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His greatest achievements are still to come, says the controversial 61 year old film producer David Hannay; with two new feature films in pre-production (at June 2000), he has some 40 productions to his credit, ranging from the seminal cult favourite, Stone, to the Human Rights Award-winning South African gangster movie, Mapantsula. He agreed to this exclusive and comprehensive career interview with ANDREW L. URBAN, in which his life, his demons and his passions are fully exposed.

Part 2 of 3
You have produced something like a dozen films that you produced with first-time directors. Is this a deliberate strategy?
No, not at all.

[But] I am enthused - I donít want to say just by young people, because if a first-time director of any age came to me and had a great idea ...

I have recently done a picture with Carl Schultz [Love and Ambush 1997]. Heís a highly-experienced director whom I have known for a long time but we had never worked together before. It was an absolute joy. But, obviously, when one is working with people whose ideas are fresh and new that also gives one at this time of life another energy. It is almost like being a vampire, you know, sucking up their energy to keep alive!

After this long in the business with a couple of successes, but nothing that made you a world name, is there something that you wish for?

If I hadnít done anything other than Stone and Mapantsula, I would have felt Iíd done two things of extraordinary value and importance. Both are classics. Stone is more than a classic, it was also a commercially successful film, and, despite the vilification that it suffered when it came out, it is now being re-reviewed. Adrian Martin and Peter Castaldi have called it "an important film". From my point of view it has never been anything other than important, but what continues to keep me going is I want the bell to ring again.

Do you ever wonder if the bell will, indeed, toll for you again?
I suffer from extraordinary depression and always have done, and there are times when I just look at a wall for a day, when I havenít been able to get out of bed. What gets me out of those depressions is rage. It gives me energy. I get up and work from the adrenalin rush.

In my early teens, in 1953, I was in analysis. That is fairly unusual for people of my time and place. My father was worried about me, he had good reason to be, so he sent me off to a psychiatrist whom I fell in love with. Iím always eager to fall in love and I do. I get very very emotionally attached to people, which can be overwhelming for both them and for me. And this was a woman who, if she were alive today, would be well over 100. She actually knew Freud. She was a very wise, beautiful old woman. I still think about her.

My father sent me to her because I was incredibly sexually aggressive, which was disturbing to my parentís friends because of their children, apart from anything else. And I was subject to these terrifying depressions. I also had a hair-trigger temper. I was always looking for a fight.

What form did your sexual aggression take?
I was always putting it on people to, you know, "Wouldnít this be an interesting thing to do"! [Laughs.]

Did anyone say yes?
Yes, which deeply disturbed the parents even more.

Were they all girls?
No, no, no, no. Anybody; boys, girls. I went to boarding school. I first had sex when I was 9 years old. I think homosexuality and heterosexuality are lifestyle choices; they are not sexual choices. Sex is sex, and you make a choice. The choice I made was heterosexual, but I donít see anything disturbing about sex with a man.

The depressions didnít have anything to do with that, although that was one of the reasons I went to the psychiatrist. The depressions were just part of my make-up, the dark Scottish psyche, my New Zealand psyche. When I see characters in New Zealand films or literature that affect me greatly, like the Jake character [Temuera Morrison] in Once Were Warriors, I see myself. It is part of the darkness of where I come from, which is why I like the light and openness of Australia which is entirely different.

What have been the most negative and frustrating experiences as a filmmaker?
The most negative experience I have had as a filmmaker is not being able to get another picture up for Sandy. Why have I failed? What is wrong with me? I have failed this person who is such an important part of my life, this person with enormous talent, this extraordinary human being, and I have failed him totally and absolutely. It really is the major low point in my life; if I really dwell on it, I get very angry.

Why do you blame yourself?
Because I should have made a difference. Because I should have been able to make it happen. He is far more talented than 999 of the 1000 other people I know.

But has this ever been put to the test with him taking the project to another producer?
You understand, of course, that he is his own producer. It is not a question of whether he would go to another producer. If he felt so inclined, he would. But, apart from anything else, Sandy needs somebody who is prepared to fold themselves into what he wants to do and be committed to that. That is something you would have to talk to him about.

Concludes in Part 3, June 15, 2000.

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David Hannay - with Sigrid Thornton

with Sue Milliken

with James Coburn


David Hannay interview
Part 1 - June 1, 2000

David Hannay interview
Part 2 - June 8, 2000

David Hannay interview
Part 3 - June 15, 2000


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