Eric Bana is about to get his ass-kicked by a duo of bad-ass women in Joe Wright’s latest film Hanna — and he couldn’t be happier. What makes this film great is that it’s a fun action/thriller filled with magnificent performances. From the young and talented Saorise Ronan to the cinematically potent Cate Blanchett, to Eric Bana, the reason for a whole lot of action – this film is filled with great performances. Bana’s character, conveniently named Erik, has to keep the story moving forward at all times– and it’s a joy to watch him perform. He carries the weight and depth needed to believe his character, but also has that sweet edge that has you always pulling for him. Find out how it all came together in our interview with him below…
Breaking the Cliches with Hanna:
In a clichéd action film, most of the time it’s the male lead who’s going around. In this film, it’s basically dominated by women and you’re basically beaten up by women for most of the film. Is that something that’s actually really fun to be able to be a part of?
EB: Well it’s something I’m used to in everyday life so… No. One of the things that was exciting about the project, I mean, the script read incredibly original and fresh and exciting but at the same time it was like how cool is this that it’s a 16-year-old girl that’s playing the role of what would normally be a 25-year or 30-year-old guy. So that was something to me that was very exciting. So no, I had no reservations about being the mentor and occasionally getting my ass kicked. I was more than happy to.
What do you think Hanna was deprived of the most?
What would be the worst in her developmental years?
EB: That’s the message of the film that a 16-year-old girl can survive without Twitter and Facebook. No, seriously, it’s the opposite of modern day society, I guess. But I loved the fact that it was a father-daughter dynamic which we don’t get to see a lot of in film, and even in society, it’s the mother who is the primary caretaker. But in this case, Erik has chosen to fulfill an obligation of taking care of Hanna and devoting his life to her care which is really interesting. But, in terms of what is she deprived of, I guess she’s deprived of a mother. That is the one that would be the biggest thing I think.
You’re a full grown man, what was it like to have these intense fight scenes with a young girl who has to be able to hold her own?
EB: Well it’s different definitely. Initially I was concerned obviously, because when you read the script, you realize there’s going to be a lot of full on physical stuff between you and – by the time Saoirse was 15. So it’s even a concern when you’re doing that stuff with another male actor. You’re working with another actor who’s a young girl. I had a lot of faith in Jeff, our stunt coordinator. After probably two days of training with Saoirse, I was no longer concerned because I could see that she had really put the work in. It’s more of a concern when you’re working with someone who hasn’t done that stuff before. You’re just more aware that something can go wrong. She was really well prepared and trained really hard. In the end, I was more concerned for my own safety than hers.
How was it for you and Saoirse to juggle all the different languages that Erik and Hanna get to work with?
EB: I’m not good with languages. She’s better than I am. There was only that one scene where…I think I had someone yelling the lines at me to be honest. “What is it? Spanish again? Could you play the audio for the Spanish again?” That took more training for me than the fights.
The Fight Scenes:
We see you do that amazing one take scene that’s a few minutes long where you take out four guys. How much work did you do from the beginning of training to the end to pull that scene off?
EB: It’s interesting. The thing about that scene, the one in the subway where it’s all just one shot, is physically it’s exactly the same. Whenever I learn a fight, you learn it from start to finish and I like to be able to do the fight from start to finish without stopping so that on the day you’re covered if the director wants to shoot it in any particular way.
What makes it different when they do decide to do it in one shot is it’s just more pressure because you realize there’s no way for any mistakes or for anything to be picked up or fixed. But it’s extremely exciting because it’s the opposite of what we do mostly and most fights are assembled in the edit suite and you lose a lot of the hard work you’ve put in to learn all those fights. So I was honored when Joe said “I’m going to shoot this steadycam. One shot. We’ve got to get it in magic hour. It becomes more like a sport. The cameraman, the focus puller, the guy dragging the cables, everyone has to be absolutely perfect on one take. So it does become more like a live performance and there is more adrenaline on a day like that. It’s good fun.
How many times did you do it?
EB: We only had time…we had about a 45-minute window because it was magic hour so I think we did six or seven and I think it’s the second take that’s in the film. We just kept doing them and resetting all the background. We spent all day preparing for that magic hour.
The film has a very specific rhythm and it just cranks it out very fast. I wondering when you’re on set while you’re filming it, did you have a sense of how it was going to look and feel when it finally came to film?
EB: You did get a sense of the look because so many of the characters were so archetypal. Marissa’s look and Tom Hollander’s character, I mean, they’re always really crazy – well not crazy – but very distinct looks in the wardrobe and in the locations even. The locations led to you believing that this film was going to have a very, very unique look. And I loved the fact that it’s hard to place what time it’s in. It’s like this could be 2010 but it could also be ’85 or ’76 in some instances in terms of its cinematic look. That was real exciting because I love spy movies. I love thrillers. I love that kind of energy and this film felt like that. But also, the film looks bigger than it was to shoot and I think a lot of that is just because of Joe’s eye and it also has a lot to do with his collaboration with The Chemical Brothers because I think when he was shooting he knew exactly what kind of music would be influencing the final product. That’s such a rare thing I think where the director has that close of a relationship with the musical collaboration and I think it really heightens the film in this case.
Working with Cate:
Can you talk about your scene with Cate Blanchett? We’re kind of waiting for you guys to finally have your moment throughout it. But you obviously had to prepare so much backstory and so much had to lead up to that. Can you talk about finally getting to do that scene?
EB: The fun thing, first off, I wish I’d had more scenes with Cate obviously but I couldn’t coax that out of the script or out of Joe.
Were you trying to secretly write some extra scenes and sneak them in there?
EB: Exactly. But I loved the fact that when I read the script there was so much about Marissa and Erik that we don’t know. And that’s a lot of fun because, as you say, it’s like it’s in your imagination to play with that. We don’t know what the hell they got up to. We don’t know if they were a couple at some stage or what the physical dynamic is in their relationship. So it’s kind of fun when you get to play those baits or at least play with them in your head because it’s not there to be judged because we don’t know exactly what happens. There was a good mixture of clear information and a lot of ambiguity as well which was good.
Were you two on the same page though? Did you decide certain things – like we were together or we weren’t together — or did you guys not let each other know?
EB: Well I had my own special thing in my own head. I don’t know what she had in hers. I didn’t sit down with Cate and say “Now this is my thought on …”
That must be fun because there are some surprises then because they might not…
EB: Yeah, exactly. Also, oddly the only scene we share together truly is over the phone when I’m down in the corridor and then there’s that one moment towards the end. So there wasn’t a lot to play with.
Coming Up Next:
What are you working on next?
EB: I’m shooting in Montreal right now on a film called “Blackbird” which is a little indie drama with Olivia Wilde and Sissy Spacek, Charley Hunnam, Chris Kristofferson are in the movie. I play not a very nice character for the others so I’m in the middle of that at the moment in Montreal.
Do you find the small stuff more rewarding?
EB: I never really think much about the size of a production because I think as an actor, once you’re in it, it’s all the same. I never ever pick projects based on their size. I think it’s a really, really dangerous game so if I read something and I love it, I’ll do it and I don’t even ask what the budget is. I tend not to read the size of the production into a script when I’m reading it. It’s just something you respond to or not and I do think it’s very dangerous to say it’s time now to do this or it’s time now to do that. I don’t like to get into that. But, having said that, it is nice seeing a smaller operation moving around. It does feel faster. There’s no doubt.