Spotlight

Nicholas Hammond - From stage to school

Nicholas Hammond could feel the stares of his classmates after he returned to finish high school his sophomore year at Yorktown High School in late 1964.  He had just finished filming The Sound of Music in California with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, and Nick was officially a movie star. The film was smash hit worldwide after its release in March 1965.  The film version of the Broadway musical won five Academy Awards, including best picture, and best director Robert Wise.  It also won two Golden Globes and is still one of the highest grossing films of all time.   

Nicholas was cast in the movie adaptation as Friedrich von Trapp, the eldest son (14) of Captain Georg von Trapp, portrayed by Christopher Plummer.  Julie Andrews, of course, played Maria von Trapp, the singing stepmother.  Word of the movie’s success spread quickly at his high school.   

“I came back from the filming of The Sound of Music, and everyone at Yorktown High School was staring at me.  Yorktown is a public school, but at the time my father, Thomas Hammond was teaching French at Landon, a private school.  I told my mother that I wanted to apply to Landon, where the prospect of me being well known would not be as big a deal.  There, everyone had something that made them stand out; famous journalist parents, politicians, attorneys, you name it! Everyone there seemed to have a connection to someone important.  I thought I would blend in better at Landon, and it turns out I was right.  I’m happy I applied.  Mr. Banfield interviewed me and am fortunate he let me in.” 

Nick joined Landon his junior year in the fall of 1965.  Many of his teachers were former military men.  His father, who had recently retired from the military, was recruited by Col. Armand Hopkins another French teacher, to whom the 1967 Brown and White yearbook was dedicated.  Mr. Banfield believed that military men were good role models, and I think he was right.”  Nick was influenced by many teachers at Landon, but several specifically impacted him. “Roger Chappell was my English teacher, and he treated us like colleagues, exploring the text together like a college seminar class.  I loved that about him.  Those English classes were my favorite classes.”  I also remember Mr. Perkins, Dr. Coolidge, Tom Dixon, who my father was friends with, and Mac Jacoby.  Those teachers really made an impact on me.  

When asked about his interests at Landon, Nick was quick to point out that he was not the quintessential athlete that Mr. Banfield had hoped he would be.  “I did not play football, much to the dismay of Mr. Banfield.  I liked acting, speaking, and debate club.  There was no auditorium at the time, and we held plays in the cafeteria with the girls from Holton-Arms.  It wasn’t Broadway, but it was enough to help get me into Princeton.” 

Nick recalls, “There was a sense of competitiveness that existed not only in sports but in academics, too. I remember they used to post our grades for everyone to see, along with our class ranking.  After school we would all run over to see our grades and rankings.  It was good for those at the top of the class, but somewhat cruel for those at the bottom.  I think shortly after Mr. Banfield left, they did away with that practice.  I think I was ranked number eleven in the class to my relief.” 

Like the seniors still do today, the class of 1967 gathered in the senior lounge. This is where Mr. Banfield held his Ethics class. “He instilled a sense of ethics and placed a lot of importance to giving back. He firmly believed that all of us who came from such privileged backgrounds had a social responsibility. Landon boys just had a fundamental decency about them.” 

Although Nick only spent his last two years of high school at Landon, he remains close friends with several of his classmates, and wonders what those he lost contact with are doing now. Nick recalled how in his freshman year at Princeton, his quad mates were all Landon graduates.  “Tom Kleh ’67, John Mann ’67, and Alan Brinkley ’67, who was one of my best friends, were all my roommates.  I will never forget that.  I have great memories of rooming with them and hanging out at Landon with my other great friend Tim Woolsey ’67.”   

Nick has amassed a long and distinguished acting career.  Since the Sound of Music, Nick has appeared in a number of leading and supporting roles.  Notable performances include the role of Robert in the original The Lord of the Flies, and most recently he was Sam Wanamaker in Quentin Tarantino’s epic film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, alongside Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Margot Robbie.  Nick also portrayed Peter Parker in the very first television production of The Amazing Spider Man, and says he drew from his feelings of being the awkward new kid at Landon, trying to just blend in, much like the character he was playing.  

If you grew up in the 1970’s, you would also be interested to know that Nick played Doug, Marsha Brady’s boyfriend in the episode of The Brady Bunch when she breaks her nose. Although Landon graduates should be relieved to know that it was Peter Brady, not Nick, who threw the wild pass that broke her nose, and our hearts, in the process! 

Nick plans to come back and visit Washington in May.  He currently lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife, Robyn Nevin.  Robyn is also an award-winning actor who has appeared in numerous films, television, and stages over the years. Together, they make quite the power couple.  He is excited to see the new Landon campus, and especially the theater. “If they are still around, I’d be happy to speak to the students,” Nick said. “But they need to watch Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, by Quentin Tarantino, first.  I am sure they are going to love that assignment.”