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Monday, June 16, 2003

HULK INTERVIEW: ERIC BANA

QUESTION: Are you worried about being connected to this role like Christopher Reeve was to Superman?

BANA: No, I don't think it will happen. I'm kind of lucky that I get to play Bruce, and the Hulk is obviously this CGI character. So, in some ways, it gives you a tiny little bit of separation.

QUESTION: But they'll identify you with that anger?

BANA: And the next one comes out and they'll identify with that. Whatever. I don't think about it too much.

QUESTION: You're already No. 1 with Nemo. How long ago did you do that voice?

BANA: I did that while we were shooting this, actually. So it was some time toward the middle of the last year. I haven't seen the finished film yet, so I can't wait to see it. It's a great project.


QUESTION: How long do you spend in Australia?

BANA: I spend every moment at home, other than when I'm working. We live at home in Melbourne, Australia. So before I started on Troy, we were at home for nine months after this film finished.

And basically, I just like being at home. Home is home, and I get back there is often as I can and do all the things that I like doing in the spare time.

QUESTION: Which is?

BANA: Mainly motor racing and stuff like that. I've been playing with cars and motor bikes since I was kid. So I race at home when I finish with a production.

QUESTION: How familiar were you with the Hulk?

BANA: I grew up with the television show. I was very familiar with that, and loved it. Wasn't a huge comic-book reader as a child, so most of my association was immediately to the television program.

QUESTION: Did you meet Lou Ferrigno?

BANA: I did, I did. That was a big thrill because I was always a big fan of his, not only from the Hulk but as a body builder. Him and Arnie in Pumping Iron were a big part of my youth.

So I did what everyone else does when I met Lou for the first time. I said, "Do you mind if I touch your arms?" and get a good handful. It was a big thrill to meet him. Absolutely.

There's actually a scene in the film that was cut where him and I have dialogue together. So it might turn up in the DVD.


QUESTION: A lot of actors enjoy those scenes where they can act out their rage or get out of control. It seems like you were deprived of it because of the CGI moments. Was that a little bit of a letdown?

BANA: Yeah, it was. It was a bit frustrating, you're right. Because I kind of take him to that point, that kind of orgasmic place, then get denied of it. So, yeah, that was a bummer. Oh well, I'll survive.

QUESTION: The potential here was getting associated with a franchise. Was that an element you thought about or discussed?

BANA: Yeah, it's obviously discussed. Was I worried about? No. Because the only reason they'd do a sequel is if the first one's a success. So I knew if the film was going to work on the levels that Ang (Lee, director) was wanting it to work, then there would be a great reason to do a sequel, in which case it's not a concern.

I guess the only danger in the sequel thing is if the first film's not great and they want to do another. That I would be concerned about. But, no, I wasn't overly worried about it.

QUESTION: As you do more movies, do you find you're picking up new techniques from each director or is it just a matter of practice makes perfect?

BANA: I think there's a potential for experience to help you. I think there's also the potential for experience to be a hindrance. It is one of the reasons that I didn't want to, when I was young, attend drama school. I think sometimes too much knowledge can be a hindrance.

And I've found that myself. As you go through more and more productions, there are some things that can weigh you down. I actually find myself reverting more than anything else and try to tap into primal instincts that haven't been tapered.


QUESTION: Kind of like a child?

BANA: Yes, exactly. And that's the beauty of this film. And doing scenes with someone like Nick (Nolte, who plays David Banner), who takes you to that place straight away. You don't even have to work it. He literally makes you feel like a child in a sandpit. And that's where it should be and how it should be, and that's where it's the most thrilling and fun.

Even though the scenes with Nick and I in the film are kind of emotionally difficult, at the same time they were kind of the most fun because you felt you were truly playing.

QUESTION: You started out as a comedian. Could you see yourself 12 years ago being associated with more dramatic work?

BANA: To be honest, this is where I've always dreamt of being. Would I have totally expected to be the case? Maybe not, because I wouldn't have been so bold as to say this is where I'm headed, look out.

Now that it's turned out that way, obviously, I'm elated and I feel very, very fortunate. Yeah, it was always kind of where I wanted to be. I really didn't know exactly how I would get there. I was always following my gut instincts.


