Dream Alliance: Hollywood tells 'fairytale' horse story

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How the story of Dream Alliance was transformed for Hollywood

Despite everything that has happened to Jan Vokes since she came up with the idea of raising a race horse on her allotment near Blackwood 20-years-ago, the surprises keep coming.

"My father was a coal miner, and I was born and bred in a little village just up the road so to imagine that my life was going to be played out by a Hollywood A-listed actor, it's just unbelievable," she said.

That actor is Toni Collette and the film is called Dream Horse.

It tells the story of Dream Alliance - raised on an allotment and owned by a syndicate of friends paying £10 a week - he went on to win the Welsh Grand National in 2009.

The film has been in the planning for about five years with its release delayed because of the pandemic but it was a story perfect for Hollywood.

Damian Lewis and Joanna Page are just two other stars starring in the biopic.

Image source, Warner Bros
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The upcoming biopic has a star studded cast including Joanna Page, Toni Collette and Damian Lewis

"In the beginning I couldn't really see a story there but when you sit down and you think about it, it really is a sort of fairytale," said Jan.

"Dream Alliance was working class like us, he came from nowhere."

Image source, Getty Images
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Dream Alliance - raised on an allotment and owned by a syndicate of friends paying ten pounds a week - went on to win the Welsh Grand National in 2009

What's it like to see your life played out on screen?

Image source, Warner Bros
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Mr and Ms Vokes had the opportunity to meet the actors playing them and said they were "down to earth"

"It's surreal," said Jan. " It's really odd.

"You're looking at it, thinking, 'Do I do that? Do I really do that?"

Jan said she was "taken aback" when she first heard Australian actress Toni Collette would be playing her, thinking producers would have chosen a Welsh actress.

"I don't think she got the Welsh accent quite right but she got away with it," said Jan, who still works seven days a week, including at the local supermarket as depicted in the film.

Collette has admitted she found the Welsh accent a "hard nut to crack", but told ITV's Lorraine she enjoyed her time filming in Wales.

"I just think the Welsh culture is so rich. They sing at the drop of a hat," she said.

"They are so open and inclusive and even though I felt a little intimidated and nervous, I didn't want to let the country down, I felt very supported. I will go back again and again, it is such a special place."

Image source, Warner Bros
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Damian Lewis (left) also stars in the film playing accountant Howard Davies (far right)

Co-star Lewis plays Howard Davies, an accountant who runs the syndicate - a casting that delighted the real life Howard.

"Most of my so-called friends and syndicate members thought that Danny DeVito would have been a better casting but Damian chose to take that on - we think it's incredible," said the accountant.

The real locations around Cefn Fforest were not big enough to accommodate the film crew so the allotment scenes were filmed in Blaenavon and sequences at the local club were shot in Rhymney.

Both Jan and Howard said that when they visited the set the actors were "lovely" and "down to earth", but they believe Dream is the star of the film.

"It's the celebration of the horse that is the most important to us," said Howard.

"What a lot of people forget is that Dream Alliance has been retired for nine years.

"He is whiling away his retirement down in Somerset on an equestrian farm. But he keeps on giving."

The film has a strong "feel-good vibe", which Howard believes will be well received given the last year. "Everyone wants to see something that will lift their spirits " he said.

The film will get its premiere in Blackwood on Sunday before going on general release in the UK on 4 June.

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