Euros Lyn, director on Sherlock, Happy Valley and Black Mirror, is helming the true story about a woman’s dream to breed and raise a champion racehorse on the allotment of her modest Welsh village. Little Miss Sunshine star Collette will take the lead role of Jan Vokes, a middle-aged barmaid at a working men’s club who recruits her initially reluctant husband Brian and local accountant Howard Davies (Lewis) to help her bring together a syndicate of local people to breed a foal – which they name Dream Alliance. On the racetrack, he proves himself to be more than a match for the multi-million pound racehorses he comes up against, transforming the lives of those around him.
Script comes from Neil McKay (Appropriate Adult) and the team is gearing up for a spring shoot. Warner Bros has snapped up UK distribution rights and Cornerstone Films — coming off a hit Sundance with films including Blinded By The Light, The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind and After The Wedding — will handle international sales. Backers include Film4, Ingenious Media, Ffilm Cymru Wales.
Katherine Butler (American Animals) will produce with Tracy O’Riordan (The Selfish Giant). Executive producers are Piers Vellacott for Raw, Daniel Battsek and Ollie Madden for Film4, Peter Touche and Stephen Dailey for Ingenious Media, Pauline Burt for Ffilm Cymru Wales.
The true story behind the film was previously told in the documentary Dark Horse, also backed by Film4. It won the World Cinema Audience Award at Sundance before being released by Sony Pictures Classics in the U.S.
Lyn said, “I grew up in the Welsh valleys where everyone knows this story – it’s a local legend. The moment I read Neil’s brilliant script I knew I had to direct this funny and moving film. Casting Toni Collette as Jan Vokes, our extraordinary heroine and Damian Lewis as Howard Davies, her intriguingly conflicted accomplice is my own dream come true. They’re the perfect actors to tell this true story of how against all the odds, an ordinary woman inspires her community to go on the ride of a lifetime and rediscover a sense of hope.”
Producer Butler added, “I fell in love with this story when I first heard about Louise Osmond’s documentary – and when I met the real people involved, I was hugely inspired by both their steely determination and their joyous outlook on life. Our brilliant writer Neil McKay spent hours with many of the people whose story this is to craft an exciting, moving and often hilarious script. And Euros Lyn’s immediate and passionate response to the script completely convinced us that he was born to direct this film. We couldn’t be more thrilled with our dream casting of Toni Collette and Damian Lewis, and together with the support of all our financiers, the local welsh cast and crew and the horse racing community, we are off to the races!”
Collette is represented by CAA, Finley Management, Jackoway Austen Tyerman Law and United Management in Australia. Lewis is represented by United Talent Agency and Jackoway Austen Tyerman Law in the U.S. and Markham, Froggatt and Irwin in the UK.