Birth Name: Eric Banadinovich
Birth Date: August 09, 1968
Birth Place: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Born to Croatian and German parents in Melbourne, Australia, on Aug. 9, 1968, Bana began showing a knack for mimicry and comedy at a very early age by imitating friends and family members. He fell in love with the idea of becoming an actor after viewing fellow Aussie Mel Gibson in his star-making role of “Mad Max” (1979), yet did not make his performing debut until years later when he was working as a bartender at a hotel. A successful debut as a stand-up comic gave him confidence, but the financial returns were too limited to give up his day job. Bana’s first big break came with a guest appearance on the late night talk show, “Tonight Live” (7 Network, 1990-93). His turn impressed the producers of the sketch comedy series “Full Frontal” (7 Network, 1993-97), who asked him to join as a cast member and writer. Bana quickly became an audience favorite, based on the strength of his material, which incorporated parodies of popular Hollywood actors – including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone – as well as sketches based on his own family.
By 1996, Bana had his own television special, “Eric,” before earning his own sketch comedy series, “The Eric Bana Show” in 1997. Despite his appeal, the show lasted just eight episodes. A second series, “Eric,” ran for only nine shows that same year. Bana filled out the year by marrying his girlfriend, Rebecca Gleason, a publicist for Seven Network. The two got engaged while on a trip to the United States which he won, ironically, by being named “Bachelor of the Year” by an Aussie magazine. The couple eventually had two children, a son in 1999, and a daughter in 2002. Meanwhile, Bana made his film debut in the comedy “The Castle” (1997), about a Melbourne family facing displacement after the government forces them to move. His supporting turn as an accountant who fancies kickboxing certainly pleased his fans. In 2000, Bana made the leap to leading man in “Chopper,” a biopic about Australian career criminal Chopper Read, whose warts-and-all biography was a bestseller in his native country. Bana gained 30 pounds for the role and underwent extensive daily makeup sessions to replicate Read’s elaborate body tattoos. The film was a huge success in Australia, earning Bana his first international raves, as well as a Best Actor award from the Australian Film Institute.
That same year, Bana joined the cast of the Australian drama series “Something in the Air” (ABC, 2000-02), but departed a year later to accept Ridley Scott’s invite to star in “Black Hawk Down” (2001), a grim and violent action film about American Special Forces soldiers ambushed by Somalian fighters while attempting to remove a pair of warlords. As with “Chopper,” Bana underwent major physical changes to play the part, including training with real Special Forces units. Bana was next offered the lead in Rob Cohen’s “XXX” (2002), but turned it down to play a road worker who stumbles upon a giant gold nugget in “The Nugget” (2002), a low-budget comedy made in Australia. Upon returning to stateside moviemaking, he found himself at the center of much buzz over his next role, playing Bruce Banner, the human alter ego to Marvel Comics’ legendary “Hulk” (2003). The expensive feature, directed by art house veteran Ang Lee, was released to almost universal disinterest by overeager fans. Though Bana’s performance was deemed notable, many disliked the stiff and unemotional CGI Hulk, while the script was panned for adding unnecessary psychological layers to the character.
That same year, Bana joined fellow Australian comic actors Barry Humphries – better known as Dame Edna Everage – and Bruce Spence to provide the voices of three ravenous Great Barrier Reef sharks in the Disney/Pixar hit, “Finding Nemo” (2003). The following year, he returned to Hollywood for Wolfgang Petersen’s unintentionally campy historical epic “Troy” (2004). As Prince Hector, Bana offered the sole note of believability amidst a cast populated by Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, and Diane Kruger. In interviews, Bana shrugged off the back-to-back failures of “The Hulk” and “Troy,” citing his own satisfaction with the end results. Despite the heavy promotional schedule for “Troy,” Bana also found time to contribute to several promotional spots for the Mental Illness Foundation, a non-profit organization in Australia which worked to promote awareness for people with mental illnesses.
Bana next teamed with Geoffrey Rush and Daniel Craig to star in Steven Spielberg’s “Munich” (2005), a film which traced the Israeli government’s retaliation against the Palestinian terrorists that murdered Israeli athletes during the 1972 Winter Olympics. Bana received excellent reviews for his role as the conflicted family man pressed into service by Israel’s Prime Minister, Golda Meir (Lynn Cohen), finding his task of assassinating his targets an almost insurmountable moral quandary. Though the film failed to score significantly at the box office, it received widespread critical acclaim – and a considerable amount of negative press from Jewish leaders – atop five Academy Award nominations. That same year, Bana provided the narration for an Australian documentary, “Terrors of Tasmania,” which examined the endangered Tasmanian Devil.
After the birth of his children, Bana limited his film output to a single production a year so that he could spend more time at home in Melbourne. Strangely, the decision had virtually no impact on his career. He continued to remain in demand in the U.S., starring in “Lucky You” (2007), a romantic comedy about a troubled professional poker player who finds love at the same time he is slated to challenge his own father (Robert Duvall) in a high-stakes tournament. The film, directed by “L.A. Confidential” (1997) helmer Curtis Hanson, actually began production prior to Bana’s work in “Munich,” but was pushed back several times by the studio. Meanwhile, he was King Henry VIII in “The Other Boleyn Girl” (2008), who vies for the attention of both Anne (Natalie Portman) and Mary (Scarlett Johansson). In “Romulus, My Father” (2008), he was a dad who forms a strong bond with his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) while struggling to overcome hardships and the depression of the boy’s mother (Franka Potente). Bana returned to big-budget films and the rabid fanboy arena with the reboot “Star Trek” (2009), in which he played Nero, a time-traveling Romulan villain.
Bana next worked within the sci-fi genre in a much subtler way, starring with Rachel McAdams in the fantastical romantic drama “The Time-Traveler’s Wife” (2009) and made a brief appearance in Judd Apatow’s melancholy comedy “Funny People” (2009), where he got to keep his Aussie accent. The following year proved to be a Bana-less one in the cinemas, but he returned in 2011 with the thrilling “Hanna,” playing the tough, thoughtful secret-agent father of the title character (Saoirse Ronan) who has learned her dad’s skills and is forced to use them while on the run from shady forces. He next appeared in two underperforming thrillers, “Deadfall” (2012), co-starring Olivia Wilde, and “Closed Circuit” (2013) with Rebecca Hall.