Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Deaf wrestler subject of film shot in area

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Matt Hamill was born deaf, so his grandfather signed him up for the elementary school wrestling team to raise his self-esteem and help him fit in the hearing world.

It worked. In fact, Hamill’s career has been so compelling that a production company was on the campus of Rochester Institute of Technology Tuesday filming scenes for a movie about his life.

Hamill, who grew up in Loveland, Ohio, won three NCAA Division III national wrestling championships as a student at RIT. Now he’s a professional fighter in the UFC — Ultimate Fighting Championship.

In 2004, while working as a bouncer at a bar in Utica, where he now lives, Hamill broke up a fight involving two very big Syracuse University football players. He manhandled the pair so efficiently that a legend grew around the incident and eventually reached UFC officials, who invited him to fight in the organization.

Hamill, 32, graduated from RIT/NTID in 1999 with a degree in electromechanical technology. At 6 feet, 1 inch tall and 205 pounds, Hamill has an 8-2-0 record as a UFC fighter.

Hamill hopes the movie will serve as an inspiration to other deaf people.

“I really just want to be equal with hearing people. When I grew up I felt like I never fit in with those people. I felt really isolated. I felt the only way to be successful was to be involved with sports,” he said.

Hamill is being portrayed by deaf actor Russell Harvard, who played the role of H.W. Plainview as an adult in the movie There Will be Blood.

“We wanted to keep it authentic for the deaf community,” said Eben Kostbar, who wrote the movie, titled Hamill, with Joseph McKelheer.

All deaf characters in the movie are played by deaf actors, Kostbar said.

Kostbar learned about Hamill and got the idea for the movie when Hamill was on season three of the reality show The Ultimate Fighter.

Filming started in the Rochester area on Sept. 15 and is expected to continue until mid-October at several locations.

Kostbar said the movie will be entered in the Toronto or Sundance film festivals and hopefully will be in theaters at the end of 2010.