David Hamilton, as with many producers, finds that his passion for filmmaking comes very close to an addiction. There can be no other explanation for the rapidity with which he jumps back into the fray after completing a film that very nearly killed him.
Hamilton became a producer almost by accident. He was headed for a career in engineering physics with an MBA from Harvard, and an engineering degree from McGill—and he has even written a mathematical academic book published by MIT with the daunting title “Decision Theory.”
Hamilton’s passion in youth was gymnastics and he was once eighth in Canada. Later on, he took an acting course that used circus skills as a tool for enhancing actors’ focus. This resulted in Hamilton becoming a tightrope walker in an amateur circus. Later still, he produced and promoted numerous concert series and performed in amateur theatre. For many years he also headed a series of companies, which he acquired, operated and sold in support of an investment diversification strategy of a very large real estate company. Something jelled when he met Deepa. In 1996 they co-founded Hamilton-Mehta Productions in Toronto and over the past 17 years they have become an internationally acclaimed powerhouse in producing successful films in a wide range of subjects and genres.
The company produced the Elemental Indian Trilogy, Fire, Earth, and Water. Water was the biggest commercial success of that series pulling more than $14 million from the worldwide box office. The comedy Bollywood/Hollywood is still one of the top ten grossing films in English Canada. Heaven on Earth was produced as an experimental film in 2008 and has become an important tool for professionals helping women who have been abused by their spouses. Hamilton-Mehta also produced Dilip Mehta’s documentary, The Forgotten Woman and the light-hearted Cooking with Stella, which had a gala premier at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
But today Hamilton says he is proudest of Midnight’s Children. “I don’t know if it is because it is my most recent and therefore most beloved child or because this film feels like the culmination of my long collaboration with Deepa, which is only further enhanced through the additional alliance with Salman Rushdie. We decided early on that Salman was the only one who could write the script. He resisted for a while, but succumbed to the argument that only he could be disrespectful enough to his own seminal work to pare down this epic story into a cohesive cinematic experience.”
Working with Salman was a real treat, adds Hamilton. “Salman was such fun to work with. He is, as you would expect, alarmingly intelligent—but he is also hysterically funny. During lunch with Salman he will describe the journey he took from his house walking to the venue and between the pauses to let the laughter die down you could write down the story verbatim and have it published in the New Yorker without editing a word. He is a powerful observer of humanity and human foibles. ”
The film has sold in over 55 countries and Hamilton is confident that audiences will feel that the film provides a full banquet of comedy, tragedy and hope and will leave the theater feeling satiated.
To get Midnight’s Children to the screen it took 64 locations—mostly on location in Sri Lanka, and required casting and preparing 127 actors. The film also had the added challenge of capturing Rushdie’s story in terms of themes of magic, realism, war, heavy deep drama, and humour. The narrative was all spaced out over five decades and drawn from the novel’s 700 pages. “Most people who have read it say the book is impossible to make into a film. It was certainly my most complex challenge ever and I have to admit that I sometimes wondered if we would survive it. But survive it we did and now it is time for the judgment of the world,” says Hamilton.
Hamilton also observes that although Midnight’s Children is a kind of love story about India, it could only have been made here. “It would never have been possible in India, nor the USA and probably not even in the UK. I am very proud Canada got behind this project.”
When asked to elaborate, Hamilton adds, “Well the wonderful thing about our country is that there is a very strong belief in our own created self image. In some ways Trudeau first visualized and defined this image. We began to believe in its veracity and then to do those things necessary to make it true. So that means when we say we embrace the world and we embrace people and stories from around the world as part of our fabric—we truly believe and support that.”