Eric Bana, a Croatian-Australian
The following story discusses, among others Eric Bana, a Croatian-Australian who plays Prince Hector in the upcoming movie "Troy." The story appears in the Sydney Morning Herald. John Kraljic
The new global dish: Aussie beefcake
May 13, 2004
They are the Errol Flynns of their generation, the action heroes who make the world swoon, writes Phillip McCarthy.
In the past year or two Hollywood seems to have developed a technique of deploying an elite and glamorous cadre of Australian fighters simultaneously all over the world. What's more, the magic of movies has managed to ship home-grown big guns to different centuries, too.
Eric Bana and Hugh Jackman, for example, have each done a pair of blockbuster movies and become veterans of firing off a round or two in a big (northern) summer set-piece movie. The first time, last year when The Hulk fought X-Men 2 for box-office supremacy and popcorn sales, both their characters had a similar narrative arc: both Hulk and Wolverine had problems stemming from childhood development issues that got them tagged as misfits.
This year the stars are gunning for each other again, each with what is known as a "tentpole" picture, in the all important northern blockbuster season. Less than a week separated the release dates of Jackman's vampire-slaying Van Helsing and Bana's portrayal of the brave, and hunky, Prince Hector in Troy. In Troy Bana has to contend with the proverbial Greeks bearing gifts, some "it couldn't happen here" smugness and his bratty younger brother, Paris (Orlando Bloom).
The Van Helsing/Troy duel is not, strictly speaking, an Aussie All Star fight. While Jackman has leading man billing in Van Helsing, Bana is a bit more like bonus beefcake to Brad Pitt's star-wattage, even though his name appears beside Pitt's in the credits. But at least, with his Croatian ancestry, Bana looks like he might be from somewhere within marching distance of Troy. Pitt, with his new muscles, looks like he just stepped off Venice Beach, California.
"The first time we had 'duelling blockbusters', as the press calls them here, we met up in London and had a good laugh about it," Jackman says. "The thing is we are good mates and have been for years because our wives are really old friends."
But this year the action-hero ranks - even without a Russell Crowe picture - seem to be more than usually bulked up with telegenic guys who did their basic training in action hero deportment in Australia. Another upcoming big-event picture is producer Jerry Bruckheimer's retelling of the legend of King Arthur with Australia's Joel Edgerton playing the part of the knight Gawain. It's Edgerton's first big Hollywood role.
And then there is Nathan Jones, from Surfers Paradise, who plays a Mount Olympus-sized character in Troy called Boagrius. Jones, 33, is not exactly a household name. In the bodybuilding world Jones is also known as Megaman because he is more than two metres tall and weighs 155 kilograms. But Boagrius introduces a key plot point in Troy. Early in the film Pitt's Achilles has to fight Boagrius in a flashy scene meant to establish Achilles' legendary status as a killing machine. In this Hollywood take, Achilles downs the big guy with a kung fu leap and a spear to the neck.
"Well, the stereotypical early action hero was probably Erroll Flynn and he was Australian," says Troy's director, Wolfgang Petersen. "Australians can pull off the sort of qualities that appeal to Americans in their heroes. I don't think I knew Eric was Australian till we cast him."
As different as their subjects and literary pedigrees are - it's, Bram Stoker's Dracula on Van Helsing's side and Homer's Iliad for most of the Troy narrative - both films are loaded with special effects and raised eyebrows in Hollywood because they seemed to achieve pre-approved budgets of as high as $US200 million ($287 million). Van Helsing opened in lavish style last week in most countries and to mixed reviews in many.
But it still managed to post the biggest weekend box office take in the US, $US55 million. Troy opens around the world this week with a similar saturation of theatres. So far the critics' reactions seem a little warmer than they were for Jackman's film.
Bana and Jackman each seem graceful about their now annual duels in big-ticket pictures. Bana, in New York earlier in the week to promote Troy (and see Jackman's performance in the stage musical The Boy From Oz) seemed to think the dashing Van Helsing, especially with his array of high-technology 19th century weapons and gizmos, might have an edge against the Trojan prince/general. Hector, after all, loses one-on-one to Achilles and Van Helsing has a perfect score.
"And Hugh definitely has Broadway to himself," Bana said later. "I can't sing. So the auditions for the next Australian film/stage crossover phenomenon have not been coming my way."
In the deluge of publicity that blockbusters tend to bring to their star talent, the recurring point that has clicked in America is about the similarities between Bana and Jackman. They are both tall and handsome, 35, and officially they call Melbourne home, although Bana seems to have had more success in actually spending time there between movie projects than Jackman (who, in any case, was born in Sydney).
What's more, in the mid 1990s Bana and his wife, Rebecca, played a sort of Cupid's role in getting the sparks flying between Jackman and his eventual wife, the actress Deborra-lee Furness, who met Jackman when he had a guest spot on her cop show, Correlli.
"In Australia I used to get mistaken for Eric all the time," Jackman says. "People would say, 'You're him. Aren't you, Eric?' No I'm not, actually. But he's a really great mate but we couldn't be more different from each other if we tried."