Summer Guidance: Don Hamilton

click to enlarge Summer Guidance: Don Hamilton (2)
Hamilton played a UPS driver in Benny & Joon, which came out 30 years ago.

Thirty years ago, Don Hamilton appeared in Benny & Joon in the small role of a UPS driver. To mark the Spokane-filmed movie's 30th anniversary this July, Hamilton is helping coordinate a special screening and other commemorative events. When he's not working on passion projects like this — or camping and fishing — Hamilton leads a creative team at Hamilton Studios, his full-service production studio in West Central Spokane. (NATHAN WEINBENDER)

What's your favorite summertime activity?

I like to go camping, and I like to go fishing when I'm camping. The beauty of Spokane is there are so many lakes within such a short radius. It's Spokane summer at its best.

Is there a specific lake you visit every summer?

We like to get up to Waitts Lake, because that's a place where you can actually kill fish. Some people do catch and release. We do catch and fillet.

Are there any movies you associate with summer?

I remember standing outside in the hot summer to see Jaws in Orange County, California. That was the beginning of all summer movies. And it did not disappoint.

Talk about the upcoming Benny & Joon event. What can people expect?

Ashley Graham [with Live Nation] reached out saying, "Hey, it's been 30 years. Does anybody have any stories?" And of course, when you talk to me, oh, yeah, I've got stories. We started doing these interviews with people, and the more I interview people, the more you hear the truth from the different perspectives of the people that came to visit and the people that were here. We're going to have some sort of a little documentary that we're going to screen after the movie that will show some of these reminiscences.

Beyond actually appearing in the movie, do you have any memories of the production in Spokane?

The original script [ended] with Joon setting the house on fire. There was a soundstage built off Hamilton where they took all the interiors and burned them, you know and made them look like there's a house fire. And then there was this incredible scene down in Peaceful Valley one night where they had it totally rigged with pyrotechnics. I heard the number was $1 million, but they flushed it because they didn't think they could tell that story.

What do you think makes Spokane a good movie location?

It's a beautiful location with variety. Downtown can double as New York City depending on where you set it up. And L.A. people love coming to our little place because it's not like shooting in Tarzana, where people say, "Get off my lawn."

[The filming of Benny & Joon] really is a hell of a story, when a big company from L.A. came to our magnificent little American city. And it was just a love fest, for the people that came and the people that were already here. ♦

Spring on the Ave @ Sprague Union District

Sat., April 20, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
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