In the Snowy Mountains, a mother is pushed to her limit to protect the ones she loves. A searing reimagining of Leah Purcell’s play and Henry Lawson’s classic short story. 

1893. Australian Alpine Country of the Snowy Mountains. On an isolated property, heavily pregnant Molly Johnson has a secret she must keep buried. While her drover husband is away, she and her children struggle to survive. Molly is confronted by a fugitive Aboriginal man, Yadaka. She finds herself in a desperate situation and takes the black man’s offer of help, her life depends on it. 

Unbeknown to Molly, there has been a brutal murder of a woman and her children and Yadaka has been blamed for it. He is a wanted man who will bring undesired attention to Molly Johnson. New town up-holder of law, Nate Clintoff, learns Molly’s drover husband is missing and he sends a trooper out to her property to investigate, triggering a chain of ruinous events. 

The Drover’s Wife the Legend of Molly Johnson is a reimagining of Leah Purcell’s acclaimed play and Henry Lawson’s classic short story. A searing Australian Western with love, family, protection, survival, truth and racism at its heart, it asks: how far do you go to protect the ones you love? 

“I was brought up by storytellers, within a culture where the tradition of storytelling is passed down and histories are heard from the Black experience, not from white-washed history books.”




Leah Purcell

Leah Purcell is a proud Goa-Gungarri-Wakka Wakka Murri woman from Queensland, Australia. She is an internationally acclaimed playwright, screenwriter, director, novelist and actor and a cultural icon and activist, whose work stands at the forefront of the Black and Indigenous cultural renaissance and protest movement sweeping Australia and the world. Australian Financial Review named Purcell as one of Australia’s Top 10 culturally influential people because ‘she allows white audiences to see from an Aboriginal perspective’.

Purcell is known to audiences internationally for her roles in Wentworth, Redfern Now, Jindabyne and Lantana. Her extensive body of work includes: in TV as a director: Redfern Now, Cleverman, The Secret Daughter and My Life is Murder, in theatre: The Drover’s Wife, Box the Pony and Don’t Take Your Love to Town, and in print: Black Chicks Talking, The Drover’s Wife play and The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson novel.

Purcell’s status as a cultural force is surreal to the woman who grew up as one of seven kids to a single, black mother in rural Queensland and in her own words was a ‘C-average student’ before she left as a teenage single mother and found her way to a grassroots theatre company in Brisbane. Self-taught and untrained in acting, Purcell cut her teeth by performing on stage and was awarded the Matilda award for best new talent in 1993.

Considered an Elder within her arts community, Purcell believes it is a privilege and her responsibility to make the most of her position as a storyteller and an ambassador for her community. Her work is political and personal – she casts a truthful, unsparing eye on feminist, Indigenous and First Nation themes and she also embraces personal and universal themes of womanhood, family, love and protection.

Leah’s most current works are The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart where she plays opposite Sigourney Weaver in the Amazon Original Limited Series and in Wentworth in the role of Rita Connors for Fremantle and Foxtel. She has been nominated for Best Lead Actor in a Television Series for her work in Wentworth, and the series is distributed across more than 90 countries all over the world.
Her first professional break came in 1993 when she was cast in Bran Nue Dae, touring Australia to rave reviews. After moving to Sydney in 1995, she was one of the first presenters on the RED Music Channel on Galaxy Pay TV (later Foxtel). A regular role in ABC TV’s Police Rescue followed and in 1997 she was nominated for an Australian Film Industry (AFI) award for Best Actress in a TV Drama for her performance in Fallen Angels.

Leah then conceived and co-wrote Box the Pony which was the smash hit of the 1997 Festival of the Dreaming and has since played to sell-out seasons at Belvoir St. Theatre, the Sydney Opera House, the 1999 Edinburgh Festival and a season at the Barbican Theatre in London 2000. The published text of the play won the 1999 NSW Premier’s Literary Award and the 2000 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for Best Play. Purcell was nominated at the inaugural 2001 Sir Robert Helpmann Awards for Best Female Actor in a play for her performance in Box the Pony.
Other theatre includes: Marriage of Figaro (QTC) opposite Geoffrey Rush, The Vagina Monologues, Dorothy Hewitt’s final play Nowhere (Melb International Arts Festival), Beasty Girl: The Secret Life of Errol Flynn (Melb International Arts Festival) for which she won a Green Room award (2004) for Best Actress; and Neil Armfield’s Stuff Happens (Company B); then followed Stickybricks (Sydney Festival); The Good Body (Adelaide Fringe Festival); Parramatta Girls (Company B), The Story of the Miracles at Cookie’s Table (Griffin Theatre, Malthouse Theatre and QPAC; An Oak Tree (Belvoir downstairs); Michael Attenborough’s When the Rain Stops Falling (Almeida Theatre, London); Bell Shakespeare’s 20th Anniversary production of King Lear opposite John Bell; Blood Wedding (Sydney Theatre Co), The Dark Room, Don’t Take Your Love to Town, Radiance and most recently The Drover’s Wife.

Film credits include: Last Cab to Darwin (dir: Jeremy Sims), My Mistress (dir: Stephen Lance), Lantana (dir: Ray Lawrence), Lennie Cahill Shoots Through (dir: Sarah Lancaster), Somersault (dir: Cate Shortland); The Proposition (dir: John Hillcoat); and Jindabyne (dir Ray Lawrence).

Other television credits include Janet King series 2, Black Comedy, Love Child 2 and 3 Mary: The Making of a Princess House of Hancock, Redfern Now 1 and 2, My Place, Love My Way McLeods Daughters, Starter Wife, GP, Water Rats, Cleverman, Beastmaster, The Lost World and Bad Cop, Bad Cop.

The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson was written by and directed by Leah. She stars in the leading role of film, and is a co-producer through her production company Oombarra Productions.


Bain Stewart

It is no coincidence that this film arrives at the moment of Black Reckoning that is sweeping the world. Leah’s revisioning of The Drover’s Wife, arguably our greatest short story, is a Trojan Horse through which Leah gives the story back to the white man and holds a mirror to it. The film should not be looked at in isolation. It’s a part of something much, much bigger. The play, the novel, the film: Leah Purcell’s The Drover’s Wife opus is a Primal Scream from Australia. In 2016, after the first, breathtaking performance of The Drover’s Wife play at Sydney’s Belvoir Theatre, when audience members flocked to Leah and I, desperate to know what happened to Molly and Danny next, I knew with certainty it could be a film. The idea first came to me when Leah showed me the outline for her play. It was epic in its landscape, emotions and themes and I knew the world could expand from the confines of the stage. At the time, Leah was laser focused on the play but soon the vision of a film settled into her too as night after night she engaged with people caught up in Molly Johnson’s world.
And so, my journey to steer the film forward began. It’s a journey that has embraced wonderful advocates and champions, many from the play, others, like David Jowsey, who are trusted, long time collaborators. My responsibility as a Blackfella is to walk the line of Indigenous truth, cultural respect and commercial appeal. It’s a responsibility I carry close to my heart as I take this film, this canon of work, to the world.

Directed by
Leah Purcell

Written by
Leah Purcell

Leah Purcell
Rob Collins
Sam Reid
Jessica de Gouw

Produced by
Bain Stewart
David Jowsey
Angela Littlejohn
Greer Simpkin
Leah Purcell