Interview: No one in America knows Eric Bana used to do comedy
Eric Bana was lucky. On “Lone Survivor” — about a real-life incident from 2005 in which a team of SEALs were ambushed in the Afghanistan mountains during a mission — he plays a Lieutenant who spends most of the time at base. While the other actors (Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch) were playing wounded and throwing themselves down hills, Bana showed up late in the shoot and didn’t have to get fake-hurt or real-hurt.
“I would have been more than happy to do it,” Bana confesses. “But I did all my research from home and showed up ready to go.”
Bana still had a lot to do. Like the others, he played a real person, and had to research into someone who’s passed on. He founds lots of interesting information. “He was high-ranking, but at the same time he was a guy’s guy, and he didn’t take himself too seriously. He had a sense of humor, but when he needed to he would assume the ranking role appropriately.”
He also discovered he loved birkstenstocks. “I found that out online. When it came for the scene where they come and knock on his door to wake him up, I said to Pete [Berg, the director], ‘I just found out not only was he obsessed with them, he was actually buried with a pair.’ Pete was like, ‘We’ve gotta f—ing have you wear ‘em. Get some birkstenstocks for Eric right now!’”
Because Bana often plays dark, brooding characters in American films — as in “Hulk,” “Troy” and “Munich” — Americans don’t know that he has a deep background in comedy. In Australia, he had multiple sketch comedy shows, including “The Eric Bana Show.” It was a skit on TV that caused the late, infamous criminal and prisoner Mark “Chopper” Read” to handpick him to play him in what became Bana’s international breakthrough role, “Chopper.” Oddly, only “Funny People,” Judd Apatow’s Adam Sandler dramedy, has used him for comedic purposes.
Does he want to do more comedy? “If the right thing came along — if there was another ‘Funny People’-type situation, for sure. There’s not a lot of them around. I don’t see myself doing general broad comedy. I get sent a lot more serious stuff than I do funny stuff.”
This may sound nuts, considering “Chopper” is an equal blend of dark comedy and dark, menacing drama. “99 percent of Americans don’t’ know that’s my background,” he says. “I have this dual existence, where in Australia they’re like, ‘What’s going on with all this serious stuff?’ And here people look at you sideways when they find out about your comedy background. I have no complaints. It’s been nice to have an upside down career.”