- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Disheveled and depressed. Desolate and defeated. Weary and worn.
Is that really Bruce Hammock, the distinguished professor who holds a joint appointment in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center?
He and his wife, Lassie, portray cameo roles as drought-ravaged farmers in the newly released indie, The Last Survivors, directed by their son, Tom Hammock. Starring Jon Gries, Haley Lu Richardson and Booboo Stewart, The Last Survivors has been described as a low-budget cross between Mad Max and The Hunger Games. (See trailer on YouTube)
And where are Bruce and Lassie Hammock in the film? They're in the grave-digging scene. They're standing at the back, Bruce comforting his wife as they mourn the death of a fellow farmer and worry about their future.
The official synopsis: "At the edge of an expansive barren valley, all that remains of The Wallace Farm for Wayward Youth is a few hollowed-out husks of buildings. Seventeen- year-old Kendal (Haley Lu Richardson) can barely recall when the Oregon valley was still lush. It's been a decade since the last rainfall, and society at large has dried up and blown away. Kendal and the few others that remain barely scrape by while dreaming of escape. When a greedy water baron lays claim to what little of the precious resource remains underground, Kendal must decide whether to run and hide or bravely fight for the few cherished people and things she has left. Co-starring Booboo Stewart (The Twilight Saga), Max Charles (The Amazing Spider-Man, Mr. Peabody & Sherman) and genre veteran Barbara Crampton (You're Next, Re-Animator), The Last Survivors is a suspenseful look at a futuristic world where only the most resourceful survive.."
For The Last Survivors, Director Tom Hammock asked both his parents and brother Bruce to serve in cameo roles. The younger Bruce, a postdoctoral researcher working on insect ecology in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, plays a "bad guy on a water truck."
Professor Bruce Hammock is better known in academic and administrative circles as the director of the campuswide Superfund Research Program, National Institutes of Health Biotechnology Training Program, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Combined Analytical Laboratory. He just recently formed the company, EicOsis LLC, to target neuropathic and inflammatory pain and received a $4 million federal grant to advance his compound discovery through Phase 1 clinical trials. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, and the recipient of the 2001 UC Davis Faculty Research Lecture Award and the 2008 Distinguished Teaching Award for Graduate and Professional Teaching. He's also an athlete who engages in white-water rafting and hiking.
Here at UC Davis, we call Bruce Hammock "The Genius." That's because he is. And now, he's an actor.
For the December 2013 shoot in the Mojave Desert (meant to depict a drought apocalypse in Oregon), the professor grew a beard, donned his father's old ragged World War II clothes and worn-out shoes, and practiced looking forlorn and haggard.
How would he describe his future in acting? "Brief and undistinguished," he joked, adding
The Last Survivors, initially named The Well, is getting a lot of play. It's now on Showtime, Netflix and Amazon.
The crew worked hard, Bruce Hammock recalled. “We were on the set at 5:30 a.m. We worked until dark, in weather well below freezing, with high winds blowing sand. The professional actors and actresses put in amazing performances under quite adverse conditions. They're a very professional and fun group. I had never realized the complexity of filming a movie. I hope they pull off their vision.”
Son Tom Hammock initially thought of becoming a biologist. A 1994 graduate of Davis High School, he studied biology at UC Berkeley, and then switched to landscape architecture. After receiving his bachelor's degree in landscape architecture, he headed off to the American Film Institute to study film design. His credits including serving as the production designer for the critically acclaimed horror films, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane and You're Next, and working on such film productions as Breaking Bad, Dexter, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He is now very much involved in the hugely popular young adult and horror film genre, but showed more of his talent when he authored the original graphic novel, “An Aurora Grimeon Story—Will O' the Wisp." (See previous Bug Squad blog)
Warning: Before you sit down to watch The Last Survivors, be sure to have a bottle of water at the ready, and a jar of canned peaches, too. You will be craving both.
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