Tackling Demons: Heath Davis' Broke

By Pfeiffer, Oliver | Metro Magazine, Fall 2016 | Go to article overview

Tackling Demons: Heath Davis' Broke


Pfeiffer, Oliver, Metro Magazine


BY DELICATELY EXPLORING THE DIFFICULTIES FACED BY AN EX-SPORTSPERSON ADJUSTING TO LIFE FOLLOWING HIS RETIREMENT FROM THE FIELD, BROKE PROVES ITSELF TO BE MUCH MORE THAN JUST ANOTHER TRIUMPHING-AGAINST-THE-ODDS SPORTS MOVIE. OLIVER PFEIFFER SPEAKS TO WRITER/DIRECTOR HEATH DAVIS, LEAD ACTOR STEVE LE MARQUAND, PRODUCER LUKE GRAHAM AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER JONATHAN PAGE ABOUT THE TRUE-TO-LIFE THEMES WOVEN INTO THIS GRITTY REDEMPTION TALE.

During the opening credits of indie drama Broke (2016), the low-budget fiction-feature debut of Australian filmmaker Heath Davis, we see transitory shots of the industrial landscape of the mining city of Gladstone, Queensland. A conversation between a couple of evening-radio DJs is overheard--they are discussing exactly why Rugby League is frequently in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, yet its players are looked up to as role models. As this conversation takes place, a hazy shot focuses on the unshaven, drunken wreck of an individual we soon come to learn is Ben 'BK' Kelly (Steve Le Marquand), a former Rugby League player of some repute. Shambling through a now-listless existence of gambling and scrounging for money, BK cuts a grave, middle-aged shadow of his former self no doubt emblematic of other retired players who have endured a soul-destroying reality check once the sports spotlight has faded.

Davis interviewed a slew of former Rugby League players for research and embraced a loose, improvisational style on set to lend dramatic legitimacy to the events depicted on screen. He tells me:

I've seen lots of sports movies or dramas that touch on serious social issues underpinning their respective sports, but [they] play it safe. I wanted authenticity and felt compelled to share some light and perhaps start a dialogue on the issues addressed. It was important for people to sit up and listen and identify with the characters. It could almost be real people going through similar issues. We couldn't sugar-coat anything.

Indeed, Broke refuses to hold back in examining the ugly, unglamorous flip side of celebrity, including the pressures of playing the field of fame and the problematic --perhaps even impossible--ordeal of attempting to overcome your demons as your past comes back to haunt you. As producer Luke Graham elaborates:

It really isn't a sporting film (1)--it's almost like life, if you can understand that a sportsperson is [only] a sportsperson until they go home. They're a normal person after the doors close. This film deals with that person dealing with life, without all the shine and the glitz. I don't think there were any films that really touched on that. A good drama is what we were after.

An amalgam of several former sporting personalities, the character of BK is also partly based on Graham's father, retired New Zealand Rugby League player and coach Mark Graham, whom the producer describes as '[t]he hard man, the hard-nosed person, the overachiever in life who is known as "the greatest Rugby player to come out of New Zealand"'.

BK is the greatest potential player that had ever been, [but he] ruined his life. There are elements that are a bit taboo, like what it takes for a human being to be the best, to have such tunnel vision [...] where they don't focus on certain elements of their life. Those were areas we were able to take from my father.

Davis, who both directed and wrote the film, conceived of the protagonist specifically for Steve Le Marquand, the rugged Australian character actor known predominantly for his tough-guy roles in films like Last Train to Freo (Jeremy Sims, 2006), Beneath Hill 60 (Jeremy Sims, 2010) and One Eyed Girl (Nick Matthews, 2014), along with notable scene-stealing appearances on television titles like Underbelly, Wentworth Prison and Small Time Gangster. Despite his filmography, however, Le Marquand doesn't shy away from roles that expose the tender side to his disgruntled characters. …

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