Australia’s Eric Bana is on the fast track to Hollywood stardom, from The Hulk to Troy, but this very Aussie actor is now looking for something a bit less expansive, as he explains to Paul Fischer.
Question: How long take you to read the Iliad? At what point did you have to rely on Cliff’s Notes?
Answer: No, No. I just read the long version. There was no point cheating. I had plenty of time.
Question: Did you read the famous new translation?
Answer: I’m not sure what’s the definition of the new translation or the old translation. The one I read was certainly pretty thick.
Question: Did any of your work on Hulk prepare you for this movie?
Answer: Probably not, no. I think it’s pretty safe to say that this character and this time period are pretty unique to anything I’ve done before, so it was pretty much from scratch.
Question: What about the physicality of this? How much preparation was there?
Answer: There was a lot. I was fortunate enough to be cast very early. It was around September so I had many months of preparation back home in Australia before I left to go to London. It wasn’t so much the working out, because I’m pretty active any way, but it was the specific nature of the training itself. The many, many months of sword training and many months of horseback riding and that sort of stuff.
Question: Can you elaborate on your regiment?
Answer: Just staying healthy. It wasn’t so much gym work. It was learning the skills that needed to be learned. Yeah, we needed to be in shape, but I always figured that was kind of an aside to the other things that needed to be done because if you weren’t on top of it, you were either going to fall off a horse and hurt yourself or you were going to get whacked with a sword.
Question: Who’s the better fighter, you or Brad?
Answer: I’ll leave that up to you.
Question: How much of your action scene with Brad was you guys? Because it really did look like it was all you.
Answer: It was all us. There were no stunt doubles in the movie with Brad and me. The choreography was really extensive. We had the best people teaching us from varied backgrounds and disciplines, and they were really determined to come up with a fighting style that was recognizable, that was going to be a little different from everything we’d seen before, so if you had a really good look at the fights, just about every single move is a death move… every time you make a movie, it is a lunge to kill or it’s a set-up move for the next move, which is not usually the case. So it required a lot of training and a lot of choreography and, for instance, the fight between Brad and me, we started learning the actual fight? Well, the day I got to London I started that, so that was in March, and we shot it in December.
Question: Were you a fan of the legend before you began work on this movie?
Answer: It was something I got to learn more about. I even studied Greek mythology at school and I wish I hadn’t. But I obviously studied the Iliad when I got the part and I did the research and fell in love with the story.
Question: Why did you think the story was so resonant, and could you talk about the humanity of these characters?
Answer: I think one of the reasons it’s lasted so long, I think it’s very obvious when you see the film now that it’s a story you can lay over any period of time, and there’s a lot of relevance. I’m sure that’s why it’s stood up for so long. And it’s a thoroughly entertaining story. It has so many elements we can all relate to? Of revenge and love and love for country, love for family, ego, so many elements there, that it’s completely timeless.
Question: If you can talk about the humanity of Homer’s characters, because I think Hector is a good example? He’s a great guy.
Answer: Yes, he is a good guy. I’d have him over for a barbecue. To me that’s what I really loved about the story because even though it’s obviously a huge film, but it works because of the characters in it. It’s a character-driven story, and that’s what I loved about it. It’s a mammoth tale on a mammoth scale, but it all comes down to three or four relationships and Agamemnon’s desire to rule the world, Paris’s Love for Helen, King Priam’s love for his sons and his blind love of the gods and his faith, and making decisions that go against rationale, Hector’s love for Paris and his love for Troy, Achilles’ love for immortality? It comes down to those simple things that we really identify with. From those very human emotions and actions spur this huge tale. So it’s very followable… go right down and you can identify with how it started.
Question: Do you see Troy as an anti-war film?
Answer: I guess it could definitely be that. I find that is dependent on the individual. It’s certainly not a great endorsement of blood lust. I think it’s why it’s lasted this long. I think it’s obvious. I mean it’s a story that can be laid over every time period, and yes, there’s a time of war now, but there’s always someone at war.
Question: Can you talk about Brad? Would you invite him over for a barbecue?
Answer: Of course I’d invite him over. He’s invited me over for a barbecue, so I of course I’d invite him. He’s a great guy. There wasn’t much room for people to be like: wrapping cotton wool in this production. We were just going at it hammer and tong every day, and it’s a really tough shoot in that sense, and Brad’s just a regular guy. And there were no exceptions made for anybody and there was never a problem.
Question: And Peter O’Toole?
