David Hannay was an Australian film producer best known for his work on such legendary titles as The Man From Hong Kong, Stone, Mapantsula and Cubbyhouse. Yesterday (31st March 2014) he passed away from Cancer after a near 2 year battle. You may not know the name, or possibly even the films he worked on but it’s safe to say that WITHOUT him, the Australian film industry and movies of directors like Quentin Tarantino might look very different.
I worked with Hannay (as he affectionally liked to be called) on my own film, Ten Dead Men, along side director and friend Ross Boyask and found him to be a “tough bastard” (his own words) at times but also never less than inspirational and great company. With his massive grey beard, and booming personality he was always full of stories from his time in the industry, be it as an actor, director or producer, all told in his own very unique way. Having met Hannay at Cannes, he introduced us the sales agent that would end up selling Ten Dead Men globally and worked with us developing some other projects such as fIXers, frequently calling us from his home in Australia to go over script notes, edits and generally to shoot the shit. His feel for a project and knowledge was unsurpassed. I’d never worked with anyone like him.
He was born in New Zealand. His first job in the industry was as an extras casting assistant on Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. Hannay became head of production for Gemini Productions from 1970-73 and 1975-76. In 1974 he was general manager for The Movie Company, a production subsidiary of Greater Union. From 1977 he was an independent producer. In 1988 he won the Human Rights Australia Film Award, the AFI Raymond Longford Award in 2007 and the Ken G Hall Film Preservation Award in 2011.
Alas after a silly disagreement whilst finishing Ten Dead Men, I lost contact with Hannay for near four years.
He was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, with a dire prognosis that, in typical stubborn Hannay style, he would outlive by some time. When I heard Hannay was ill I wanted to try and record some conversations with him for the Filmsploitation podcast I now run, to ensure his legacy (a legacy that I am proud to say I was at least a small part of) and personality would be known to a wider audience. I wanted to address his career, his past as a Hell’s Angel, his life in general and other things, not least what is was like being a frequently named inspiration for directors like Quentin Tarantino. I finally did reconnect with Hannay but in the end it was too late and, whilst we started talking again via email on the days he felt strong enough to reply, he didn’t ever get the energy up to speak to me. Thankfully, in part I guess, I have now read there are plans for a book on Hannay which is good news. His life was like no other.
Hannay was a fascinating man, someone that was not always easy to deal with but whose knowledge and spark for life (he frequently jogged 10 + miles a day even in his 70’s) inspired numerous filmmakers that he took under his wing. Whilst we didn’t always see eye to eye, even once or twice having rather ‘passionate’ debates, I always held a deep respect for Hannay both as a person and as a mentor. Looking back as I write this I not sure I always expressed that in the right way to him, if at all.
Although those of us that had the pleasure of meeting or working with him never will forget either the man or his work, I fear that time will never correctly recognise Hannay’s legacy despite the considerable impact his films have had on the world, as later in his career he shunned more mainstream projects and fame to focus on instead grooming the next generation of filmmakers. But his legacy is one that deserves to go out fighting, just like the man himself no doubt did. In the days when the likes of a Cory Monteith warrant multiple pages in newspapers and magazines despite their little impact on the industry (and world) in general, Hannay’s passing has been a quieter affair.
An obituary described him as “one of the pioneers of the modern Australian film industry, a passionate cinephile, mentor and loyal friend.” I’d probably just go with “a tough but charming S.O.B”
He is survived by his wife Mary Moody, his children and grandchildren. Oh… and a legacy of some of the best genre films the industry ever produced.
For more on Hannay check out http://www.vfe.com.au/hannay.htm