Eric Bana, Australia's Home-grown Hero, Isn't Afraid of Hollywood—or Netflix
The A-list actor has made a return to comedy with the straight-to-streaming movie “Special Correspondents.”
I was born and raised in Melbourne and I’ve never lived anywhere else. I do feel very Australian—my parents are European originally, but they’re both very Australian as well. I don’t know what it’s like to be an expat—it’s never really tempted me. I’m married and have kids—it’s pretty normal. I’ve got two big teenagers and a lot of cars and motorcycles.
I don’t do a lot of movies—I’m not one of those people who can go from one film to the other. I came to the business quite late and I can’t imagine just going from film set to film set to film set. I’d go insane. My background is in comedy. And whether I’m a funny guy? It depends on who you’re with. If you’re with other comics it all tends to feel funnier. When you’re around a lot of boring people the last thing I want to do is make them laugh.
Working with [co-star] Ricky Gervais and getting a chance to work opposite someone whose work you’ve admired for a long time—you have to pinch yourself to remember that you’re actually in the scene with him, not at home watching him on TV. That was a hell of a lot of fun.
A movie that goes straight to Netflix multiplies the feedback by about 10,000. In the first 48 hours of “Special Correspondents” being on Netflix, I got texts and emails from friends and family who had already seen the film. That would normally take one to five years. Being aware of a film, intending to see it, and then not seeing it—that’s worth zero. To invert that and have a situation where you’re somewhat aware, desire to see it and then just see it—that’s the future.
Normally you have to work so hard to make people aware of your film, and then they’d put in the effort of going to the cinema. But here, it’s being delivered how they want, when they want. It’s my first experience with that kind of model. I don’t feel more under the microscope with so many people watching the movie. I’d feel under a microscope if they were right outside my house.
Being in comedy, I didn’t feel weird about the plot of the movie [faking a story about a coup in Ecuador]. I don’t apply a lot of moralistic constraints to film, comedy in particular. There’ve been plenty of examples of people lying about reporting, lying about where they are, lying about what they’ve done, lying about what they’ve seen.
“I’m not a bitter and twisted famous person: I have a pretty good time.”
I can’t complain [about journalists]. Sometimes it gets tricky when you’re doing a lot of foreign stuff with language barriers, but nothing has been overly awkward.
I haven’t properly been to Hong Kong. I’ve only passed through in transit. It’s a place I need to investigate. I’ve got a couple of buddies who spend a lot of time there. I hear it’s fantastic. I hear the food’s amazing.
I read [a script] and I never know what I’m going to do until I read it. So if something’s great and it’s a comedy, I’ll do it. If it’s a drama I’ll do that. At the end of the day, the material wins out. I’m reading right now, working out what to do next. It’s always a fun time when you don’t know where you’re going to be or what you’re going to be doing.
When it comes to fame, I’m way off the grid. I’m definitely an introvert, and living here in Melbourne facilitates that for sure. If I weren’t acting I’d be a microbiologist—no, I’d be a mechanic. When I’m not working I play with cars and motorcycles. It’s what I’ve always done.
I’ve never really felt that famous. I don’t know if it’s because of living here, but it’s never been a huge issue for me. I think if I did nothing but work on films that would be different. I’m not a bitter and twisted famous person: I have a pretty good time.