By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Eric Bana arrives for an interview looking like he may burst out of his tight-fitting grey T-shirt and scrappy jeans that show off his well-toned muscular body. His thick, curly black hair is perfectly unruly and tinged with a hint of grey.
The Aussie hunk appears to be in a good mood as he talks up his new movie “Deadfall,” in which he plays a southern badass on the run from the law, following a daring casino heist with his adoring younger sister and another accomplice. Fleeing north to Canada, the fugitives slide off an ice-slick road and down an embankment, killing the accomplice. When help arrives in the form of a lone sheriff’s deputy, Bana’s Addison shows his gratitude by firing off several rounds at the officer, killing him. He and his sister, Liza (played by the sexy Olivia Wilde of “House” fame), run into the woods with the loot, planning to rendezvous closer to the border and freedom. But first, they must face the harsh winter elements and escape local law enforcement, which is hot on their trail.
The 44-year-old Melbourne native, most recently seen in the hit action thriller “Hanna,” says the brutal Montreal weather where the film was shot last year was the toughest opponent to contend with during the six-week.
Q: What was it about this role that fascinated you so much?
Bana: I just thought (writer) Zach (Dean) did an amazing job with the script. I thought it was the best marriage of action and drama, which you don’t always get. Sometimes you get real interesting scripts with not the best dialogue, and sometimes you get great dialogue without a great story but, in this case, it was a great marriage of the two. I was immediately compelled by Addison. I thought he was really interesting and I found him quite hilarious, actually, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to play him.
Q: After the success of “Hanna” (which was set in Finland), do you have it built into your contract that you only will work in snow?
Bana: (He laughs.) I know it was back-to-back snow movies for me, but it’s still a novelty. I don’t get it at home (in Australia), so I still find it interesting.
Q: You’ve said before you want to get back to your comedy roots, and there is definitely a comedic element to this. Did you see this as kind of an opportunity to do some dark comedy?
Bana: Yeah. There wasn’t anything deliberately funny in Addison, but I think the situations that all these characters find themselves in and some of the things that he does are inadvertently very funny. But it wasn’t playing for laughs, though I knew the audience probably would laugh at the ridiculous nature of what we’re all forced to do, and what Addison forces everyone to do.
Q: Your lovely co-star Olivia Wilde seemed to have it rougher than you filming outdoors in the cold wearing a flimsy cocktail dress.
Bana: (In mock outrage) My feet were cold, okay? I just had thin socks and those stupid shoes. Give me a break. I’d so much rather be cold on a production that goes to the trouble of shooting in real snow than be comfortable traipsing around in fake snow.
Q: When you’re reading a good script, do you just kind of go “Wow, I can’t wait to play this character” but then you realize, “oh we’re going to be in Montreal and it’s going to be 30 below?”
Bana: I did, and I think selfishly as an actor, we all just saw ourselves around the (climactic) Thanksgiving table scene with Kris Kristofferson and Sissy Spacek. Those were great scenes. But I forgot that I was going to be running around in the snow for most of the movie. I remember one day Gary (Levinsohn), the producer, and I were standing in the snow freezing. He was in all his Tek gear and I couldn’t even see his face. I remember him saying, “I don’t know about you but it didn’t read like this to me.” That was after week number three or four out in the elements. It’s funny how when you read something you don’t equate it to the actuality of what it’s going to be like. The only time it really hit home was when we finally got to the farmhouse (location). I remember walking up and going, “Oh it’s so nice to be on a dry, level ground.”
Q: You have some great co-stars in this: Sissy Spacek, Charlie Hunnam and Kris Kristofferson, whom you have a great scene with towards the end of the film at the farmhouse. Did you film that scene towards the end of the film you got to know each other really well? And how hard was it to keep up the intensity of scene over several days of shooting?
Bana: Between takes, we kind of hung out together in a little mini Winnebago that was parked outside the house. There literally was not room for us to stand on the set—which was a real house—while they were relighting, so I found this little van outside that we would go in.
Q: We’ve seen you in a lot of romantic roles lately, like your characters in “The Time Traveler’s Wife” and “Funny People.” Is this kind of a return to your action roles in terms of the ruthlessness of your character?
Bana: Maybe for American audiences it was something a bit different. But no, I read (the character) as sort of morally straight and quite humorous, in a way. I didn’t read him so much as a bad guy. He has a strong sense of purpose in what he is doing. I think that’s always what makes those characters scary, knowing that you can’t really negotiate with him. In his mind, everything he’s doing is completely morally correct, and there’s a sound reason for it.
Q: He’s still murdering people.
Bana: Yeah, okay. But, again, it’s not the actor’s place to judge the character. I’m more than happy to be morally corrupt for a few months for the benefit of my career. (He chuckles.)
Q: The sexual tension between brother and sister Addison and Liza was kind of disturbing, especially when you kiss her. Was that in the script?
Q: So you just decided to take it up a notch and make it really weird.
Bana: (Chuckling) Yes.
Q: You really nailed the southern accent. Is it difficult to do?
Bana: For some reason southern accents are always easier for Australians. It just purely comes down to our lazy way of speaking. I think there is an actual technical reason for it, but it’s the same as any other job. You just add a bit of time leading into it, so I had plenty of time to look into it. Fortunately, I’ve traveled around America enough that nine times out of 10, they’re places that I’ve been too, so I’ve had some kind of point of reference.
Q: Did you maintain the accent when you were not filming?
Bana: No. I don’t like talking in accent off-screen. I don’t know why, but I rarely do. (Movie audiences) never let me speak in my native tongue. (The 2009 comedy) “Funny People” was the only time I got to speak in my native tongue, and people had a problem with my accent in that movie. (He laughs.)
Q: Did you get to do all of your own stunts and fights in this film?
Bana: My neck was ruined. (Charlie Hunnam, who plays an ex-con that Liza hooks up with) beat the shit out of me. (He laughs.) I don’t think I landed a punch. It was just like bang, bang. I remember after about five takes I was stiff all over and thinking “how much more can my neck can take.” I’m used to throwing punches and now I just have to just sort of take it. But it was kind of fun. I was thrilled that Charlie agreed to play Jay. Early on, I was talking to (director) Stefan (Ruzowitzky) about who would be great as Jay, and I was a big fan of Charlie’s from “Sons of Anarchy,” and his earlier stuff. So I was just thrilled (when he signed on) because we needed someone who was going to be a great match for Addison. We also needed someone that it was completely believable, (especially) at the end when Addison was going to meet his match and then some. So we were really lucky to have him.
Q: Can you share a favorite Christmas memory?
Bana: (After a long pause) We’re upside down (in Australia) so our Christmases are always about running around in shorts and T-shirts and peeling the prawns in the morning. So I’d love a white Christmas. I’ve never done a white Christmas. I’d love to do that one time.