INT: Eric Bana
Eric Bana is a man full of surprises. Most American audiences were stunned by his comic turn in FUNNY PEOPLE, though he's been doing stand up for many years. And now we get to see a brand new side of him in LOVE THE BEAST, his documentary about his deep emotional connection he has to the Ford GT Falcon Coupe that he's been rebuilding since the age of fifteen. (He also directed and produced the film.) Bana and his three closest childhood friends rebuild the car to prepare it for one of the most grueling races out there, The Targa Tasmania Rally. And on the fourth day of the race, the unthinkable happens. The Beast wrecks. A highly emotional and deeply personal film, LOVE THE BEAST gives us a look, not only at what this particular car means to Bana, but what it means to be a car fanatic. I got to speak to Bana about the film, the state of The Beast now and how Dr. Phil ended up in his documentary.
I'm not usually a car person, but watching this actually made me want to try racing.
For people who don't know about the film, can you talk about where you got your love of cars?
I was always, even as a toddler, I was just obsessed with cars. There wasn't really a moment where I remember it happening or one thing having a stronger influence over the other. I guess it was a combination of just being obsessed as a baby, and then my dad kind of liked them, but not as much as I love them now. And I used to just try to find my racing on the television. Yeah I was always just sort of into them.
I have to ask you, what is the state of The Beast now? Have you fixed it up yet?
Yeah, it's on it's way to being repaired. We've sort of straightened the chassis and a lot of sort of ugly work that's, you know, two...mechanics like myself can't do. It's in the hands of experts and then once it's all straightened, it will come back home, and I'll start putting it all back together. But it's on the road to recovery.
Do you want to take that car back out and do the same race you crashed in?
No, no. That was always going to be it's last race. It will just be used for fun once it's rebuilt.
Your wife speaks during the film and she seems really supportive. But does your family ever freak out when you're racing?
No, I race a lot. My wife is very realistic about the dangers...I don't do rallies anymore because I wasn't enjoying them as much. When I first started doing circuit racing at a high level, I was no longer enjoying the rallies...too many close friends getting hurt and injured and stuff. So I don't do rallies anymore, but I race a lot on the track. And no, my wife is totally, totally supportive of it. She's quite educated on the subject and realizes that racing on a track is safer than a rally...so yeah, there is a big difference.
I thought it was great that you got Dr. Phil and Jay Leno in the film. How did that come about?
Well, when I was structuring the film and the edit, I realized that what I wanted to do was, as much as possible was, and I knew it was going to be hard, was to get myself off the screen. And I wanted other people to say things thematically that I wanted said. So I literally sat down and went, I would love to get as a speaker, someone who, you know, collects cars...who is a car lover but who is very matter of fact about it...and then I want someone talking about, you know, having a sort of tongue-in-cheek psychology angle, and then we came up with the Dr. Phil idea, but a lot of his stuff was just so much more interesting than the original tongue-in-cheek idea, so we just ran with it.
In the film, you guys talk about how machines are just machines, but earlier cars have flaws, which gives them a personality that you can bond to. So are there any newer cars that you feel like you could bond to?
The high end sports cars have an ability to do that, simply because they have DNA in them. Like a Porsche 911 doesn't share a single component with one from thirty years ago, it's a car that has directly evolved. And it's the same with a Lamborghini or a Ferrari. I think it's always going to be the case that high end sports cars really are going to be incredible. But I think that ninety percent of the other cars that are manufactured, you know, from the point of view of having to pass safety tests and low emissions and all of those things, they do have a lot less character. I do think that's the case. Very rarely do you come across one that has a really great personality when it shouldn't, you know, given it's price. But they're pretty rare.
It's great for fans to get to know this side of you, and the friends you've spent your life with. What has it meant to you to have friends like this throughout your crazy acting career?
Well, I don't really know any different. They're just my mates. I just can't imagine not having old, old friends. I think the sort of newest sort of close friend I have is someone I've known for probably ten years or something. Yeah, I've just always...I've been very fortunate to have a lot of old friends and it's great. I think it's great no matter what sort of job you have.
You did such a good job with this documentary...a specific moment that stood out was the crash. You knew the crash was coming, but before you actually see it, you hear the voice mails talking about it. I wondered about that decision and whether or not you plan on doing any more documentaries.
I really love documentaries. I really do. I love them as much as I love a feature film. And I love them the most when I'm watching a documentary about something I know very little about. So I was kind of hoping that people would be open-minded about this and if they weren't into cars, to just give it a shot because, you know, it is made with that person in mind. I'm someone that loves watching them. I love watching documentaries about something that is a foreign subject and I'm learning something about the subject matter or a person, so that was very deliberate. So yeah, I'd love to do another one, but I'd probably love to do a narrative feature at some stage, and I guess that's one of the reasons that the film has such a narrative structure to it. I wanted people to forget they were watching a documentary after a while. Yeah, I'd love to do something else, but again, it would have to be something that I'd write myself or that I'd written scripts as an actor with an eye to direct. I don't really do that.
Well, like I said, I'm not a car person, but I was totally absorbed. I did forget that I was watching a documentary. What other projects do you have coming up?
Nothing, no. This one took me out of the loop for some time, and I had a bunch of stuff come out this year. There's nothing else in the can. Everything came out this year, so there is nothing on the horizon. I'll be disappearing into the sunset sometime.
No! Your fans are going to freak out, hearing that!
[laughs] Well, it's true! It's just that everything came out this year. STAR TREK came out, TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE came out, FUNNY PEOPLE came out, this now came out, a little animated film from here, MARY AND MAX...everything came out in 2009, so there's nothing in the can until I go back to work. It's going to be at least eighteen months until I talk to anyone again, so there will be a little lull. [laughs]
LOVE THE BEAST premieres December 18th, 2009.