New film humanises rugby league heroes
It's the story of a rugby league superstar who comes undone at the hands of gambling and alcohol but those behind new Australian film Broke hope to open the eyes of fans to the frailties of those we idolise.
It tells the fictional story of former North Sydney star Ben Kelly, a Queensland representative and hero to those in his hometown, whose life spirals out of control in retirement at the hands of alcohol and a gambling addiction.
Seasoned Aussie actor Steve Le Marquand (Underbelly, Two Hands, Kokoda, Beneath Hill 60) plays 'BK' and says recent off-field controversies highlight the themes found within the film.
"What's been happening in rugby league and this film are two sides of the same coin," Le Marquand told NRL.com.
"It humanises these people. They're not just this unbelievable football machine, there's actually a real person with real emotions and real fallibility. That's a good thing for the rugby league audience and for the wider community to see.
"You have a go at these guys who do the wrong thing but a film like this shows that these are regular human beings with regular human foibles.
"You've got guys like Mitchell Pearce, Shane Warne and Andrew Johns who are put on a pedestal by the community and I think what this does is humanise these people.
"Ben Kelly had the same amount of success, he was obviously massive in the town where he comes from and what this does is humanises him.
"Most of the story is about him being a human being, a bloke who is living on the streets, put his last $5 down a pokie and is begging other people for money.
"It takes this fallen hero and you see him trying to interact as a human being."
Despite being born in Perth to AFL-mad parents, Le Marquand fell in love with rugby league at first sight when his family moved to Sydney and as a six-year-old he sat down and watched St George playing Eastern Suburbs on the ABC.
When he attended the University of Western Sydney he began playing in the Penrith competition but after a decade was told by his agent to hang up the boots.
Filling in for the Kiama Knights one Sunday during the filming of Mullet with Ben Mendehlson, Le Marquand had his nose badly broken courtesy of a swinging arm and when he turned up to work the producers threaten legal action.
"By Monday, when I was due to shoot again, it was a big bruised mess. The producers weren't happy," he recalls.
Well before the fictional story of Ben Kelly was put in front of him, Le Marquand said that he was fascinated by the ultimately tragic events surrounding former Storm and Bulldogs prop Ryan Tandy who was found guilty of match-fixing, providing some of the basis for the character of Kelly.
"I actually followed the Ryan Tandy story, even before Broke was even in the picture," he said.
"I found that incredibly interesting. I've always been interested in broken human beings; I find them far more interesting than just your ordinary run-of-the-mill folk.
"To then just watch that story independently of the film, watching as he went to court and of course the unbelievably sad end to that story, it was riveting from a character point of view.
"I definitely did a lot of research into that character when I was trying to put Ben Kelly together."
Rugby league plays the backdrop to what is essentially the study of a flawed character but Le Marquand had to measure up in more ways than one.
Historical footage of Kelly playing for the Bears is actually that of former North Sydney legend Mark Graham, whose son Luke is a producer of the film and who provided some wardrobe assistance for a key moment in the film.
"There's a point in the film where I've got nothing to wear but this family have hung on to my old North Sydney uniform to put on and that was actually Mark Graham's," Le Marquand reveals.
"Watching the footage of him playing for the Bears in the '80s and '90s it was quite uncanny. Very similar build, fairly skinny legs, tall and lanky so you actually buy it.
"I remember watching it thinking this is never going to work but it looks quite convincing.
"I had to make a couple of tackles and throw a few punches which reminded me of the good old days.
"There is a little bit of rugby league in it but mostly it is a character study of this fallen hero who was so celebrated and exalted by the community at large and then threw a game, fell into the wrong crowd and is following his story."
Broke stars Steve Le Marquand, Max Cullen, Brendan Cowell, Claire Van Der Boom and Steve Bastoni.
Session times and venues:
APRIL 7-28, 2016 - GLADSTONE CINEMAS - 61-77 Dawson Road, Gladstone
APRIL 26, 2016 - NEW FARM CINEMA - 6:30PM - 701 Brunswick St, New Farm, Brisbane
APRIL 26, 2016 - NEW FARM CINEMA - 8:40PM - 701 Brunswick St, New Farm, Brisbane
MAY 27, 2016 - TRAVELING FILM FESTIVAL - Tamworth, Queensland
JUNE 25, 2016 - WINTON CINEMAS - Winton, Queensland
APRIL 26, 2016 - PIGHOUSE FLICKS - 1 Skinners Shoot Road, Byron Bay NSW
MAY 2, 2016 - EVENT CINEMAS PARRAMATTA - 159-175 Church Street, Parramatta
MAY 14, 2016 - JAMES THEATRE DUNGOG - 6 Brown Street, Dungog NSW
MAY 25, 2016 - GLENBROOK CINEMA - Ross St & Great Western Highway, Glenbrook
APRIL 26, 2016 - AUSTRALIAN REVELATIONS - The Backlot Perth, 21 Simpson Street, West Perth