Interview: Eric Bana – 'I was confident Ricky Gervais could do a funnier version'
Aussie actor stars in Netflix exclusive comedy Special Correspondents
Eric Bana makes a welcome return to his comedy roots in Netflix original film Special Correspondents (a remake of the 2009 French film of the same title). It tells the story of a journalist who is dispatched to Ecuador to report on a breaking war story but due to an unfortunate mishap doesn’t quite make it there. Now more famous for his dramatic and action roles Bana first made a name for himself on the comedy circuit in Australia doing stand-up and appearing in sketch shows. 'It was all I did for ten years before I started doing drama,' he explains. 'And to this day, on set, my brain still functions like a sketch comedy writer. One of the reasons I’ve never written a narrative feature is because that’s not how my brain thinks. It breaks it down into three minute ideas.'
His breakthrough role in 2000 as real-life criminal and best-selling author Mark 'Chopper' Read was also laced with black humour, and over the last 16 years he has proved how game a jobbing actor he is, appearing in everything from superhero adventure Hulk to Spielberg's gritty drama Munich. He was drawn back to comedy because he’s a 'huge fan of Ricky Gervais' who wrote, directed and co-stars in Special Correspondents.
Bana excitedly explains how he felt when he received the screenplay: 'When it's someone you’re really a fan of you can’t believe they know you actually exist. He was the reason I read it. I saw the French version of the film and I was pretty confident that Ricky could do a funnier version of that. Ricky didn’t actually know about my comedy background so a lot of the stuff just came about with us having fun on the shoot.'
To Bana, 'character is king in comedy' and his role as Frank Bonneville, an arrogant radio DJ and alpha-male who is supremely confident at bullshitting is an amalgam of various influences. 'Australia has a very big radio culture,' he says, 'I still to this day listen to a lot of talk radio so I’m sure I was influenced by certain people. No one specific but definitely a by-product of people I’ve seen and heard over the years. I can’t give you a juicy name.' Although he does see similarities between himself and his character. 'Much like myself, the angrier Frank gets the funnier the dynamic gets. I experienced that in my own life. If I’m really angry at home and going on a rant everyone’s pissing themselves laughing.'
Special Correspondents premieres on Netflix, Fri 29 Apr.