Answer: Well, he’s a legend isn’t he? And obviously a joy. I’m sure if you ask the actors who were lucky enough to have scenes with him what their favourite moments in the movie were, they’d probably all say: I remember there was a particular scene I had with Peter or something similar. Yeah, he’s just the greatest guy. Just something I’ll never forget.
Question: Was everybody ill?
Answer: I wasn’t. I had the secret.
Question: How did background as a comic performer prepare you for these intense narratives?
Answer: Probably not at all, I have to say. In the case of Hector, probably not really at all. . . I think there are times where you walk onto a set where you can potentially be intimidated or distracted at what’s going on around you, And if there are any similarities, the only thing I can say is that, having performed in front of thousands of people live, that one?? Probably uses an element that enables you to focus, that probably helps. But beside that, no. Not really at all.
Question: Do you miss the comedy?
Answer: Sometimes. Yeah.
Question: It’s still pretty early in your career and you’re starting to make some huge films. Where do you expect to go from here?
Answer: I’m going to do something small next.
Question: Which is?
Answer: Well, it wouldn’t be too hard, would it? I mean? No I dunno.
Question: Are you impressed by these huge films?
Answer: No, not at all. I never look at the size of the film when I’m looking for part. The last three international films I’ve done, I’ve been drawn like a fly to the characters. It’s been very easy choices for me, but they’re ridiculously great characters to play, so size of the film doesn’t really have much bearing. But it is odd that they’ve been as big as they have been. But it doesn’t bother me. I think it’s also a real kind of challenge and takes a certain personality type to be able to function inside those big machines, and I think once you get into a groove, they can be kind of fun.
Question: Are you doing Hulk 2
Answer: I wouldn’t know. Am I? I don’t have a scoop for you. It would depend I guess
Question: if you did it, would you like it to be lighter than the first one?
Answer: I think there would be room for the film to be lighter, yes.
Question: Do they have an option on your services?
Answer: Yeah. Look, if they come up with a great script and they want to do a sequel I’m sure I’d be interested. I’m kind of signed on for that, I think, so I’ll have to wait to see.
Question: How did you relate to Hector? How did you personally relate to him?
Answer: Well, first of all, I really liked him a lot when I read the script. So I really felt a lot for him. I felt he was just a wonderful character. I’m one of two brothers? I’m a younger brother and I totally identify with my older brother being a Hector type because he always has to look for me. Not that I was as bad as Paris when I was growing up, but I totally got that, and I had a real affinity and affection for that dynamic. Orlando I love to death, and we’ve worked together before and when he was cast as my younger brother, it was just a great feel and I hope that shows in the film.
Question: You’re also both family men too – you and Hector.
Answer: I guess subconsciously that definitely helps. Yeah.
Question: There seems to be a little attraction between Hector and Helen.
Answer: Oh right! You picked up on that! Good.
Question: Was that in the book or was it something Wolfgang introduced?
Answer: I joked with Wolfgang that Hector and Helen were having an affair, but I didn’t play that out in the film. I thought it would be too simple if Hector had a disdain for Helen, and I didn’t want that to play. I wanted him to slowly come to terms with the fact that here was the key to his brother’s happiness, this woman. And he had to warm to that, and I wanted him to warm to that, so it would be natural that he would kind of warm to Helen as well. . . We didn’t have a kissing scene or anything like that.
Question: Are you continuing to make Australia your home base?
Answer: Yeah. Been there for the last 8 months. Melbourne.
Question: No desire to move to North America?
Answer: It would make as much sense to move to London, really. There’s no real point moving. Look at the films I’ve done. I’ve only shot one thing in North America and the rest of them are all over the place. So makes no sense whatsoever to live here. It actually makes a lot of sense to stay where I am. It hasn’t had any negative effect at all.
Question: This movie has two Australians in it, so are you surprised that Australians are making such headway internationally in film?
Answer: No. I think it’s obviously very pleasant, and it’s great for fellow Australians, but no, I’m not surprised at all. I don’t think really have a theory on it but I suppose it’s hopefully because we’re good at what we do. It’s certainly not a charity. If you get a go and if you don’t do well, you’re not going to get another one just because you’re an Aussie.
Question: No immediate plans? Are you taking a break?
Answer: No, I’ve had a good break. I’ve kind of been at home for a long time, so I’m just getting ready to decide what to do next.
Question: Does your family go with you to exotic locations?
Answer: Exotic? To me, exotic is being with my family at home. Yes, they do.