QUESTION: I understand you passed on some other comic-book movies?

BANA: Well, I wouldn't say I passed on any. People have mentioned that before. It was simply that I met with Avi Arad some time ago and he discussed a slate of projects that were going to be coming up and asked whether I would be interested in this genre or not. And I said, "Yes, maybe."

So it wasn't specifically that I was offered things directly. I wouldn't go so far.

QUESTION: Were you involved in the acting of the Hulk?

BANA: No. My sole responsibility was Bruce. And the rest, thank goodness, was up to other people.

QUESTION: What was your favorite scene?

BANA: There's probably two or three. I really liked the scene in the hangar between Nick and myself towards the end, where we're both sitting on those chairs in that kind of darkened environment.

I always really liked the scene between myself and Jennifer (Connelly, who plays Betty Ross) in the log cabin after I have been Hulk the night before in the dog fight, and we're playing the notion She comes up with this idea that emotional damage has no limits and if it manifests itself physically that then there are no physical limits and the idea of the Hulk could keep on going and going and going and going.

It was actually a scene that Ang had rewritten at 3 o'clock that morning. And we got a knock on our doors saying, "The scene's been rewritten. Here it is. Learn it and we're going to start shooting it in a few hours." It's probably one of my favorites.

QUESTION: You did a voice on the video game.

BANA: Yeah, it's kind of weird. I love playing PlayStation myself, so to sit there and do a voice for an upcoming video game was kind of bizarre. It was fun. I had a good time.

QUESTION: What games do you play?

BANA: Just the car games. Grand Tourismo. I think it's because they're so realistic. Speaking from the point of view from somebody who spends a lot of time on a race track, I can say they're actually completely realistic. So they're very satisfying to play.


QUESTION: What is it about racing that you like so much?

BANA: It's just something that's always been my hobby, since I was still at school, playing with that area. I grew up in a working-class area back home, and motor racing is very popular in Melboure. I have a lot of friends that do the same thing.

To me, it's almost like a martial art. Because it rewards precision and punishes you for getting ahead of yourself. I guess when you're doing this as a job, it becomes even more interesting because it's so real. You're so in the moment, and it's so real, and the consequences are so great. It's a thrill.

QUESTION: One of thing Avi Arad said is that there's a little bit of Hulk in all of us. What about that aspect of the character? Is it sort of cathartic?

BANA: Yeah, it's interesting. I don't know if it's cathartic. It's kind of dangerous. What it does is that you really develop kind of a hotline to those places within yourself. And I actually recall moments whilst we were shooting this film when I found myself accessing those parts a lot easier, whether it be in an argument or a constant kind of bubbling away.

And it was a similar thing when I made Chopper, as well. I think if you're continually accessing those parts of your heart and head, that there is, not so much a price to pay, but there is a definitely kind of a shortcut to those areas. You do learn to keep them well hidden as well - thankfully.

QUESTION: Were you aware of the reaction of the fans going on while you were filming?

BANA: I'll be dearly interested to see what they think of the film not that I'm actually finished with it, but I didn't partake for a second in any of that while I was making the movie. I got a lot of confidence from Ang, who is very good at ignoring the outside world while we were making this film. I never even once asked anybody what was going on there.

You can't because you end up servicing the wrong god, so to speak. You end up chasing your own tail and in the end you won't up making a product like this if you're trying to chase your tail, following what people think or expect who haven't even read the script.

So I'm blissfully ignorant of all those kind of discussions, but I'm very respectful of the fans' wishes and I'm sure they'll be pleased, And I can't wait to see their reaction. Quite frankly, they have ever right to deserve a great movie and a great interpretation. And I respect that.

QUESTION: Actors on Star Trek always talk about how hard it is to get the scientific dialogue out. How was it for you?

BANA: It wasn't too bad. In actual fact, there was one scene in the film where I have quite an extensive scientific monologue, which was cut, which I was a bit miffed about. But it wasn't too difficult. OK, you spend a little more time getting your mouth around some of those words when you're preparing.

And it kind of has to be believable, doesn't it? So you've got to put the time in.


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