The Hot Seat: Eric Bana

The former comic gets his Ursula Andress moment in Hanna.

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Illustration: Dan Park


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You shot Hanna on location in Finland. I imagine you have quite a collection of thermal underwear.
[Laughs] Yeah, I've got a couple of trusty ones that travel with me on the job.

I was delighted to see there was Ursula Andress shot where you emerge seminaked from a river, but rather than a white bikini you're in long johns.
Yeah, sexy. We're all about the clichs of what men are supposed to look like when they come out of the water.

There's also a lovely moment when Hanna cuts your hair and gives you a Flock of Seagulls 'do. Ever thought of sporting that in real life?
I had a couple shockers back in the '80s, but the Flock of Seagulls look—I didn't get that far. I was more of a mullet and partially-shaved-head guy.

Did you ever have the little rattail in the back?
No. I don't quite get it. That's not something I or anyone I know wears, actually. I don't trust the rattail.

Really? It's something to hold on to, if you get my drift.
Yeah, well, in a fight—if your opponent had one. So I guess there is something to be said for it.

I thought Saoirse Ronan was great in the lead role. But I did want to check with you: Did I pronounce her name right?
[It's] "SIR-sha."

Okay, close. I've noticed a lot of red-carpet journalists just mumble the name and hope no one notices.
[Laughs] Once you know it, you can really go for it, and that sets you apart from the other mumblers.

Did you get her name right the first time?
Yes. I met Joe [Wright] first, and Joe confirmed the pronunciation. I was able to just knock it right out with confidence the first time I saw her.

Speaking of Joe, he recruited the Chemical Brothers to do the soundtrack. I understand he knew them from when he used to do lighting at raves.
It is such a fantastic thing when a director collaborates with a musical artist. I'm a huge lover of music, and I wish it was something that occurred more often. I remember an interview with Ridley Scott who said that directors who weren't sure of what kind of music they were going to use didn't yet have a handle on their own movie.

It definitely ratchets up the of tempo of the action scenes, but I wanted to know, did you ever used to go to raves?
No, not much of a rave guy. More of a live-band guy.

You were a stand-up in Australia before acting. Did you ever die on stage?
Well, every stand-up dies. I think you always, in particular, remember the first time. My first death was particularly aggressive—in a pub in a border town between New South Wales and Victoria. There were about 400 people, and about half of them were rugby players on a Friday-night bender. I look back on it with affection; I'm just happy to have kept my health.

Was there heckling?
No, no, no: "Fucking get off!" Not a heckle, a command.

Did you finish your set?
Almost. I was only meant to do 10 or 15 minutes, and I got about eight or nine in. There was something out-of-body about it that I found hilarious at the time. My friends thought I was psychotic. It happened, and actually I'm still alive, so it's not that bad—and now I feel like part of a fraternity. A good thing to get out of the way.

I was in an Australian bar recently and they were playing a DVD called "Aussie Rules Screamers." It was a montage of Australian Rules football players jumping and kneeing people in the head. Is that a pretty good distillation of the sport?
Obviously it is one of the more spectacular parts of the game, the mark: When someone rides over the back of someone else in order to catch the ball and gain possession. We used to call them screamers when we were kids. "He bagged a screamer." Yeah it is a pretty spectacular part of the game, definitely.

You played Aussie Rules yourself?
Yes, I did. Played it a lot and I loved it. I still love having a kick today.

Playing that kind of sport must prepare you for the kind of physical punishment you take in your films. Your long, single-shot fight scene in Hanna must have hurt after a couple of takes.
I think there is some sort of base level of preparedness and physicality that you get from playing a contact sport as a kid and a teenager. Our game is a 360-degree game—similar to ice hockey, in a way—so you do learn to expect hits from all angles. It is just a great physical game. You are probably right, it helps physical work in movies more than, say, having played cricket.

You were at New York Comic Con, did you have a lot of people calling out, "Don't make me angry"?
No.

That's very polite of them. Would you indulge my geeky side? If Eric from Hanna took on Chopper, who would win?
Eric from Hanna would be faster, but he would want to get a good one in early, because if he didn't knock Chopper out, I would say Chopper would get the better of him. So it would be 50--50, I reckon. It would come down to the first round.

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