Eric Banadinović, better known as Eric Bana, is an Australian actor and comedian. He started his career as a comedian on television before venturing onto the big screen. Though he starred in several sketch-comedy shows in Australia, including ‘The Eric Bana Show,’ he came into prominence and was recognized as a talented actor for his powerful performance in the dark drama film ‘Chopper,’ which also earned him an opportunity to star in Hollywood movies. After making his debut in the comedy series ‘Full Frontal,’ he went on to deliver scintillating performance in Ang Lee's ‘Hulk’ and Ridley Scott’s ‘Black Hawk Down,’ which earned him accolades from critics. Eventually, he carved a niche for himself in the entertainment industry. After his brilliant performance in the epic film ‘Troy,’ he decided to star in more thought-provoking films like Steven Spielberg's thriller ‘Munich,’ which earned him respect and solidified his position as an accomplished actor. His portrayal of characters like ‘Henry VIII’ and ‘Nero’ in ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ and ‘Star Trek’ respectively earned him more recognition. The veteran actor and comedian is the recipient of Australia's highest film and television awards.
Childhood & Early Life
Eric Bana was born on August 9, 1968, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. He was raised in Melbourne's Tullamarine suburb. His father Ivan worked as a logistics manager for ‘Caterpillar, Inc.,’ and his mother Eleanor was a hairdresser. He has an elder brother named Anthony.
His father was a Croatian and hailed from a South Slavic ethnic group, while his mother was from Mannheim in Germany. In an interview, Eric said that his family endured racist taunts and was called ‘wog.’
Inspired by comedian Richard Pryor, he became interested in showbiz at a very young age. At the age of six, he used to mimic his grandfather, and also mimicked his teachers at school. He attended ‘Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School.’
He loved motor racing, so much so that he wanted to leave school at the age of 14 to become a motor mechanic, but his father convinced him to complete school. When he was 15, he purchased a 1974 XB Ford Falcon coupé for A$ 1100. During his teenage years, he watched Mel Gibson’s film ‘Mad Max’ and decided to become an actor.
Despite his passion, he did not pursue acting professionally until 1991, when he was persuaded to do stand-up gigs while he was working as a barman at Melbourne's ‘Castle Hotel.’ Since his stand-up acts at pubs and clubs across Australia did not give him monetary gain, he continued his job as a barman and waiter.
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Eric Bana’s comedic skills and stand-up routines earned him early success and popularity, helping him to land a series of minor television roles in sketch shows. In 1993, he made his TV debut in the late night talk show ‘Tonight Live.’ In the same year, he was offered a position as a writer and performer in the sketch comedy series ‘Full Frontal.’ During his four years on the show, he wrote his own content, and many of his characters were based on his family members.
His skills allowed him to start his own comedy show in 1997. ‘The Eric Bana Show’ was written and performed by him, and it featured skits, stand-up acts, and celebrity guests. However, it was canceled after eight episodes due to low ratings.
He soon ventured into the big screen and his breakthrough came in 2000 when he played ‘Mark "Chopper" Read’ in Andrew Dominik’s film ‘Chopper.’ It was based on the life of the infamous Australian criminal Chopper Read.
Eric Bana, who had become a household name in Australia, wanted to establish himself in Hollywood as well. The right opportunity came with Ridley Scott’s film ‘Black Hawk Down’ in which he played an American sergeant. The 2001 Oscar-nominated film was about a US military mission in Somalia.
His popularity increased in 2003 when director Ang Lee offered him the role of ‘Dr. Bruce Banner’ in the film adaptation of Marvel Comics' ‘The Hulk.’ His performance in the film earned him the role of ‘Hector’ in the 2004 hit epic film ‘Troy’ where he co-starred with Brad Pitt.
He starred in Steven Spielberg’s political drama ‘Munich’ in 2005. He went on to showcase his skills in the 2007 romantic comedy ‘Lucky You.’ He was also seen in the Australian drama ‘Romulus, My Father.’
In 2008 and 2009, he had a hectic schedule, working on a number of films. In ‘The Time Traveler's Wife,’ he portrayed a librarian afflicted with a paranormal genetic disorder. In ‘The Other Boleyn Girl,’ he played ‘King Henry VIII,’ and in the science fiction film ‘Star Trek,’ he played the villain ‘Nero.’
In 2011, he was featured in the action thriller film ‘Hanna,’ which proved to be a success. He appeared in the 2013 film ‘Lone Survivor’ where he played ‘Lieutenant Commander Erik S. Kristensen.’ In 2014, he played a police sergeant who investigates paranormal cases in the horror film ‘Deliver Us from Evil.’
In 2016, he played a struggling radio journalist in Netflix’s ‘Special Correspondents.’ He then starred in Guy Ritchie's 2017 film ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ where he portrayed ‘Uther Pendragon,’ King of Britain and father of King Arthur.
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In 2017, he was seen in a British drama film titled ‘The Forgiven’ where he played ‘Piet Blomfeld.’ Also starring Forest Whitaker and Jeff Gum, the film was directed by Roland Joffé.
In 2018, Eric Bana starred as ‘John Meehan’ in a true crime anthology TV series titled ‘Dirty John.’ The same year, he was cast to play the lead role of ‘Aaron Falk’ in the film adaptation of Jane Harper's bestselling debut novel ‘The Dry.’
One of Eric Bana’s early works ‘Full Frontal’ earned him critical acclaim and an award. ‘Poida,’ the character portrayed by Eric, went on to become one of the most popular characters of the series.
His performance in the film ‘Chopper’ earned him critical acclaim, and he received an ‘Australian Film Institute’ award for ‘Best Actor.’ His portrayal of the title character established him as a talented actor in the Australian entertainment industry.
Awards & Achievements
In 1997, ‘Full Frontal’ earned him the ‘Logie Award’ for ‘Most Popular Comedy Personality.’
He won the ‘Australian Film Institute’ award for ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role’ for his performance in ‘Chopper’ in 2000.
‘Romulus, My Father’ earned him another ‘Australian Film Institute’ award for ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role’ in 2007.
In 1995, when he was filming ‘Full Frontal,’ he started dating Rebecca Gleeson, a publicist with ‘Seven Network’ and the daughter of Murray Gleeson, the then-Chief Justice of New South Wales, and future Chief Justice of Australia.
In 1996, he was named ‘Bachelor of the Year’ by ‘Cleo’ magazine, and won a trip to the USA. During the trip, he proposed to Rebecca. The couple got married in 1997. Their son Klaus was born in August 1999 and daughter Sophia was born in April 2002.
Eric has participated in various motor racing competitions in Australia. In 1996, he made his debut in ‘Targa Tasmania,’ a weeklong race, in the island state of Tasmania. He made his debut with his XB Ford Falcon Coupé, which he had bought at the age of 15. He appeared in a documentary titled ‘Love the Beast’ where he explains how his XB Ford Falcon Coupé and racing have impacted his life. The documentary released in 2009.
He also loves football and is a fan of Australian rules football. Whenever he is in Australia, he is usually seen at AFL games. His love for ‘St Kilda FC’ allowed the club to be featured in the film ‘Funny People.’
He is well-known for his charitable works. He is an ambassador for ‘Youth Off The Streets’ which supports homeless young people. He also supports the ‘Mental Illness Fellowship’ in Australia. He often campaigns with the ‘Australian Childhood Foundation’ and ‘Bone Marrow Donor Institute.’ He has also worked with ‘Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.’