Interview: Eric Bana of 'Deadfall'
'It's a well-proven fact that there are plenty of non-violent psychopaths in upper management ...'
On the poster for "Deadfall," Eric Bana looks out with a pale face, a trail of blood down his brow and lips pursed against a winter chill. In person, talking about the film in Los Angeles, he's of course bright and full of good humor, sharing his tales of shooting in rural Quebec and working with director Stefan Ruzowiztky, playing one-half of a pair of on-the-run siblings opposite Olivia Wilde and much more ...
MSN Movies: The scene early on where Addison encounters that policeman by chance and things develop, I was sort of watching the character in that moment and looking at him think on his feet and improvise and change his body language before acting, and I wonder how far removed is criminal behavior from the acting process? How much of each of them are spontaneous expressions of being somebody else?
Eric Bana: Well I think what's fun as an actor is if you commit enough to the motivation behind your character's actions, a lot of it should come naturally. So I don't like to think too much about what my physicality's going to be here. I'd rather immerse myself in the character's brain and allow my body to react accordingly. But that instance in the beginning of the film kind of sets in motion the rest of the stakes really for Liza and Addison from that point on in that it just keeps getting worse and worse and worse. But you're right. I mean he had no intention of shooting anybody. They got away from the casino, they got the cash, and all was going really well until that freaking deer popped out into the middle of the road and it all changed.
The other thing was, when you look at Addison he's this charismatic guy, he's this bright guy, he's a good planner, do you think, between this and having played Chopper, do you think it's true that so many criminals have all the attributes they would need to not be criminals, aside from better judgment?
Absolutely, yeah. Well, it's a well-proven fact that there are plenty of non-violent psychopaths in upper management. I mean that's just the complete, given fact that there are a lot of people with extreme mental profiles that manage to be functioning without ever tripping over to the dark side.
Firing the people on a manufacturing line instead of firing a gun.
Yeah, exactly. So a lot of the attributes that make successful criminals successful are also what make business people successful. So no, I think a lot of times with those particularly charismatic, creative criminals that they could have had parallel careers in upper management perhaps.
With slightly better math grade and a better haircut when they were younger ....
Yeah, just one more decent friend, you know?
And it's interesting you talk about friendship, because the relationship between Addison and Liza what was interesting about it was how pared down it was. There were no big speeches, just a couple of moments, just a couple of glances, and I'm curious if the original draft of the script were like that or if it was something you actually paired down for the movie?
That's a really good question. Yeah, so there wasn't a whole lot there for us to work with in terms of screen minutes to sell what may or may not have occurred in the depths of the morally frayed existence that was there between the two, but Stefan was great at just allowing enough breathing room. And it's just little things like Addison watching Liza getting changed at the very beginning and just choosing how to play those beats and just giving us enough that the audience's mind can wander.
The look you give her, this weird mix of propriety and prudence, like you want to look at something you consider yours but you also don't want to stare…
When you get a moment like that where it's not the traditional big Hollywood screenplay thing of "She and I are now going to talk for five minutes about our relationship," or there'll be a flashback sequence, or the film will wind up shouting something in the moment, or reading from a folder later ... when you get to create big character moments out of small acting moments, is that especially rewarding?
It is, and it's super rare and you do need a director who has confidence in those moments being able to hold up and not be supported by monologues, not be supported by just a flashback, or even massive musical moments. So it is a sign of strength for the director I think.
When you're shooting in Quebec to double for the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and they yell cut and the day is done, what the hell do you do? Like what do you do when you're off duty on a shoot like this, which is by design out in the middle of nowhere in a small, ruralish community?
Well most of the time it was drive back to Montreal, but there were a couple weeks where we were up in Sacacomie and we're actually staying in a lodge up there so that was really cool...
Right. Any board games?
No board games, no. I went on a husky ride. I did have a morning off and I went for a husky ride, and that was pretty special.
You mean the sled dogs?
Oh really? How many on the team?
Whatever they normally have. I guess there were eight?
Right. Six or eight.
Yes, that was pretty special. I had my family with me and took the kids for a sled ride, which was fantastic.
Well, I mean I know there's not a lot of snow per se in Australia even during the winters, so…
…the chance to hurl it about and have a little bit of fun with that was a bit refreshing?
Yeah, absolutely. It's still a novelty for me, the snow, so it's a really important part of the film. We were lucky that with the budget that we had we were able to get to those locations and knock it out 'cause it was pretty amazing. But there were times when we had a really simple base camp and they would hop on a snowmobile and ride for 20 minutes just to get to the shooting location. So every bit of equipment was being snowmobiled into a remote location where we would shoot for hours and hours on end and then hop back on the snowmobile, go back to the base camp to eat, and then snowmobile back out so it was pretty cool.
Had you seen "The Counterfeiters" before this film came up on your radar?
When you watch films do you go, "I wonder what he's doing?"
You already watch them as somebody who's, like, picking people for your fantasy directing league?
I totally watch them as a selfish actor.
Absolutely. So you're right. When I come across something like "The Counterfeiters" you go "Wow this guy's got a real eye on character and delivered an amazing experience for not a lot of money." That was a pretty small budget, "The Counterfeiters." I'm always impressed with that. I come from a television background in the early part of my career and I had a great director who used to be able to, you know with sketch comedy we used to rip off movies, ads in an hour, in an hour and a half. And quite often they would look fantastic. I always had a lot of respect for people who can do an amazing amount with small budgets and get great looks. We had a great DP on this, Shane Hurlbut, who's fantastic and who really understood our characters and really supported our characters with a lot of the way that he shot the film.