Aussie Football Enrages Hulk

Aussie actor Eric Bana thought of football for motivation when acting as the Hulk.
Melbourne actor Eric Bana thought of football for motivation when acting as the Hulk, writes Philippa Hawker.

Before shooting started on Hulk, Eric Bana gave the film's director, Ang Lee, a football video. He wasn't trying to recruit a high-profile supporter to his team, St Kilda: he was hoping that the gigantic computer-generated figure of the title character, the Hulk, could have a few AFL moves.

"I was trying to explain to Ang what Australian Rules football was. I couldn't influence the character that much," Bana said, "but I thought it would have been great if he could have drop-kicked something."

Is there, nevertheless, a touch of Tony Lockett in the Hulk, rampaging across the screen? "He has a bit of Plugger in him," Bana said, "and a bit of Gary Ablett as well."

The plight of St Kilda helped as motivation when manifesting the rage of the Hulk. "I just cast my mind back to all those ugly losses at AFL Park . . . I just use that for motivation most of the time," he said.

Bana is in Melbourne to promote the latest blockbuster comic-book epic, hot on the heels of Spiderman and the second X-Men instalment. He plays scientist Bruce Banner, who, for reasons that are a combination of the Oedipal, the experimental and the accidental, is periodically transformed into a phenomenally strong and destructive green giant.

Bana appreciates the fact that his character is a mixture of the active and the passive, "not a superhero put there to save the world or combat evil". To promote Hulk, Bana has taken time from filming Wolfgang Petersen's Troy, in which he plays Hector, opposite Brad Pitt's Achilles. The last thing he did on set was to ride a horse bareback through the gates of Troy, with 500 extras throwing confetti. It wasn't until the day before the Hulk promotion started that he saw the whole film.

He didn't have specific expectations. "I didn't dare have too many, because there were so many elements that didn't have anything to do with me or that were beyond my control. The Hulk on screen was all new to me."

Bana could also see the results of an exhaustive - and exhausting - shooting process. Lee wanted a specific style for the film, approximating the look of comic books, which involved shooting multiple takes from slightly different angles. There was one scene that took 170 or 180 takes. He's philosophical, almost upbeat, about the repetition. "It's not as frustrating as doing a scene 30 times because you haven't got it." It was Lee's vision and though there were times when he drove the cast hard, "you never felt it was like it was being whipped, and you never felt it was about you", he said. Bana has gravitated towards gruelling films, he admits: after Chopper, came the boot-camp training and protracted shoot of Black Hawk Down, followed by Hulk and Troy.

He has a clear rationale for his choices: he lives in Melbourne and makes one film a year. "I have to be obsessed with the character and the idea, and it has to come from me. That part of it's quite easy and the rest of it is very simple logistics. I'm married, I have two children, I love being at home and I'm a home-sick melancholic, so choosing a project is something I take very seriously."
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The Age, Australia