Eric Bana interview: talks Munich, working with Steven Spielberg

IGN Interview with Eric Bana

Munich was released theatrically at the end of 2005, at a time when googolplexes were already overrun with Oscar bait, but its financial success was colored by the media’s controversial response, which included widespread critiques of director Spielberg’s approach, and its ties to current political affairs. During a recent phone conversation from the set of his latest film Romulus, My Father, Bana addressed some of those criticisms, and talked about his own approach to tackling such a tough subject.

IGN: When Spielberg first approached you to work on this film, what trepidations or concerns if any did you have about tackling such controversial material?

Bana: I didn’t really have any. I guess if it wasn’t Steven who was making the film, I probably would have most definitely had some, and had more concerns. But I was privy to all drafts of the script from an early stage, so I roughly knew the kind of viewpoint that the film was being presented in, and I was very comfortable with it at all phases. But if I was kept in the dark and it wasn’t Steven, it was someone whose work I was taking a chance on, I would have been more fearful.

IGN: How was the collaborative process working with Spielberg? Was pretty much everything on the page and ready to go, or did you have to do a lot of character development to access the emotional recesses that Avner dives into?

Bana: It changed quite a bit from the original, and Steven and I kept in touch all through that pre-production process, so I really felt like by the time we started shooting we were most definitely in a short hand relationship. We both sort of expected and wanted the same things for Avner, and very rarely if ever disagreed on anything, and if he came up with an idea or I came up with an idea we pretty much always agreed. It was kind of odd to have such a relationship with that much synergy seeing as how we’d never worked together before. So it was great- I couldn’t have had a better experience working with Steven and it was something that I really cherished on a daily basis, not because of who he is, but because of what that relationship was as actor-director on that movie. It was something really special, so it definitely helped me with the character because we were on the same page.

IGN: How tough was it to work on something this big and have only six months or so to get through everything? Did you find that the emotional demands were most difficult or the logistical ones?

Bana: I never really felt like [the time constraint] was an issue. I’ve not worked with Steven before, but I know that he works fast, and this project was no exception – it was his normal pace. So I don’t think that affected our production at all. I guess what was probably the most difficult for me with that compressed time was just the way that a movie is scheduled in general – jumping backwards and forwards between different emotional times for the character. You know, you would sometimes have two or three of them in one day, so you might be filming a scene towards the end of the movie in the morning, and then in the afternoon you are shooting a scene where he’s young and na¿ve and doesn’t know what’s about to happen, and it’s a completely different person for you as an actor. So I guess that was probably the most difficult.

IGN: Were you surprised at all about how unflinching was the end result? Spielberg certainly has an incredible pedigree, but he sometimes has a tendency to be overly sentimental.

Bana: There were days when we were shooting where I was like, you’re sure he’s not going to use this. And believe it or not, the scene on the houseboat, with the Dutch woman, was even worse on the day than what you see on screen. I think he’s kind of fascinated by the dark side, and wants to explore it on the set. Juts when you think he’s go to the edge of the envelope, he’ll go a step further and you just sit there and you think, whoa – this guy’s got balls. That was definitely the case on this movie. I mean there were a lot of moments on set that we found difficult, there’s no doubt, but we all knew that it was important for his vision. And it was difficult for him too – a lot of this stuff was really hard for him to shoot.

IGN: This movie reminds me a lot of Bertolucci’s The Conformist. Were there films or texts – other than the source material – that you found inspiration or influence from while working on this, or do you work that way?

Bana: No, I generally don’t. We didn’t really discuss any kind of points of relevance in that sense. We certainly talked a lot about movies (laughs), but we didn’t really – I mean, we did speak about genre and we all had a love for ’70s movies, and were definitely aware that that’s where we were heading, not only in terms of time period but in times of genre. But there weren’t sort of specific references, no. One of them hit me, but it wasn’t until after we were filming and I saw The Conversation, and I thought, wow, I’m glad I didn’t see that before we filmed. It’s fantastic, because emotionally I thought it was really quite interesting for my character.

Full interview, Bana talks Hulk:

Actor Eric Bana, Director Steven Spielberg and Screenwriter Tony Kushner attend Universal Pictures private screening of the film 'Munich' held at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on December 20, 2005 in Beverly Hills, California. (December 19, 2005 - Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images Entertainment)
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