Hooked on ac­tion roles

Derek Hamil­ton mar­ries pugilism, per­for­mance

The Province - - ETODAY - GLEN SCHAEFER gschae­[email protected]­p­rovince.com twit­ter.com/glen­schae­fer

Former Golden Gloves cham­pion Derek Hamil­ton doesn’t have to act like a fighter.

His fight train­ing as a teen has lately sup­ple­mented his act­ing work, giv­ing Hamil­ton a unique side­line as both ac­tor and stunt­man, most re­cently on TV’s Ar­row.

“I’ve been get­ting the crap beat out of me by su­per­heroes,” the 40-year-old ac­tor says over a cof­fee.

Hamil­ton fought com­pet­i­tively as a teen back home in New Brunswick be­fore fol­low­ing an ac­tress girl­friend to Van­cou­ver nearly two decades ago. A cast­ing di­rec­tor spot­ted Hamil­ton when he ac­com­pa­nied her to an au­di­tion where his own film ca­reer was launched.

“I didn’t know what a mono­logue was, what sides were,” he ex­plains. “I ap­proached it like a boxer, went into the room, stepped out of my cor­ner and said, ‘here we go.’ I worked at it. I read a lot of books.”

Work as a night­club bouncer sup­ple­mented Hamil­ton’s act­ing gigs un­til his ca­reer took him to Los An­ge­les. The fight back­ground came in handy when he re­turned to Van­cou­ver in the mid­dle of the last decade to raise a fam­ily.

“I still do the speed bag. It’s good dis­ci­pline,” says Hamil­ton, who drew on his fight­ing past to mixed act­ing with stunt work — throw­ing punches and be­ing thrown him­self.

“It’s taught me a lot about act­ing,” Hamil­ton says. “When you’re young, you’re wound up and you’re tight but stunt work is about stay­ing loose — your mus­cles and your mind and ev­ery­thing else, so you can flow, so you don’t hurt some­body.”

That loose­ness came in handy for a role last year in the first episode of TV’s Ar­row. In that episode, Hamil­ton played the Red Mask, leader of a gang who kid­naps and in­ter­ro­gates the ti­tle char­ac­ter, a crime-fight­ing bil­lion­aire, played by Stephen Amell.

Hamil­ton and the stunt team worked on fight chore­og­ra­phy for a day be­fore Amell joined them to film the scene. Ar­row started out tied to a chair and ended up thump­ing the whole gang.

“Dur­ing that scene there was a point where I take a big swing at him. It’s right from my boot heels. One from the old days,” Hamil­ton says. “I swing at him, he ducks and my fist just clears the top of his head.”

They went through the scene sev­eral times and dur­ing one take, di­rec­tor David Nut­ter be­hind the mon­i­tor called out for Hamil­ton to throw the big punch.

“I im­me­di­ately fired that right hand, a big loop­ing hook. Stephen didn’t duck and I stopped that fist about three inches from his ear in mid-flight,” Hamil­ton re­calls. “That could have been a catas­tro­phe. I don’t think Stephen saw it hap­pen.”

Sim­i­lar prep work went into chore­ograph­ing a sea­son four episode of TV’s Smal­lville wherein Hamil­ton played a char­ac­ter with his own su­per­pow­ers who fights Tom Welling’s Clark Kent.

Com­puter-gen­er­ated ef­fects were added later to turn Hamil­ton’s fist to rock. In ad­di­tion, Hamil­ton had a di­a­logue-heavy arc as a seem­ingly be­nign char­ac­ter who turns mur­der­ous.

“It wasn’t just come in for the fight. I was a red her­ring. You thought I was a good guy.”

An­other kind of arc was in­volved in an episode of TV’s de­mon-themed drama Su­per­nat­u­ral last year. Hamil­ton played a fa­ther killed by his pos­sessed daugh­ter.

The scene in­volved the girl throw­ing her fa­ther against a wall. Hamil­ton wore a har­ness at­tached to a wire at his hip. A ratchet yanked the other end and threw him five me­tres through the air at the wall.

“They want you wild-look­ing in the air — the ass gets above the arms and legs.”

A new wall was slid in to re­place the dam­aged one for each of the three takes. “We ham­mered it, the whole wall moved.”

The brief scene ended when Hamil­ton’s char­ac­ter died on the ground and with ap­par­ent spe­cial ef­fects, his hands and feet sev­ered. All in a day’s work. He took a break from the beat­ings last year to play a trou­bled fa­ther in the fes­ti­val-hit in­die drama Be­com­ing Red­wood.

Now Hamil­ton and that movie’s writer-di­rec­tor Jesse James Miller are col­lab­o­rat­ing on a screen­play about a bare-knuckle champ who re­turns to his small-town home to look for his miss­ing brother. Hamil­ton will star, again mix­ing the fight­ing with the act­ing.

“(I’m) wi­den­ing the ar­se­nal and I’m really en­joy­ing it,” he says.


Stunt­man Derek Hamil­ton is of­ten around for more than just the fight scenes in his film and tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ances.

Derek Hamil­ton took what looked like quite a beat­ing in a scene from TV’s Su­per­nat­u­ral last year.

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