Eric Bana: Trojan Man
Eric Bana is tall, dark, handsome and poised to take Brad Pitt to task as Hector, the brave (and sometimes shirtless) warrior prince in this month's epic extravaganza, Troy.
Chatting with Eric Bana, you get the feeling he really lives life. That he's figured something out the rest of Hollywood is still searching for and happily leaves the vapidity of the star-spangled-schmooze-fest to, well, the vapid. Exhibit A: He passed up watching the Oscars to have friends over for dinner. Exhibit B: He shoots one movie a year and takes his wife and two tots with him. And the topper: Admitting he'd probably be just as happy had he pursued his teenage dream of becoming a mechanic. A mechanic!
Luckily for us, the 35-year-old Melbourne native recognized that his knack for guffaw-inducing impersonations was a gift from the gods. After years on the Australian giggle circuit, where the comic savant found fame on the sketch comedy program Full Frontal and his own show, Eric, he decided to play it straight and scorched the screen as sociopath/criminal/author Mark "Chopper" Read in the gritty Aussie flick Chopper. Et voila! A Leading Man was born.
Since then, Hollywood's come calling with plum roles in Black Hawk Down and last summer's The Hulk, but in sheer size and scale (The Trojan War! Eight months of shooting! A $150 million budget!) nothing beats Troy. Bana plays Hector--that's Heyctah in Australian--Troy's brave warrior prince in Wolfgang Petersen's version of Homer's Iliad.
So ladies, soak up those skirts, swords and sandals because the hunk with the espresso eyes and Hulk-ing frame rarely offers his life to the limelight.
STEPHANIE SCOTT: What can we expect from this movie?
ERIC BANA: Just a gut-wrenching story driven by characters you can't help but feel for. And a lot of them are kind of damned, you know? Hector is screwed in a lot of ways, but he's got to do what he's got to do and you feel for him.
Q: Tell me about when Achilles takes Hector down.
A: Mmmm. Well, it was a long time coming [Laughs]. We trained for that fight from the day we arrived in London. And it was, in the end, the very last thing we did. We got hit by a hurricane five days before finishing the entire film and then Brad hurt his Achilles. So, it was something we were so ready to do, and we just looked at each other and said, if we beat each other up who cares, we're mates, let's go for it.
Q: It's kind of funny that he hurt his Achilles.
A: Oh, yeah. When he came in with the temporary cast and the whole Achilles thing, I was waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out with a video camera. I'm like, I can't believe Brad is doing this celebrity Candid Camera shit, you know? But after 45 minutes I thought, holy shit, this is for real.
Q: Black Hawk Down was a difficult shoot and The Hulk was a serious set, but it seems like you had a ball on Troy.
A: It was just the best. It's so hard to talk about because I can hear myself sounding like one of those actors that's talking up a film he's on and I can't stand it. But it was just the greatest bunch of people. When I found out Peter O'Toole was playing my father, I nearly fell off the chair.
Q: Had you met Brad before?
A: Yeah. It's a typical L.A. story. His manager lives next door to my agent [Laughs], which incidentally would never happen in Melbourne. I guess Brad enjoyed Chopper and said, "It would be great to work with Eric." So, this was just the most ridiculous stroke of luck. Luckily for me, I didn't want the same part as him. When I sat down with Wolfgang he said, [imitating him] "Which character do you think you'd like to play?" And I said, "Oh look, there's just no doubt, Hector, I just love the character." And he said, "Good, because Brad wants to play Achilles." In other words, if you want to play Achilles, you ain't got a chance in hell.
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