Sunday, April 20, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Distinguished prof, scientist, athlete and now, actor

UC Davis entomology professor Bruce Hammock dressed down to portray a corpse in his son Tom's film. Courtesy photo

Bruce Hammock is not just a distinguished professor of entomology at UC Davis.

He’s not just a renowned scientist who holds a joint appointment with the UCD Comprehensive Cancer Center and directs the campus-wide Superfund Program, the National Institutes of Health Biotechnology Training Program and the National Institute of Environmental Sciences combined analytical laboratory.

He’s not just an athlete who loves rock climbing and whitewater rafting and hosts the annual Bruce Hammock Water Balloon Battle in front of Briggs Hall for his students, researchers and colleagues.

He’s now embarking on an acting career.

His son, noted production designer Tom Hammock of Los Angeles, asked Bruce to appear in a water wars movie. This is the first movie Tom has both written (with long-term collaborator Jacob Forman) and directed.

Tom, a member of the faculty of the New York Film Academy acting and film school, holds a master’s degree in fine arts (2004) from the American Film Institute Conservatory. To date, he has served as the production designer of 12 feature films, including “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane,” purchased by the Weinstein Company, and five television pilots.

However, the 1994 graduate of Davis High School didn’t set out to be in production design; he majored in landscape architecture at UC Berkeley, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 2000.

So what role did the son ask the father to play?

A corpse.

The senior Hammock grew a beard, donned his father’s old ragged World War II clothes and worn-out shoes, and practiced looking like a corpse. He and his wife, Lassie then drove to a secluded place in the high desert, near Mojave, to participate in the production. They both ended up as corpses.

Several days earlier, their other son, Bruce Graham Hammock, who received recently his doctorate in ecology from UCD, appeared in the film. The younger Bruce Hammock, required to be “clean-shaven and scary,” found himself carrying a weapon rather than being a victim.

“It was very interesting,” said Bruce the elder. “But my, they work hard. We were on the set at 5:30 a.m. Tom and his colleagues were there an hour earlier. 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.”

Hammock is a fellow of the Entomological Society of America, a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, and the recipient of the 2001 UCD Faculty Research Lecture Award and the 2008 Distinguished Teaching Award for Graduate and Professional Teaching. He said he doesn’t think his acting career is so established that he’ll be nominated for an Academy Award.

At least not soon.

And the beard? Will he shave?

“Lassie and I were instructed to look old, beaten-up and scruffy for the shoot, but shaving the beard might make me a little less scruffy,” he said, adding, “I don’t hold much hope for improving on the old, beaten-up description.”

Kathy Keatley Garvey

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