Teresa Palmer, who will lead the cast of ‘Ride Like a Girl’ (photo: Eva Rinaldi via Flickr). 

Roadshow Films has acquired Australian rights to director Rachel Griffiths’ true-life drama Ride Like a Girl, renewing its collaboration with producer Richard Keddie following Oddball.

Teresa Palmer will play Michelle Payne, the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup in 2015, in a saga which, Keddie promises, will hit a “lot of emotional buttons.”

Sam Neill will play her father Paddy, who raised 10 kids after his wife died in a car crash when Michelle was six months old.

Jacki Weaver will play Payne’s manager Joan Sadler, whom Paddy asked to look after his daughter although she had zero racing experience.

Keddie says Michelle’s brother Stevie, who was her strapper, may play himself.

The screenplay is by Andrew Knight and Elise McCredie. Keddie originally approached Knight, who suggested that he co-write with McCredie, which chimed with the producer’s wish to have a female voice.

Roadshow has been selective in its Australian acquisitions in the past couple of years and has only one Oz title, Simon Baker’s Breath, on its release slate for 2018.

Seph McKenna, Roadshow Film’s head of production, told IF: “Ride Like a Girl is such a beautiful, true Aussie battler story of perseverance, family and just overwhelming grit on Michele Payne’s part that everyone who hears it gets caught up.”

It will be the feature directing debut for Griffiths, who showed her prowess behind the camera when she directed three episodes of Matchbox Pictures’ Nowhere Boys and two short films.

Griffiths said she had not planned to make her debut on such an ambitious feature, telling Deadline: “I should have done a two or three million budgeted film. It’s such a tough market. You have to find a story that makes the market and I was lucky enough to find this one.”

When Payne won the Cup riding Prince of Penzance, Griffiths recalled: “It was an indescribable moment. Everyone remembers where they were during that race. I rang my producer and said, ‘We have to do this one.’ It tapped into so many things.”

Shooting is due to start in late March. The producers, who are applying for Screen Australia funding at the December round, bought Payne’s life rights and she will act as a consultant. Embankment Films has the international rights.

At Griffiths’ side during filming will be DoP Martin McGrath, with whom she first worked in Muriel’s Wedding. McGrath comes from racing pedigree: his dad trained horses, one brother escorts the Melbourne Cup around the country and another is a top race caller in England.

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