Eric Bana

Eric Bana (born Eric Banadinovich; 9 August 1968) is an Australian film and television actor. He began his career as a comedian in the sketch comedy series Full Frontal before gaining critical recognition in the biopic Chopper (2000). After a decade of critically acclaimed roles in Australian TV shows and films, Bana gained Hollywood's attention by playing the role of American Delta Force Sergeant Norm 'Hoot' Gibson in Black Hawk Down (2001) and the lead role as Bruce Banner in the Ang Lee directed film Hulk (2003).

An accomplished dramatic actor and comedian, he received Australia's highest film and television awards for his performances in Chopper, Full Frontal and Romulus, My Father. Bana performs predominantly in leading roles in a variety of low-budget and major studio films, ranging from romantic comedies and drama to science fiction and action thrillers. His most popular films include Black Hawk Down (2001), Hulk (2003), Troy (2004), and Munich (2005).


Early life and family

Eric Bana was born in Melbourne, Australia, the younger of two children. His Croatian father, Ivan, was a logistics manager for Caterpillar, Inc., and his German-born mother, Eleanor, was a hairdresser. Bana grew up in Melbourne's Tullamarine, a suburban area on the western edge of the city, near the airport.

Showing acting skill early in life, Bana began doing impressions of family members at the age of six or seven, first mimicking his grandfather's walk, voice and mannerisms. In school, he mimicked his teachers to get out of trouble. As a teen he watched the Mel Gibson film Mad Max (1979), and decided he wanted to become an actor. However, he did not seriously consider a career in the performing arts until 1991 when he was persuaded to try stand-up comedy while working as a barman at Melbourne's Castle Hotel. His stand-up gigs in inner-city pubs did not provide him with enough income to support himself, so he continued his work as a barman, clearing tables.


In 1993, Bana made his television debut on Steve Vizard's late night talk show, Tonight Live. His performance gained the attention of producers from the sketch comedy series, Full Frontal, who invited him to join the show as a writer and performer. During his four years on the show, Bana wrote much of his own material, and based some of his characters on members of his family. His impressions of Columbo, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Tom Cruise made Bana popular with the show's audience. This success led to his own television special titled Eric in 1996. The show, a collection of sketches featuring everyday characters, prompted him to launch a sketch comedy series The Eric Bana Show. The series, written and performed by Bana, featured skits, stand-up and celebrity guests, but failed to attract a substantial audience and was cancelled after only eight episodes due to low ratings. Even so, in 1997, he received a Logie Award for "Most Popular Comedian" for his work on the show.

That same year, Bana made his film debut in the Australian movie The Castle, which tells the story of a Melbourne-based family's struggles to keep their home by Melbourne's airport after the government and airport authorities force them to move. He was featured in a supporting comedic role as Con Petropoulous, a kickboxing accountant. The Castle was a surprise critical and financial success, earning AU$10,326,428 at the box office in Australia.


In 1997, in spite of his lack of experience dramatic roles, Bana was approached by director Andrew Dominik to appear in the film Chopper (2000), a biopic based on the life of infamous Australian criminal Chopper Read. Dominik had been working on the project for five years, but was unable to find an actor to portray Read. Only after Read himself suggested Bana, having seen him perform a skit on television, did Dominik consider him for the part.

For the role, Bana shaved his head, gained thirty pounds, and spent two days with Read to perfect his mimicry. The real Chopper suggested that he have his ears cut off in order to capture his true personality; Bana declined. During filming he arrived on set at four in the morning and spent five hours being covered in Read's trademark tattoos. In spite of the film's limited release outside of Australia, Bana's performance received positive reviews. American film critic Roger Ebert complimented Bana, stating that "in a comedian named Eric Bana the filmmakers have found, I think, a future star. He has a quality no acting school can teach you and few actors can match. You cannot look away from him". Chopper was a critical and financial success in Australia, and was nominated for Best Film at the Australian Film Institute Awards in 2001. Bana's performance won the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Actor.

In 2001, director Ridley Scott cast Bana as an American soldier in the film Black Hawk Down (2001). Scott, impressed by Bana's performance in Chopper, did not require him to audition. In the film he played Sergeant First Class Norm 'Hoot' Gibson, an elite Delta Force soldier, who fights his way out of a battle in Mogadishu, Somalia after a mission to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord goes awry. Bana shed the weight he had gained for Chopper and began an exercise regimen months before filming began. He also trained with Delta Force operators at Fort Bragg, learning to fire weapons and clear rooms. The film was met with positive reviews and was number one at the American box office for three weeks after it opened.

Bana's next project was the low-budget Australian film The Nugget (2002). A comedy, the film portrays the effect of instant wealth on three working class men and was released with moderate success in Australia. Bana read the script after filming Chopper in 2000 and was drawn to it because it reminded him of his childhood and because he found its characters amusing and likable. While filming The Nugget, Bana was offered the lead role of Bruce Banner in the film adaptation of the popular comic book series The Incredible Hulk. Only after learning of director Ang Lee's involvement in the project did he consider the role. Bana admired Lee for his work on the film The Ice Storm and agreed to work on the film before the final script was complete. He said he was drawn to the film because "the character of Bruce Banner had dramatic potential" and was "a fairly non-traditional superhero". Hulk (2003) was not a critical nor box office success, but Bana's performance was praised: Jack Matthews of the New York Daily News felt that Bana played the role of Bruce Banner "with great conviction". Bana earned an Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films nomination for "Cinescape Genre Face of the Future" for the film.

