WINGING IT WITH EMOTION
The filming of the offbeat Healing had Don Hany and Hugo Weaving captivated by the work’s powerful star, the wedge-tailed eagle
Don Hany says his new film Healing is more like a bromance than your typical prison movie. Best known for his TV work in East West 101 and Offspring, Hany stars alongside Hugo Weaving in the new Aussie film as Viktor Khadem, an Iranian man serving an 18-year prison sentence for murder.
Inspired by true events, Viktor is moved to a minimumsecurity prison called Won Wron for the final 12 months of his sentence, to help prepare him for life on the outside.
It’s there Senior Officer Matt Perry (Weaving) puts Viktor in charge of a unique bird program.
With two other inmates (played by Xavier Samuel and Mark Winter), Viktor is responsible for the rehabilitation of injured owls, falcons and one fearsome wedge-tailed eagle, Yasmin.
From day one, Hany began working with the three wedgetailed eagles who would star as Yasmin, learning to hold them, and feed them, and allowing the birds to accept him as part of the furniture.
Hany said the eagles were a big part of the role’s attraction.
“I knew the pressure was off as an actor, ’cause when you’re in a scene with one of those, no one’s looking at you,” he said, laughing.
“(Also) it’s impossible to take your attention off them, so it’s like you’re forced into a behaviour that makes you look very comfortable with what you’re doing, but you’re actually defecating inside.”
Weaving said watching Hany work with the eagles was incredible, particularly on the last day of the shoot.
In fading light, Hany called one of the birds, which lined him up from 75m out, before swooping in to land on his arm.
“It’s an absolutely fantastic piece of work from Don, who really worked a lot with them. I just pretended I knew all about them,” he said, adding he dealt with the eagles’ smaller cousins.
“I got the fluffy, little chirpy, little Boobook owls – the ones I could handle.”
The birds play a big part in Healing, but writer and director Craig Monahan also shows how the prisoners and Perry form an offbeat surrogate family at Won Wron Correctional Centre.
Hany said their relationships explored the pain men experienced expressing feelings such as love and loss.
“So thematically, despite the fact it’s set in a jail and it’s blokes and it’s about loyalty and brotherhood and there’s a strong father-son theme, it’s actually like a bromance.
“In the landscape of films and genres, I think this one fits into warm, runny, feel-good chick flick, which runs at odds to the way it’s been marketed as a prison film, with the expectation you’re going to see some manoa-mano, hard and fast violence.”
It’s not the only way Healing isn’t your average prison movie. You’re more likely to see vegetable gardens or cooking classes at Won Wron than watch towers and barbed wire.
Weaving said: “There are no boundary fences. If they want to run away they can, but they’ll be picked up and put back into medium-security so they don’t.”
He said low-security jails encouraged prisoners to take responsibility for themselves, one reason Healing caught his attention.
“(And) the whole thing comes from a true story and that really interested me,” he said.
“The sense of healing, of getting wounded inmates to heal wounded raptors and release them before they’re being released themselves.”
Healing opens in cinemas today.
Don Hany in the film Healing