ABC greenlights Cliff Young telemovie

ABC will produce a telemovie profiling long-distance folk hero Cliff Young.

The 61 year-old Victorian potato farmer grabbed world headlines when he beat the finest distance runners in the 1983 Sydney to Melbourne ultra marathon. Young beat them all by running while they slept, and his ungainly running style became known as “the gumboot shuffle.”

Set against the backdrop of the early eighties, Cliffy retraces his journey from famously training in gumboots among cow paddocks through the six day ultra marathon to his emergence as Australia’s most unlikely sporting hero.

After the race, 62 year old Young married Mary Howell, 39 years his junior. The marriage lasted 5 years.  He died aged 81 in 2003 following a battle with cancer.

Carole Sklan, ABC TV’s Head of Fiction said “Few stories capture the public imagination like that of Cliff Young. Nearly 30 years after famously shuffling from Sydney to Melbourne and into Australian folklore, Cliffy continues to fascinate and inspire. We are delighted to be partnering with such an accomplished creative team to bring this iconic tale to ABC TV.”

Cliffy will be produced by Clock End Films for ABC1. It will be directed by Dean Murphy (Charlie & Boots, Strange Bedfellows) with Nigel Odell (Strange Bedfellows, Long Weekend) as producer. The telemovie has been written by Robert B. Taylor (Muggers).

Producer Nigel Odell said “Dean and I are thrilled to be working with ABC TV to bring to life the story of this Aussie legend. Here is a man, who at the very mention of his name makes people smile. Everyone relates to Cliffy because secretly we all feel we have the ability to do amazing things if only we were given the chance and we love an underdog. He embodies everything we value in Australia and it’s fantastic that ABC TV is giving Australian audiences another chance to celebrate this amazing man and his incredible achievements.”

Casting is currently underway with filming to start in mid April across Albury-Wodonga and regional Victoria.


  1. Pa Cliffy always said one day they will make a movie and shame pa Cliffy is not here to see ,he always said we will all be movie stars and when we make dollars he will run to the bank , we loved him and we are so pleased we still have his cups and a very specail pelican that pa helped us looked after.
    Pa Cliffy would have been 90 in feb ,sad it has taken a few years to do a good story but we guess it is never too late .
    he was muched loved

  2. JamesJ – google him. Would it hurt you to learn about someone or something you know nothing already? You are saying it shouldn’t be made based on the fact You don’t know who he is – interesting logic there. I think what Cliff Young did in terms of inspiring people that age is not a barrier is even more relevant today in this ever ageist society, certainly he didn’t do it for a profit or notoriety the way Packer and Buttrose did.

  3. I’m with OzJ, this isn’t a story that should have been commissioned now, it should have been commissioned 20 years ago if at all. The difference between this and Paper Giants is that people know who Packer and Buttrose are; I wouldn’t have a clue who Cliff Young is.

  4. I agree, OzJ, I hardly think this is a story that is crying out to be told. I remember Cliff Young’s victory well, but he was a nine day wonder back in ’83 and I just don’t see it as a particularly compelling topic. I’m trying to think of an actor in the age group they could cast as Cliff. Gary Sweet? Barry Otto? Colin Friels? They need a marquee name to carry this, that’s for sure.

  5. Well as you put it that way… 🙂 There are a number of titles there I wasn’t aware of or forgotten about. I’m not sure I’d put Cliff Young at quite the same level as an Ita Buttrose or a Kerry Packer, but I get your point.

  6. I suppose it was always going to be tough to try and top last year’s efforts like Paper Giants and The Slap, but is this really the best story that ABC can see fit to spend its drama budget on?

    • Seems people have forgotten ABC’s drama budget is also being spent on The Straits, Phrynne Fisher, Rake, Jack Irish, Redfern Now, Mabo, Dust Devil. Not including children’s Drama. Audiences loved the Ita-Kerry series, so here’s another biopic.

  7. The time for a bio-pic of Cliff Young – if there ever really was one – would have been 25 years ago. At best, he was a one-minute wonder back then. It’s hardly a story worth telling at this distance. It seems a pretty uninspired move by the ABC. Are they really telling us they couldn’t come up with anything more relevant or more inspiring than this? Really??!!

  8. I remember this vividly. Just before the America’s Cup win. Absolute legend. Good to see a sports movie that’s not the usual boxing/horse/car racing. Who’s going to play Cliff???

  9. Yes. Where’s the groundbreaking in this commission? ABC should be taking more risks. Sure, there are some great Aussie stories to tell but is this one of them? And agree- do an interview with Carole. In fact David, why don’t you interview all those drama heads?

  10. I agree with Ronnie. What is it doing with all its drama cash which is augmented by Screen Australia finance and the Producer Offset of 20% of Australian expenditure? It seems to have no coherent view on commissioning at all. David why don’t you ask them a few hard questions and interview Carole Sklan?

  11. Really? Yawn. Is it just me? ABC drama commissioning lacks any kind of logic. It’s a “golden period” of brilliant and challenging drama commissioning around the world from broadcasters who don’t have to worry about 1. ratings, or 2 advertisers and the ABC squanders that opportunity with commissions like this. I don’t get it.

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