Leah Purcell starts shooting ‘The Drover’s Wife the Legend of Molly Johnson’

Leah Purcell on the set of ‘The Drover’s Wife the Legend of Molly Johnson’. 

Rob Collins, Sam Reid and Jessica de Gouw have joined the cast of Leah Purcell’s The Drover’s Wife the Legend of Molly Johnson, which is now shooting in NSW.

Purcell is making her feature directing debut on the revenge Western, a re-imagining of her acclaimed play and Henry Lawson’s classic short story.

Roadshow Films has boarded the film produced by Oombarra Productions’ Bain Stewart and Bunya Productions’ David Jowsey, Angela Littlejohn and Greer Simpkin.

Set in 1893, the plot follows Purcell as the heavily pregnant Molly Johnson who, with her children, struggles to survive hunger and the wild elements. She forms a bond with Yadaka, a runaway Aboriginal who helps her with the birth and burial of her stillborn baby.

When Sergeant Nate Clintoff learns that Molly’s drover husband is missing he sends his assistant Trooper Leslie (Benedict Hardie) to investigate, triggering a chain of brutal events.

Collins (Total Control, Mystery Road) plays Yadaka, with Reid (Lambs of God, The Hunting, Bloom) as Sergeant Clintoff. Jessica de Gouw (The Hunting, Riot, Gretel & Hansel) is Clintoff’s wife Louisa. The cast also includes Harry Greenwood as young stockman John McPharlen, Malachi Dower-Roberts and Tony Cogin.

According to the synopsis, the narrative deals with love, family, protection, survival, truth, misogyny and racism as it asks the question: How far do you go to protect the ones you love?

Screen Australia and Screen NSW are co-funding the film and Memento Films is handling international sales.

Purcell, who is partnered with Stewart in Oombarra Productions said: “This story has been with me for a long time from when my mother used to read it to me as a small child. To be able to realise this film now along with Bunya Productions after writing the play and novel is a part of my contemporary Dreaming.

“I’m thrilled and excited to be doing so with amazing, supportive partners as Screen Australia, Screen NSW, Memento and Roadshow Films.”

Screen Australia head of content Sally Caplan said: “We are proud to support the highly talented Leah Purcell in directing her first feature. I could think of no one better to take this powerful Australian story to our screens.

“Bunya Productions continue to go from strength to strength and I’m confident that together with Purcell, Oombarra Productions and a cracking cast, they will create a poignant piece of work that delves into family, identity, and also showcases the beautiful Snowy Mountains region.”

Head of Screen NSW Grainne Brunsdon added: “We’re hugely excited that this important and powerful First Nations story will film across regional NSW and Western Sydney and in doing so create new opportunities for a diverse range of screen practitioners.”

Purcell was the set-up director on My Life is Murder, CJZ’s 10-part mystery-drama starring Lucy Lawless commissioned by Network 10. Her TV directing credits include The Secret Daughter, Cleverman and Redfern Now.