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Don Hany

Don Hany

With his new film, Healing, opening this week, X-Press caught up with actor Don Hany for a chat.

Hany plays the role of Viktor Khadem, a man who has been behind bars for 18 years and is working on a pre-release farm tending injured birds. “To get the chance to play a character with such a unique conflict and such a unique background. Also the chance to play a middle eastern man without a religious denomination. Someone who wasn’t heavily religious, which is not often seen in terms of a protagonist in Australia. Of course the chance to work with eagles. You know the raptors were an exciting prospect.

“I didn’t think of Viktor as specifically Persian. I thought of him more as a man who had forfeited that culture in order to survive behind bars. Most of the time I saw him as utterly confused by Australian idioms and the culture (and rules) that take place in Australian prisons.”

Much of Hany’s acting in Healing was about keeping emotions below the surface. He became very aware of his body language and eye contact in filming. Often using eye contact to display dominance or subservience. “It becomes animal display. The a priori behaviour and instinct that are very important for survival in prison. It was very important for Craig (Monahan, director) that Viktor be older and less intimidating, because of that and at moments reveal that he had the potential to kill people. But my prep for that was to start eating rubbish, refrain from physical exercise and take up smoking. So it means I was half dead for most of the shoot.”

One of the most unique experiences for Hany was working with the birds. Numerous birds were used in the shoot, with the main eagle, Yasmin, being the work of three separate eagles. “I was trained how to keep out of the eagles’ eye line. I was lucky, I had the length of the film to build the relationship in. At the very end of the film she flies onto my glove and we shot that at the very end of the film (the very last day of shooting).  Most of the training was to accustom the eagles to my characteristics as they are completely wild. It was more about them letting me into their space.”

Healing also provided Hany with the opportunity to work with Hugo Weaving. “He is such a generous guy and a real asset to the industry. He formed a culture on set that trickled down to everyone. Respect everyone’s process and where they come to the story at. It changed my work ethic and I’m sure it changes everyone that he works with. His magnanimity becomes quiet infectious. That’s the way it should be but rarely is. ”

Healing is just one of the various projects Hany has this year. He has also been part of an apparent sequel to the 1976 Fred Schepisi classic The Devil’s Playground. He also has a pilot that he has recently filmed for American TV, about doctors working to rehabilitate critically injured soldiers (loosely based on the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre).

DAVID O’CONNELL

Read our review of Healing here.