Popular a decade ago, Eric Bana, Ang Lee’s cinematic Hulk, disappeared from the radar for the general public: how was his career?
Eric Bana: if we say his name, most of you will associate him with the tormented one Bruce Banner in one of the first cinecomics of the phenomenon Marvel at the cinema, the criticized Hulk (2003) by Ang Lee. Eric Bana however, after that leap into the star system, he never stopped working, but beyond that little boom in that specific handful of years, chances are you’ve lost sight of him. Let’s see where Eric Bana came from, where he’s been and where he’s probably going.
Eric Bana was born as a comedian
No, that’s not a joke. Indeed the Eric Bana who attracted the attention of the international stage, the dramatic actor, in his homeland Australia was a comic. In the early nineties in Melbourne it was maintained as barista and, a little for fun, he decided to try his hand at cabaret in the same place: from an early age he had loved to imitate friends and relatives. His performances opened the doors of the Australian TV, where a rather fast rise took him between 1993 and 1997 even to a show of his own, The Eric Bana Show: during this period he enjoyed imitating Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Cruise and even Lieutenant Colombo! And always devoted to laughter, he made his debut in the cinema, with comedy Home Sweet Home, in 1997.
The question is: how did that Eric Bana become the Eric Bana we all know, moving from the comic local reality to the Hollwyoodian drama international? A film made in 2000 in Australia unites the two worlds: the director of Chopper (2000), biopic of criminal Mark “Chopper” Read, after five years spent in the vain search for a committed actor, he thought outside the box and proposed the role to this comedian. Eric agreed, the film was a critical success. In the United States they noticed it. It was done. Maybe.
Eric Bana, the man who became the Hulk and Hector
After an American warm up with a part in Black Hawk Down (2001), Eric Bana became Bruce Banner per Lee in Hulk (2003), released when Marvel Studios was not yet part of Disney and the Marvel Cinematic Universe still did not exist. These were the first steps of the phenomenon cinecomic, which at that point boasted only the hits of X-Men (2000) and Spider-Man (2002). Although there was a certain unanimity in considering his performance excellent, the film did not enthuse neither critics nor audiences (lukewarm with 245 million dollars in the box office). At that point Bana was already committed as Hector in Troy (2004), a half-billion-dollar hit, however badly beaten by critics. It is in this particular “suspension of enthusiasm” that perhaps we can read the dynamics of the career of this actor, who nevertheless has maintained an intelligent philosophy, as he explained to Empire:
It’s not like the Hulk was a flop [non più del successivo goffo tentativo di cancellarlo con L’incredibile Hulk, ndr]. When you spin that long it becomes an investment in your person. If I wasn’t happy with the final result, I would be very angry, but in any case until now I feel happy. Troy could make fifty dollars and I wouldn’t regret it anyway.
A philosophical approach, if you like, and on the other hand shortly after Eric showed that he could survive even beyond the blockbusters, with Munich (2005) by Steven Spielberg, one of the least expensive and crudest films of the great American author. We could however say that his place in the sun in the star system ended shortly after, because despite the good The rules of the game (2007) by Curtis Hanson even saw him share the screen with Robert Duvall, we are ready to bet that he was seen by a much smaller number of viewers.
Eric Bana, the man who gave up his Marvel job (or lost it?)
At this point there is the turning point more particular than Eric Bana, we do not know if dictated by a strong poetic idea of his profession, always based on research, or if on the contrary caused by an underestimation of chance, or even by ruthless external wills. According to reports, he is asked if he wants return as Banner in a new movie. Refuse. We don’t know if it really was his refusal to push Marvel to reboot con Norton The Incredible Hulk, or if on the contrary it was the subsequent decision to make a reboot to oust him from the games and we are actually talking about a forced removal. Either way, to a “poised” star like Bana lose a Marvel superhero it is not good for the economic development of his career.
He does not seem to give you much immediate weight, because in 2009 he retraces his past in the cabaret, making fun of himself in the bitter Funny People by Judd Apatow with Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, just after being Henry VIII in the modest The other woman of the king, between Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. However, these are his last fires in the collective imagination, but the status of star does not necessarily correspond to his serenity. Anyone who has embraced the world of entertainment knows: already working in the business that counts is a success. Maybe few will remember a horror like Deliver Us from Evil (2014), or will make a local mind about his supporting role in King Arthur (2017), but Eric continues his path, even in the miniseries Dirty John (2018-2019). For an ex-Melbourne bartender, that dream harbored while watching the idol on TV Mel Gibson in Mad Max has already come true. Whatever happened.