Becaonsfield 
Images

Lachy Hulme and Shane Jacobson as Todd Russell and Brant Webb in Beaconsfield.

IT'S hard to imagine two less likely advocates for the talking cure than Brant Webb and Todd Russell, but the men at the centre of the Beaconsfield goldmine disaster have learnt the hard way the value of getting it off your chest.

Webb is the kind of man who brushes everything off with a ready laugh; Russell the taciturn type, more given, you imagine, to brooding than sharing. But in the aftermath of their rescue from the small wire cage in which they were trapped deep underground for 15 days following an explosion on Anzac Day 2006, the pair were given some advice that proved invaluable.

''Luckily we had some good people around us who said, 'Look, get all that shit off your liver' - excuse the French,'' says Webb in typically robust fashion. ''They told us, 'Tell the story - the more times you tell it, the better off you'll be'.''

That proved, he says, absolutely true, and he only wishes more trauma survivors would take the same advice. ''The big problem is Australian men have got too much pride,'' he says. ''We've just got to bust those little walls down.''

The story of how their colleagues struggled to bust down a lot of big walls in their bid to rescue the pair, and how they - and their families - got through it all has now been turned into a telemovie. On Wednesday, Webb and Russell and their wives, Rachel and Carolyn, were among a group of about 20 people who watched Beaconsfield for the first time in a small cinema at Crown. The actors who play them - Shane Jacobson is Webb, Lachy Hulme Russell - were there too for what proved a most unusual experience for all concerned.

Nine will hope for big ratings when it screens the telemovie next month, close to the sixth anniversary of the event, but the network has already had the thumbs-up from the men at the centre of the story. ''I can't believe they've squeezed all the emotions we had over 321 hours into such a short time,'' says Webb. ''It's a real emotional wave that goes through you. And if they got that emotion to go through me, then it's going to go through the ordinary Joes who've never been mining.''

''I've got mixed emotions,'' says Russell, who immediately popped outside for a smoke after the screening. ''It was very interesting to see the final product after working with them behind the scenes. A lot of our input has gone into it.''

Shane Jacobson says making Beaconsfield was one of the most draining experiences of his career. ''I'd come home every day feeling quite emotional, having endured about .0000001 per cent of what they had been through,'' says the funnyman. ''I'd be reading my lines for the next day and there'd be tears rolling down my cheeks. I'd turn the TV on and watch the news, see a kid had been hurt, and find myself tearing up very quickly. 'Emotionally raw' is the term I would use.''

For all that, he says, ''I have no idea what it would actually be like to be stuck down a mine. Brant will tell you he thought he was going to die every single millisecond he was down there. He never ever thought he was going to come out alive.''

Jacobson spent time with Webb but did very little physical preparation for the shoot last August. Melbourne actor-writer Hulme had to beef up, gaining 20 kilograms to look more like Russell (and less like Dr Martin Clegg, who he plays in the series Offspring).

For most of the film, the two were on their backs, in a replica of the wire cage in which Webb and Russell were trapped by a pile of rubble. ''I don't get claustrophobic, thank goodness,'' Jacobson says.

Watching Beaconsfield must have stirred up all sorts of memories and emotions for Webb and Russell, but both claimed to be fine with it. It's the wives, Russell suggests, who found it more gruelling, picturing afresh what their husbands experienced, and remembering anew the grief that mingled with hope as they waited for them to be recovered.

''We are at ease with it. We've already lived it in real life, so it's easy to sit back and watch it on a TV screen,'' Russell insists. ''It gives you guys a perspective on what we went through. Brant and I already know what we went through. It brings up quite a few raw emotions, but each day is a bonus and as time goes on it just gets easier.''

Webb, who has just landed a new job selling safety equipment, feels much the same way. Asked if seeing the story played out this way gave it some sort of closure, he says ''it's more like a new beginning''. The telemovie, he says, ''is not really about us; half of it is about the rescuers - my heroes''.

After the screening, Russell - who works in mining equipment sales and still goes underground occasionally - says ''me and the wife will obviously sit down and have a talk about it and reflect on what we've seen''. He also plans to watch it again with his kids.

And if one of those kids says they want to go down the mines, what will he say? ''I wouldn't let 'em. I drum into them that they need to do well at school and get an education. You don't want to be stuck mining.''

And that's something he and Webb would know better than most.

Beaconsfield screens on Nine in late April.