May 7, 2014
ANY day now, Don Hany — star of East West 101 and Offspring — will know whether the pilot he made for a US TV network, Warriors, is picked up for series.
If the show about doctors in a military hospital for veterans is green-lit, his contract stipulates it could rule the next seven years of his acting life.
“It goes into the lottery, like every other one,” Hany says, dampening expectations. “They make literally hundreds of them and they pick a handful. So the chances of it coming to fruition are pretty slim.”
Should he win the lottery and head Stateside, the 38-year-old has left us with plenty to go on with at home.
Last year’s ABC/HBO Asia co-production Serangoon Road was quickly followed by ABC TV movie The Broken Shore.
Foxtel miniseries Devil’s Playground — a timely look inside the local Catholic Church’s corridors of power as it faces abuse allegations — will air in the next few months.
And Healing, Hany’s second film in a 15-year career, is spreading its wings in cinemas.
By director Craig Monahan (whose 1998 film The Interview ate up every AFI Award in sight),Healing is inspired by a real prison rehabilitation program in Victoria in which prisoners helped nurse injured birds of prey back to health.
Hany practically signed on before even reading the script.
“I was excited about the team that was assembling,” he says of a cast that includes Hugo Weaving, Justine Clarke, Mark Leonard Winter and Xavier Samuel, plus Oscar-winning director of photography Andrew Lesnie.
Hany also liked the obvious metaphor the movie presented: “It was a study in how humans and birds respond in really similar ways to being caged.”
Hany plays Viktor, a prison veteran who other inmates are both scared of and prone to provoking. An Iranian whose drunken mistake lost him his family, he’s nearing the end of his sentence but is in no way prepared for the outside world.
The corrections team consider him a lost cause until one officer (Weaving) takes the overflow from the nearby Healesville Sanctuary and makes the inmates responsible for rehabilitating injured birds.
Hany aged up to play Viktor and used family links to learn to speak some Farsi for the role. Yet his own Middle Eastern lineage is Iraqi, not Iranian.
Hany says his background has never been a hindrance to his career in Australia: “I owe everything to having one foot in and one foot out. So many characters I’ve portrayed have been caught between worlds.
“And in North America, I’m just an all-American guy! There’s so much colourblind casting going on over there; the discussion about your background is way down the priority list. It’s refreshing.
“Maybe Australians take advantage of that more than anyone else because, culturally, we’re a bit of a blank page internationally … We’re an interesting hybrid; everyone’s from somewhere else.”
The avian experts on Healing reckon Hany was quick to get comfortable handling the three wedge-tailed eagles that played Viktor’s bird. Perhaps he got a little too comfortable — ending up in hospital late in the shoot.
“I happened to be talking about how cool the eagles were to work with and how relaxed I was around them when it happened,” Hany laughs.
“Gracie, the oldest of the three eagles, was standing on my glove and we were both taken by surprise by a little gust of wind. She scrambled, trying to find a grip, and in the melee I copped a stray talon.”
He indicates the spot under his eye Gracie scratched and unleashed a torrent of blood, but there’s no discernible scar.
“It bled a bit … I don’t think I really needed to go to hospital.”
In fact, it appears Hany’s human co-star Weaving left a more indelible impression.
“He introduced me to a philosophy about working that has changed what I will take to every job from now on.
“He’s such a fan of Australian cinema and a believer in making something that resonates. You couldn’t help but be energised by that.”