Vale David Hannay

01 April, 2014 by Don Groves

Producer David Hannay will be remembered as one of the pioneers of the modern Australian film industry, a passionate cinephile, mentor and loyal friend.

The NZ-born filmmaker whose career spanned seven decades died on Monday, aged 74, after a long battle with cancer.


He entered the film industry at Artransa Park Studios in 1958 as an extras casting assistant on Ray Lawler's Summer of the Seventeenth Doll.

As a producer and executive producer he was involved in more than 50 film and television productions. His feature film credits include Stone, The Man From Hong Kong, Solo, Death of a Soldier, Emma’s War, Mapantsula, Shotgun Wedding, Gross Misconduct, Dead Funny, Savage Play, Love in Ambush and the feature documentary Stone Forever.

He was Head of Production for Gemini Productions (which merged with the Grundy Organisation in 1977) from 1970 to 1973 and again from 1975 to 1976, and general manager of the Greater Union production subsidiary The Movie Company in 1974. Since 1977 he had been an independent producer and chairman of his own production company.

“One of the last of the ever decreasing members of that small group of producers who was there at the start of the new Australian industry, David was a legendary trailblazer,an industry stalwart, a mentor to many, and a loyal friend,” said producer Antony I. Ginnane.

Producer Sue Milliken said, "He was a fighter and an optimist. No matter how bad things were, he always put on a cheerful face. I will always remember him, beard in full flight, strolling up the Rue d'Antibes at Cannes, where he went every year until he got sick; he probably holds the record for an Australian filmmaker.

"I could never understand his enthusiasm for that most disdainful of festivals, but he loved it. A solid member of the producing fraternity and a founding member of SPAA, the industry won't be quite the same without him."

The Man From Hong Kong director Brian Trenchard-Smith first met Hannay in 1972 when both worked at Channel 9 in Sydney. "A  bond was forged and we worked together then and since on a number of projects," he said. "He was there from the beginning of the Australian film industry renaissance and made a lasting contribution, both in personal output and in assisting the careers of others. Whenever we worked together I was struck by his inexhaustible determination, which continued to the end. He had a commanding presence, enhanced by a beard, which at its longest was truly spectacular. He was genial, urbane, with a good sense of humour.

"As a producer he could work in any medium, had great taste and strong leadership skills. But what drove him was a love for cinema. The films that he was the most passionate about dealt with social or political issues. He had genuine concern for the working man and indigenous rights. Above all, David was a kind man. I shall miss him. My deepest sympathy to Mary and the whole Hannay clan."

Murray Forrest, a long-time friend and industry colleague, said, "He was always the supreme optimist even in most difficult times not the least being the last few months of his illness. He was an energetic producer and lobbyist working to support and preserve the art of filmmaking. I will miss his customary telephone greeting of  'Hannay here.'''

Among his many honours, he received the Ken G Hall Film Preservation Award, the AFI Raymond Longford Award, the Australian Screen Sound Guild’s Syd Butterworth Lifetime Achievement Award, the Screen Producers Association’s first Maura Fay award for service to the industry, film pioneer of the year from the Society of Australian Cinema Pioneers and a lifetime achievement award from the Producers and Directors Guild of Australia.

“I began my career in the movies behind the scenes in 1958, and it was not until 1968 that I had the temerity to call myself a producer,” he said in a 2007 interview. “I worked my way up through the system, from runner to production manager. You need to get out and practice your craft. You need to learn all aspects of filming to be a good producer. You have to earn respect that you know what you are doing, and that you know how a film is made from the bottom up. This will enable you to understand what your crew is achieving for you.

“While the film industry is a business you need passion to work in it. I say 'I don’t do it for a living, I do what I do to live. It is my passion.' I love my work. I want people to do it right, to learn from their mistakes like I did by getting out and doing it. But, the thing is, to not make the same mistake more than once.”

His final credit, according to, was executive producer of the 2012 musical documentary Once Around the Sun, which featured Billy Thorpe, Jeff St John and The Copperwine and Max Merritt and The Meteors.

He is survived by his partner Mary Moody, his brother Charles Hannah, sister Gillian Webster, four children and 11 grandchildren.

A memorial service to celebrate his life is expected to be held in Sydney in a month or so, date to be advised.








  • BK

    Thoughts go to Mary and family.

  • Jessica

    He was a wonderful man, super generous & a mentor to me. Very sad news indeed.

  • David Blake

    What a joy it was to be around Horrible Hannay! The most lovely friend for 30+ years since MAD DOG MORGAN in Cannes. DEATH OF A SOLDIER was the other one where we worked together. His last birthday party in Cannes surrounded by a restaurant full of his followers was a blast. Mary – what was the story about all the shoes in one suitcase? He should have been in front of the camera! So sad not to have spoken to him one last time – what a great beard! Magic man.

