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May 2004
Troy: An Interview with Eric Bana

By Wilson Morales

Troy: An Interview with Eric Bana

After playing the Green Monster in "The Hulk", you would think Eric Bana would give playing legendary characters a break. Well, I was wrong, sort of speak. Back again on the big screen as Hector in "Troy", Bana has the task of fighting of Brad Pitt, who plays Achilles, the warrior that couldn't be beat. From gaining the pounds for "Chopper" to losing it for "The Hulk", Bana has physical strength to pull it off. Very recently while in New York to promote Troy, Bana talked about the fight scene with Brad Pitt, what led him to take the role and working with Peter O'Toole.

Did you think you had to go through a transformation physically to become Prince Hector compared to the opposite weight gain in Chopper?

EB: Wolfgang (Petersen, the director) first saw me on the screen as Chopper. There were periods in the Chopper film where I had to get really out of shape. Whatever you play, you gotta look like the character. In this movie, obviously you had to do really specific training like the sword fighting and all that stuff and you end up looking a particular way.

Within a matter of films, you went from being a good actor to an actor with physique.

EB: My body in this film is totally CGI (computer generated). I can't take any credit for it! No, it was hard but it was fun. I started training back home (in Australia) with the horse riding and the sword training and fight training. I had five or six months under my belt before we started in London. Then I continued that through the production and trained with the stunt guys every day. It was hard and physical but never felt like a chore. We had a small group of stunt guys who looked after Brad (Pitt) and I every day. It was just awesome.

Did you sustain any injuries during the sword fighting scenes?

EB: We belt the crap out of each other a little but that's half the fun of it. You're just a guy holding a sword and you get to hack into a bunch of stunt men and they get to hack into you. At the end of the day there's gonna be a bit of collateral damage. Adrenalin kicks in and it's all fun. The only thing that you're concerned about is something is going to happen that's gonna make you unable to finish the film. You don't care about getting hurt. You only care about being put out of action and that was certainly in my mind because you spend so long preparing. The thought of getting knocked out half way through you just want to slit your wrists. That was the only thing I was ever worried about especially with the amount of horse stuff that I had to do.

What attracted you about playing Hector?

EB: Hector is the classic noble kind of hero but what attracted me to it as an actor is that he has to earn that (with the audience) through the course of the film. I loved everything about him when I read him. I thought he was an incredible character. Some of the brotherly element I really enjoyed (with Paris, played by Orlando Bloom). I'm one of two but I'm a younger brother. I identified with my brother as Hector in terms of being a trouble making young sibling all my life and now I got the chance to be the older guy who slaps the young guy around. And when they cast Orlando I just knew that was gonna work because I love Orlando and worked with him on Black Hawk Down. I knew that we had a brotherly dynamic which has continued way after we finished filming (which is a little bit of a concern).

Is it a bit daunting to play a hero?

EB: Yeah, they're big shoes to fill. I think part of the process when you decide to do this is you have to convince yourself that you can fill that guy's shoes. They're bloody big shoes to fill. You have to feel like you can live and breathe him. It's a process. There's a lot of reading, a lot of imagination, a lot of talking yourself into it.

How do you get inside the mind of a hero, and what is heroic to you?

EB: That's a good question. I personally always find people that get put in predicaments and have to make choices that are less than ideal is a really interesting notion. I love the fact that Hector has to do some things in this film that he doesn't really want to do. There's nothing noble about killing someone, but we kind of still feel for Hector in a way when he steps in to kill Menelaus after his brother (Paris who challenged him to a fight over Helen of Troy) runs away.The world is not ideal and I don't like idealistic heroes. I don't like simple heroes. I like heroes that are challenged and heroes that have to make very real choices as opposed to the ones that are laid out for the purpose of clean writing.

Is this story relevant today?

EB: I think it's lasted this long because these characters and this story can be laid over every battle that's ever been fought and it bears relevance. I think we can all identify with the characters in there. Unfortunately as Agamemnon says in the story, we only remember the Kings, we don't remember the soldiers and I think that's a really wonderful line. It's the immortal lives of Hector and Achilles (who are not the Kings) that are gonna resonate through time in a favorable fashion.

Do you see Troy as another way to glorify violence in Hollywood under the guise of war?

EB: I think what we're hard wired for is retaliation. I think what we're hard wired for as human beings is for vengeance and retribution and righteousness which tends to lead us down the path of war. I can relate to wanting to go to battle because you've hurt my family. I think that's a patent that's been there since the dawn of time.

What was it like working opposite a legendary actor such as Peter O'Toole?

EB: I didn't dare have any preconceived expectations. Whilst the word legend is kind of bandied about, there's absolutely no doubt that Peter O'Toole is a legend. So when you come to work opposite him you're obviously going in the back of your mind, 'Oh my God it's Peter O'Toole.' But what winds up happening after a start is he's no longer Peter O'Toole; he's Peter because he's only interested in talking to you about cricket and rugby. It's almost like who he is and what he's done pales into insignificance with the experience of sitting opposite him and experiencing him in the first person. That completely overrides the fact that you're sitting opposite Lawrence of Arabia. The second thing that happens is you forget about Peter O'Toole because your so blown away by the energy of the actor that is in front of you that that becomes the overwhelming factor. He absolutely has so much energy that he takes you there. He reminds me of Nick Nolte because they are so there and the energy is so where it needs to be. It's a great thing for me to say to yourself, 'I can do this until I'm Peter's age.' It's a great thing to see someone at his age have more energy than us most of the time. I love him dearly.

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