
Daniel : I’m on Wild Boys. That most likely will go on next year. I would love to fit in something between now and then. I would like to do more film. There’s more film in the pipeline for next year, which is great.
Obviously you’re trying to get into the States.
Daniel: Yeah. Ideally if I could do… If I could go between the two and do projects like The Cup or even Wild Boys, which I really enjoyed, and combine that with some stuff overseas that would be perfect.
Something meaty over there or something like ”Snakes on a Plane” [Laughs]?
Daniel : Yeah well… I kind of enjoyed that actually [Laughs]. But yeah… We’ll see how it goes. I don’t kind of have the availability at the moment to sign up for long-term series on television. And having done a lot of that in this country, I’m not in any great hurry to do that over there although the quality of TV at the moment is probably the best it’s ever been in history. Especially in the states. You only had to watch the Emmys recently to see how good their TV series are. But I’m kind of enjoying shorter term projects at the moment having done a lot of series at home. In an ideal world that would be great to do a bit more and mix in that, but that’s sort of what’s keeping me satisfied at the moment.
And you, Steve, what are you…
I’m doing a film in India. It’s a novelty film, comedy film about a B grade cricket team.
Stephen: Based in India and they have some lovely uniforms. As you know, uniforms are for boys. So they end up playing well and truly out of their league, and being teased everywhere they go. And it’s a very funny film. So that’s shooting January…
Stephen: And hopefully that would be good.
“The Cup” is now showing