  • suzie hooper

    just don’t believe that he has gone to another place…loved this man since 1970 or could have been earlier the memory is not so good these days…worked with him at Gemini Productions and became very good friends with Mary and family….he is a great loss to a lot of people…just wish that I could have said toodooloo… love to mary and family…let me know about the memorial email is xxxxxxxxxxxxx

  • David Huggett

    David Hannay was the only person I could happily tolerate calling me ‘dear bloke’, and his passing has left a huge void in my life. He was the only producer who recognised the validity of my film Once Around The Sun and he pushed hard to bring it to the (DVD) screen – not for any money, but because he was a courageous and dedicated cineaste. The film was shot at the beginning of both our careers in Sydney in 1970 and was finally digitally restored in 2012. His enthusiasm for the film was unbounded, even as his health deteriorated so dramatically; One day, after he was diagnosed with cancer, he said to me, ” I don’t want Once Around The Sun to be my last film…”, but as it turned out, it was, and for that I feel very proud. But I, like him, dearly wish it hadn’t been his last film.

  • Julian Ellingworth

    Typifying the Australian Film industry, “Hannay” a bearded larrikan of immense vision and sound judgement. What a pleasure it was to work with David on Stone, Emmas War, Death Of a Soldier, and The Man From Hong Kong. There may have been others, I can’t be bothered to check my CV. What’s important is not how many films I did with David, but the working relationship and understanding he brought to the mixing process each and every time. I spoke with David at the recent AACTA awards and whilst he was a shadow of his former self, he maintained his customary humour and positive attitude. Shocked to hear he is no longer with us.

  • David O’Brien

    The great thing about David was how solidly he believed in a project, his commitment was absolute even when the walls were falling in. We had serious differences but his distinct presence and unique personality made everything much more than ordinary. I’m saddened to hear he’s gone. I was out of contact, unaware of his illness. But he’s the kind of presence that strides into the memory and insists on his place, the kind of larrikin this industry needs, a risk taker who wasn’t always on the money but who knew, lived and loved his movies better than almost anyone I’ve met.

  • Oscar Scherl

    Dear Bloke, I’m so glad we had a talk and said goodbye when I last saw you and Mary at the Australian Cinema Pioneers Dinner. You are surely missed by me and by many. Oscar, EP DOAS etc.

  • Phil Avalon

    This is extremely sad news. For those that came in contact with Hannay,they never forget.
    That wonderfull voice, that energy, encouragement, that warmth from a true OZ movie veteran.
    He gave me and so many others assistance & advise in the early 70’s. He was so helpfull when I decided to move into production.
    At the festivals, we often found the time to laugh and talk about those early days when we would do anything to work in the film industry.
    David loved film, loved the people in the film industry & loved life. We miss you Hannay, but will always remember you.
    R.I.P from Phil Avalon

  • Tom Broadbridge

    What can one say about David except that he was larger than life.
    One always felt David’s presence before he actually appeared as he had such a dynamic personality. David was always interesting, outrageous, funny and kind. A true gentleman with a larrikin streak who will be sadly missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. The Australian Film Industry has lost one of its pioneers.
    Our sincere condolences to Mary and family and to Charles.
    Tom and Jacqui Broadbridge

  • Ross Linton

    What a sad loss to our industry. As a producer, he was one of the few exceptions to the adage, “His lips are moving, therefore he’s lying”. As an audiophile, he is the only non-sound practitioner to be honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award by our own Guild, the ASSG: such was our recognition of his appreciation for ‘Sound On Film’. I was a location recordist, and having such a sound fanatic on set – who was also the producer – gave me any clout I needed to get all the wild lines, wild fx and atmospheres we needed for a soundtrack. But beyond this, working for him on three cinema features and two mini-series also allowed me to get to know the man. It is the Hannay I will miss.

  • Alex Daw

    I would just like to pay tribute to Hannay for his tremendous support of Queensland filmmakers, particularly producers, since late last century. He ventured to Brisvegas in the early 90s at the request of the then Film Queensland to lead a Producing course coordinated by AFTRS. Hannay was ebullient, charming, generous to a fault, larger than life and gave us all such great inspiration, hope and above all an enduring love of film and all those wonderful people who work together to make it happen. Subsequently it was always a great joy to bump into him at the Movie Convention where he enthusiastically paid tribute to exhibitors and loved hearing what they thought of the latest offerings from the industry. He will be sorely missed but his legacy lives on.


    I have known David since the fifties when we both lived in Wellington New Zealand. We went to the same parties, had the same friends and from memory David would occasionally call into The Empress Ballroom, where I was the band vocalist three nights a week.

