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John Hurt lends his voice to new look at Irish racing stars

The Elephant Man actor John Hurt has lent his voice to a new documentary tracking the lives of three Irish racehorses.

Director Liz Mermin spent a year filming the horses' interaction with their trainers, jockeys and owners for the project.

British thespian John Hurt (70) narrates the documentary which will air on RTE this week.

Hurt, who recently starred in Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, has set up home in Wicklow.

The programme, which is set in the National Hunt stable in Co Wexford, focuses on a family business which is led by the trainer Paul Nolan.

Writer and director Ms Mermin said that throughout the filming process the individual personalities of the animals were uncovered.

"As I got deeper into the film, particularly in the edit, I became convinced that this seemingly frivolous project was in fact of the deepest psychological and existential importance," she said.

"Though it may not change anyone's world, I do hope that Horses will be appreciated as a story of three characters trying to earn their keep in a rather unforgiving world."

The director said that she focused on looking for horses that were busy preparing to race and had different personality types.

She wanted to track their daily lives over one year.

"It was an interesting process because, unlike when you go to shoot a documentary somewhere and you say to everyone, 'Pretend we're not here and go about your business', you can't explain that to the horses," she said.

The horses, Ardalan, Cuan na Grai and Joncol, were at various stages in the training process and the documentary crew followed the stable life from their perspective.

Although the horses were wary of the cameras at first, they settled into their work, meeting the people responsible for crucial decisions in their careers, and following their fates over the course of a year.

Ms Mermin said that in some ways it was easier to work with animals that people, as she didn't have to cope with actors' egos.

The programme airs on RTE 1 tomorrow at 10.15pm.