In 2004, Bana co-starred with Brad Pitt in the big-budget film Troy. In the film he played Prince Hector, leader of the Trojan forces battling against the Greek warrior Achilles. Director Wolfgang Petersen offered him a role in the film after meeting with Brad Pitt, a fan of Chopper. The film was an international success, grossing US$364 million. In North America however, it earned considerably less, grossing less than US$133 million.


After the commercial failure of Hulk the previous year and the American box office disappointment of Troy, critics questioned Bana's bankability in big-budget films. He responded in Empire Magazine: "It's not like it [Hulk] was a flop. When you're on a long shoot it is a long personal investment. If I wasn't happy with the end result I'd be bloody upset, but in every case so far I've been happy. Troy could take $50 and I wouldn't regret it.

In 2006, Bana was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Lucky You, a romantic comedy on which Bana worked before filming Munich, was released in early 2007. In the film, he plays Huck Cheever, a professional poker player who must overcome his personal problems to win a high stakes tournament in Las Vegas. His next film was the Australian drama Romulus, My Father (2007). The film, based on Raimond Gaita's memoir of the same name, portrays a couple and their struggle in the face of adversity to raise their son. The film was a critical success, and Bana's performance earned him a second Australian Film Institute Award for Best Actor.

Bana recently appeared in The Other Boleyn Girl, a historical drama in which he plays Henry VIII of England opposite Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman. He will also star as the villain Nero in the film Star Trek and as Henry DeTamble in the film adaptation of The Time Traveler's Wife. In June 2008, it was announced that Bana will co-star in Judd Apatow's third directorial feature about stand up comics entitled Funny People that will also feature Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen.

Personal life

In 1995, while working on the television series Full Frontal, Bana began dating Rebecca Gleeson, a publicist with the Seven Network and daughter of then Chief Justice of New South Wales, and later Chief Justice of Australia, Murray Gleeson. They married in 1997, after Bana proposed to her on a trip to the United States that he won from Cleo Magazine after being named "Bachelor of the Year" in 1996. Bana and Gleeson have two children, a son Klaus (born July 1998), and a daughter Sophia (born April 2001). Since the birth of his son, Bana has limited his work to one film per year so he can spend time with his family at their home in Melbourne.

Bana is a motor racing enthusiast, and participates in various motor racing competitions in Australia. At the age of fourteen, Bana wanted to leave school to focus full-time on becoming a motor mechanic, but his father convinced him to complete school, advising him to avoid making his hobby a job. Bana purchased his first car, a 1973 XB Ford Falcon coupé, at the age of fifteen for AU$1100 and driving it made his motor sport racing debut in 1996's Targa Tasmania, a week-long race around the island state of Tasmania. In 2004, Bana purchased a Porsche 944 to compete in Australia's Porsche Challenge. Competing throughout 2004, he often finished in the top ten and in November, finished fourth at the Sandown 500, a personal best. On 21 April 2007 Bana crashed his 1974 XB Falcon Coupe in the Targa Tasmania rally. Neither he nor his co-driver were injured.

Bana is also a prominent supporter of Australian rules football. His love of the sport began at a young age when his godfather took him to games to see the St Kilda Football Club, his favorite team.

Charitable work

Bana is an advocate for the Mental Illness Fellowship, which works to increase the awareness of mental illness in Australia. In 2004, he appeared in several high profile advertisements for the fellowship. Bana is also active in campaigns with the Australian Childhood Foundation and the Bone Marrow Donor Institute. Since 1995, he has participated in the Motorcycle Riders Association Toy Run in Melbourne, which raises money and toys for needy children at Christmas.

In 2005, Bana narrated the documentary Terrors of Tasmania about the endangered Tasmanian Devil. The film followed the life of a female Tasmanian Devil called Manganinnie and discussed the incurable facial cancer which threatens the survival of the species. He has also worked with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, donating money to animal shelters in Berlin while filming Troy in 2004.


Year Film Role Other notes
1993–1996 Full Frontal Various characters Television series
1997 The Eric Bana Show Live Various characters Television series
The Castle Con Petropoulous  
2000 Chopper Chopper Read Australian Film Institute Award - Best Actor
Something in the Air Joe Sabatini Television series
2001 Black Hawk Down Sergeant First Class Norm 'Hoot' Gibson  
2002 The Nugget Lotto  
2003 Finding Nemo Anchor Voice
Hulk Bruce Banner/Hulk  
2004 Troy Hector  
2005 Munich Avner  
2007 Lucky You Huck Cheever  
Romulus, My Father Romulus  
2008 The Other Boleyn Girl King Henry VIII  
The Time Traveler's Wife Henry DeTamble Post-production
Mary and Max Damien Filming, voice
2009 Star Trek Nero Post-production
Funny People Pre-production
2010 Factor X Ken Landwehr Pre-production


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