A few nights ago, because I’m a rather busy man, I spent three hours revisiting the 2004 Cannes Film Festival gem, Troy. That’s the Wolfgang Peterson movie where much of its buzz was based on Brad Pitt’s abs and, to my disappointment, only semi-nude scenes, not the fact that it featured Peter O’Toole, Brian Cox, Brendan Gleeson, and other seasoned pros. Also in that cast was Eric Bana — shortly after grabbing attention with Andrew Dominik’s Chopper and Ridley Scott’s Blackhawk Down.
Troy wasn’t exactly up to snuff with those two films, but, in a big ‘ol cheese ball of a movie where even O’Toole hammed it up a little too much, Bana brought a much needed gravitas to Peterson’s light popcorn epic. He was stoic and imposing as Hector, and you’ll see him as the opposite in this week’s Closed Circuit, where he plays a jaded lawyer who probably wouldn’t even know how to fire a gun if you handed him one.
We spoke with Eric Bana about Closed Circuit’s old-school vibe and the longevity a few of his films have enjoyed over the years:
This is a dialogue heavy movie. Is there a lot of rehearsal when that’s the case?
Yeah, we did have a very reasonable amount of rehearsal, but not because of dialogue. We really spent our rehearsal time mainly discussing things, rather than running dialogue. [Director] John Crowley comes from a theater background, so he kind of expects us to show up and be ready to rock. We utilized our time to talk more than anything else.
Is there a difference working with a director who has a theater background?
It definitely gave me a lot of comfort, because I knew if he wasn’t happy with a scene we wouldn’t move on. I was able to read whether he was happy, if that makes sense. In terms of how he was covering the material, I had trust in him. It was well-organized, but he had a looseness on the set. You didn’t get that sense that every single aspect was rehearsed. It felt organic.
He said this was a process of finding the film in editing. Did that looseness play a part in that process?
Slightly. The one thing isn’t in the film as much is that Martin was a bit of a smartass, and I really enjoyed that part of that character. In the editing process the film told John what it needed to be and that we had enough of that element of Martin. It was fun to play and interesting, but I can see why it’s not in the film.
Martin harkens back to the antiheroes we’d see in the 70s. Did you look back at any of those archetypes?
Not specifically, because I’m a fan of those movies. I really don’t like watching certain movies when I’m researching a character, because I find it a bit invasive. Subconsciously you’re aware of a few films based on what you’ve seen. I don’t really rewatch something or seek out a film as a result. To me, I liked that John didn’t make Martin do anything ridiculous. We had one draft of the script where it got bigger at the midway point, but it didn’t feel true. I expressed that to John and he felt the same way, so it went back in the other direction. I was just praying it was going back to what you saw, because there was a possibly at some point it’d turn into…not Mr. & Mrs. Smith…
You’re not in the movie where you come in guns blazing, basically.
[Laughs] Exactly. I don’t take anyone’s head off. I just lamely hit someone’s head with a crowbar because I could find it [Laughs].
You get to reunite with an old colleague of yours, Ciarán Hinds.
How was it getting back on set with him?
I absolutely love Ciarán. I was thrilled when John ‐ and I almost couldn’t believe him ‐ told me he was playing the role of Devlin. It was very easy to step back into that workflow. He’s always great and, on top of that, he’s just a great guy with an awesome sense of humor. He’s so good.
It’s interesting looking at Munich now. At the time, a lot of people were so focused on the politics.
It was all about the politics! You’re right. It was hard for the film to get traction on its own ground, so it was very frustrating. Everyone was using it as a soapbox for their own political views. You know, it’s disappointing, because then a film doesn’t get a chance to be as honored as much as it deserves to be. I mean, we were nominated that year and it was great and exciting, but I hear what you’re saying.
But now people seem to see it as the movie it is.
Yeah. I gotta say, that’s happened to me a few times, where, for whatever reason, a film has been looked at one way or overlooked, but then years later it gets talked about again. To a degree, that happened with Blackhawk Down, which was years ago now. We just happened to make that just before 9/11, so when that film came out every journalist made it about George Bush and 9/11. It was, “Really? You’re really going to go there with it?” The film did well, but sometimes films do get hijacked and it takes a while for them to find their own voice.
It’s satisfying when they get better with age. Actually, I find that with Hanna as well. A lot of people are just finding it now. I guess, in some ways, that’s a better position to be in than a film that blows up for two weeks and nobody talks about again. You know, it is what it is.
Closed Circuit is now in theaters.