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Eric Bana plays Bruce Banner aka The Hulk in Ang Leeís adaptation of the comic book character, with Nick Nolte as his father. The two men tried so hard on set they would even pass out, reports Jenny Cooney Carrillo.

The poster may be the big green giant, but itís Eric Bana who has more screen time as Bruce Banner, the gentle, repressed alter ego of the Hulk. The 34-year-old actor currently shooting the drama Troy (with Brad Pitt) in Malta and Mexico, took a break from ancient Greece to talk about being green.†

Is it true that you and Nick Nolte actually passed out while shooting some scenes?
I did pass out a few times just through the intensity, I think. Especially with Nick because we would wind each other up so much and some of those scenes were so affecting emotionally and mentally and also because of the repetition of doing it over and over and over again, youíd just physically hit the wall so sometimes youíd lose a few seconds here and thereÖ

What was your first reaction when you were approached for this role?
I was obviously honored and very, very excited to be given such a wonderful opportunity. I was really honored that Ang Lee had shown the faith to cast me because I thought it was really interesting that the studio gave him the power to cast someone who wasnít a star outside of his own country to play the lead role in the film. I thought, Ďwell whatever it is heís after, heís just wanting to cast actors and heís not looking for big starsí so that gave me a lot of confident to approach the role how I wanted to.

What do you think the impact of this film will be on your life?
Itís two sides. Professionally, it has quite an impact. It helps provide you with more opportunities and helps you find some more great roles and some more great characters. Personally, not much really. I still live in Australia and people there have known me for a long time and theyíre probably sick of the sight of me . . . thank God! So Iím able to lead a pretty normal kind of life back home. Internationally itís a bit of a bummer because maybe I wonít be invisible for too much longer but thatís the price, I guess, of a beautiful situation.

Can you talk about Ang Lee and his methods of directing? What scenes were most challenging?
I think literally every scene in the movie was quite challenging. There is an intensity to the character which I could never escape or try to escape from. Bruce Banner is obviously under a lot of pressure and faced with a lot of trauma and there are no moments in the film where thatís not the case, so it was quite difficult and quite grueling and Ang wanted to get a lot of coverage of every single scene from a lot of different angles to be able to compose the framing like he did and occasionally make it look like a comic book. As a director, heís an incredible man. I would almost describe him as a philosophical filmmaker. He has very long-winded conversations with you that go on forever and youíre not quite sure exactly what the purpose is and then months later youíll be seeing a scene and some of those elements and thoughts will come back into your performance.

Can you think of examples?
We would talk about all kinds of things and he would ask me thinks like what it feels like to be a man, to be a boy, to be married, to be single, to be a father and we would explore and share a lot of very personal things and I guess he was trying to get me to tap into a lot of things and get me thinking about very broad things without being overly specific, so itís like he lays a smorgasbord for you to choose from later.

Did he ever lose his cool?
I would describe Ang as a sledgehammer wrapped in cotton wool. Heís a very tough man and heís very exacting and very demanding but in the best possible way and I think thatís why everyone bled for him and this movie. You donít mind bleeding for a director when you know itís for the right reasons. It doesnít come from ego. It doesnít come from power. It just comes from pure vision so everyone is working to that goal with him. Heís a very special man.†

Did either of you get angry?
I would see him kind of bubbling away but I never really saw him lose his cool. I saw him get frustrated a few times but actually I think weíre both quite similar in that regard. I think when either of us gets very, very angry, we tend to go quite sort of withdrawn and quiet so I can relate to that.

Were you familiar with the Hulk growing up in Australia? And have you ever faced your own ĎHulkí within?

I was familiar very much with the television series back in Australia but I wasnít a very big comic book reader as a child so I missed that. But I did love the television show and
have I been in touch with my Hulk? Yes, I think we all have. I think itís sometimes the little things in life that put us in touch with the Hulk, not necessarily the big things. And Iíve obviously played a few roles now Ė especially Chopper Ė where Iíve had to access those parts so I think you just get used to it. Having two young children, I think Iím in touch with The Hulk usually by 8 oíclock in the morning!

How did you feel when you saw that the poster for the film was of the CGI character and not you?
I am not someone who likes to compete for attention so I was absolutely thrilled when I saw the poster and saw the big green guy there. I donít have a problem with it, really. I mean, the reality is that the movie is called The Hulk and the Hulk is a very important ingredient in the movie! Obviously Bruce Banner is vitally important and I recognize the pressure of the fact that we all have to invest in Bruce and feel for him in order to be able to have a connection to the film, so I see my role as absolutely vital but I am more comfortable with the idea of a large portion of the film not having me on screen.

How important has your ethnic background been in your life?
My father was born in Croatia and my mother was born in Germany and they were both post World War II immigrants to Melbourne so schnitzel is one of my favorite courses! Melbourne is a very culturally mixed city and I am very comfortable with my European background and if anything I think Australians in their nature are very European so Iím very proud of it and in touch with it. I like to think I have a lot of European qualities in me because there is a good reason for it.

What kind of direction did Ang Lee give you to play the Hulk?
It was so broad at times and so personal at other times I probably couldnít say. But I remember one thing which I found very interesting was he said to me ĎI want you to play with the idea that as Bruce Banner you actually are The Hulkí and he wanted to play with the idea that The Hulk was Bruce Banner and I wasnít quite sure what he meant by that but I guess what he was saying was he wanted to get a sense of there being another person inside of Bruce Banner and he wanted me to play with that complexity if I could. So heís full of wonderful ideas like that and heíll plant those little thoughts in your head to give you something to go and work on or think about.

Can you make any parallels with The Hulk and Troy, based on The Iliad?
I knew that this script had its origins in sort of classical mythology and I was more aware of that obviously working on Troy. I always found it fascinating and thought it was a very interesting and relevant thing for the writers to play into the script, going for the nucleus of the drama. It gives the whole story depth and complexity but also gives you a journey, the heroís journey, so it provides you somewhere to be heading and forces you to think about those things a lot.

Against todayís world events, what does the Hulk mean and what does the movie say?
Itís obviously something thatís up to individual interpretation but I see at the end there is an amazing scene where The Hulk gives up his power to the father and that is really interesting. Also I think itís interesting that each time The Hulk becomes The Hulk, that he then melts back down into Bruce. He gets rid of his rage and heís in some ways cleansed and ready to come back down into Bruce. So I think there are some messages in that as opposed to a constant state of rage, or rage for the sake of rage. It seems to be more a part of a essential survival process for the character and then itís gone. The notion of giving away power is also an amazing thing to deal with.

Published June 26, 2003

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Eric Bana


... in Hulk

... in Black Hawk Down

... in The Nugget

... in Chopper

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