    Subsequently we both moved to Auckland and I would often visit the studio that he and a mutual friend Claude Papesch ran together.

    Round about 1962 we both moved to Sydney and resumed our friendship. We liked the same music (modern jazz of course) and had similar left wing views of the world. David was a true intellectual, and I would often marvel at his ability to eloquently denounce some of the political tall poppies of the day.

    Our friendship survived the ending of both our first marriages, and Mary David, Lou and I had many happy and hilarious dinner parties both in Sydney and the Blue Mountains; particularly if we had a couple of joints to share!

    I was both saddened and honoured when David rang me to break the news that he had inoperative cancer, and that “as his oldest friend” he wanted me to be among the first to know. He and Mary both knew that I had been born again as a Christian many years ago (in fact Mary never ceases to rib me about my new-found faith; in the gentlest way of course!) so he was not surprised when I told him I would be praying for him. I asked him what he would like me to pray for. “For healing!” he replied without hesitation, so that is what I have been doing right up until the day of his passing. Lou and I were able to visit Mary and him for a few days last November, and he was well enough to show us around their property. David and I were able to share a joint after the girls had gone to bed ( my first for at least twenty years; promise!) but the flow of wisdom which I remembered from my early days as a dope smoker failed to eventuate, and we ended up collapsing in helpless laughter! That is a good and lasting memory I will cherish of David.

    Mary tells me that David enjoyed our many chats on the phone, and that I always managed to make him laugh and cheer him up, so that he could forget his situation for a little while. I would always ask him if I could pray for him, and he seemed to receive some comfort from my prayers. Although “the Tyranny of Distance” prevented us from seeing much of each other in the last few years, David was always ready to offer encouragement to me as I tried to make a career for myself as a singer. He was also full of praise for my son John, who has himself gone on to achieve success in the film industry.

    David Hannay was a “one off” and I will miss him very much.


  • Michael Rowland (Falloon)

    I worked for David and an assistant director on a number of productions, from the TV series Spoiler and People Next Door at Channel 9, to the telemovies Alison’s Birthday and Is Anybody There, and the feature Man from Hong Kong. He asked me to be 1st AD on Stone but I found the ending too violent and refused, but our relationship remained one of great friendship for 40 years. His warm hearted welcoming, strong views and great sense of humor were always present. He was intelligent, insightful, thoughtful, kind, generous and considerate. He gave me wonderful opportunities and I will always be grateful for having known him. He was one of the few really unique characters of the industry. An oak has fallen in the forest. Much love to Mary and the family. I am sure they will miss him terribly. Michael Rowland (Falloon)

  • Sonya Parer

    As one of the many Hannay mentored in his life, I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing. What a colourful, talented and generous man. My sincere sympathy to Mary and the big, extended Hannay clan whom I know he loved enormously.

  • Jessica

    Yes, a sad loss. David could be your employer but always a friend. He is remembered with fondness for his ability to listen attentively, to “hear you out” and to always if he could, “lend a hand”. I worked in 2 of his films and he was always a joy to be around. A marvellous creative person. My sympathy to Mary, his brother Charles, sister Gillian and family members. BRIAN ADAMS

  • karen soich

    I first met David in Cannes in 1994 when our film, “Once Were Warriors” was screened. He was the most beautiful man who passions lay so close to the surface. He was overcome by our film and sat sobbing for some time at the end of it. That ability to connect with another’s pain and not be afraid to show it was memorable. But he was also the most delicious bon vivant, kind, funny and endearing.Yet another of our tall Kauri has fallen. The world is smaller for your passing dear man.

  • Ben Simons

    I met David last month at the AACTA Bar in Sydney, following the
    AACTA Oscar’s Party (3Mar2014). He’d trimmed his beard. We had a long and interesting conversation about production. What a legend! The Man from Hong Kong! And Stone? Now that’s nearly mythical. He mentioned cancer and how he was running out of time with so much to do; he had a couple of interesting projects on the go. David was in great spirits, both funny & wise. There was little indication his time was near, despite what he said. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet an Australian film legend.

  • Murray Fahey

    Hannay, tenacious, stubborn, passionate, a friend all the things a producer should be. My heart goes out to Mary, Charles and the family. He will be missed. Murray Fahey

  • Kevin M. Powell

    Thank you for being around when you were needed and for the good years of “Number 96′ and then continued ‘Walking to the Mountain’ with me.

    I shall treasure the memories.

  • Mary Moody

    I am deeply comforted by Don’s obit and all the wonderful messages. Thank you all. I agree that David was unique and will be greatly missed within the industry. All of us – his family – will never quite feel the same without ‘Hannay Here’!