Eric Bana Bond?
By: Khalid Mohamed
August 8, 2004
This Monday, he'll cut a cake with 36 candles. Currently, the Australian actor's hot on the A-list of Hollywood honchos, following his scene grabbing performance as the unshakeably principled Prince Hector in the lately released Troy.
Evidently, the world is not enough for Eric Bana. All of last week, websites, tabloids and movie trade papers were hyperventilating that he had pipped Jude Law, Clive Owen, Hugh Jackson, Orlando Bloom and Ewan McGregror to the new James Bond assignment. Followed a curt denial from Eric, "Who me? No, no, no."
As skillful in handling the Nosey Parker press as he is in mobike riding, sword-clashing and get this, mimicry, the Melbourne-based actor took one look at yours faithfully at a New York press meet this summer and went, "Oh hello, you from India? Now what can I tell you about myself?"
For starters, how about a spot of mimicry? "You're kidding me," he rolls his coalfire eyes. "Sorry but that wouldn't be politically correct." Go on, I persist, and he does a bang-on two-minute impersonation of Brad Pitt and the Lord of the Rings adventurer Orlando Bloom. No pauses, no commas, laughter assured.
He arches an eyebrow, then, to convey, man get on with your questions. Absolutely:
Your father was a Croatian migrant in Australia, working with a tractor company. and your mother a German a hairdresser.so
So that made me unique. I became an actor because of my parents, they were often amused when I'd make faces and copy the way they'd walk, talk or argue with each other. Yeah, ever since I was four, I wanted to be an actor. Imagine, now I'm being paid for it.
As a kid, I loved fantasising about driving cars across the skies. I still have my first car, a very old Ford Falcon, which looks straight out of Mad Max. I wasn't crazy about school and studies at all; I wanted to become a car mechanic. I ended up working in a bar and since I used to horse around, I was told I could become a stand-up comic like Richard Pryor. So I did.
You had a knack for making audiences laugh?
Whenever someone laughs with you. not at you. then you've connected. I didn't want to become a circus joker or cajole attention to myself with gags and slapstick. Without knowing it, somehow I could carry off deadpan humour. The thing is never to be obvious, a quality which Buster Keaton perfected into an art.
Keaton was expressionless and he was stupendously funny. Similarly, when you have to express anger, you have to lower your pitch. If you scream yourself hoarse, flare your nostrils, wave your hands about, bring fire and brimstone into your eyes, then that anger won't be convincing at all. But why am I telling you my trade secrets?
Just. You had such meaty scenes in Troy that you took it all away from Brad Pitt, didn't you?
Excuse me, I didn't hear that. (Pause) What do you mean?
Let me put it another way. Do you expect to be nominated for the Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars?
(Laughs, jabs an index finger into his right ear) Suddenly, I've become hard of hearing. Can you speak louder?
Sure. Okay, has it been a slog for you to make it in American cinema?
It was a slog to make it in Australian cinema. I guess I got lucky with Chopper in which I played this humongous psycho, for which I did a Robert De Niro. I put on mounds of weight like he did for Raging Bull. I pigged out on cinnamon doughnuts. It was as tough getting rid of the weight.
Then I lucked out again with Hulk, and Finding Nemo for which I did voice-overs. and uh. so here I am. I can't believe all this is happening to me, trips to Los Angeles for breakfast meetings, promotional tours, television, movies. still I have no intention of shifting from Melbourne to the US permanently.
Why not? Isn't Holywood where the showbiz action is?
Sure it is. But home is where the heart and the family are. I'm fortunate that my wife Rebecca and children enjoy travelling. Wherever I am working, at the end of the day, I need to be with family, like a bird returning to its nest every evening. We have two kids; I'd hate the idea of them telling me later in life that I did not give them the care and attention they deserve. Call me square if you like but I believe parenthood is another word for responsibility.
You must be huge in Australia.
Naaah, the Australians are obsessed with Nicole Kidman. Australians leave the guys alone. Russell Crowe, Mel Gibson and I may have our origins down under but it's Nicole who's majorly huge.
In any case, I've never considered myself famous, quite often I forget that I'm in the movies. It's only when I'm talking to the press that I realise I must have done something right to warrant media attention.(Laughs) This is not a cultivated attitude, it's real, which is kinda healthy.
What's the most demanding aspect of being an actor?
Acting has never felt like a chore at all, it's not as much of a stretch as it looks. If you're earning five and six figure salaries, you'd better be all there. Sure, if you have to get into the action mode, you have to train yourself in martial arts, gymnastics, boxing, swordfighting - the works. I enjoy action, drama, and if I'm asked to do a take-off on someone, then the comedy bit is like icing on the cake.
How much was Troy crucial to your career?
Opportunities like that don't knock on actor's door every day. I knew I had to give it my best shot, after all no one would make a Troy Part 2. Still, if I'd tied myself into knots, it wouldn't have helped.
I got to the core of my role, which is about brotherly love. Back in Australia, I have an older brother, he's all of 6'8". If I ever got onto his case as a child, he'd threaten to punch me up. Now here was my chance to play an older brother and punch others up.
At the end of the shoot, I just wanted to finish that big swordfight with Brad and go home. I was going to do it well; if Brad got hurt in the heat of the moment, too bad. Brad didn't get hurt, I did. (Points to a gash on his nose) I have the scar to show for it. maybe it'll just go away when I wake up some morning.
What kind of movies do you like?
All sorts but especially Eyes Wide Shut and Vanilla Sky, which blew my mind.
You don't say!
What is your happiest memory?
At the age of 16, I enrolled in a co-ed school. Before that I'd studied in schools exclusively for boys. So there I was, a solitary guy suddenly surrounded by 30 to 40 girls, pretending to be cool even when I was breaking into a sweat. I guess I could never stop acting.
Are you acting even now?
Sure. I just can't seem to switch off. And nobody's likely to give me an Oscar for that.
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