Eric Bana: 'Ricky Gervais was shocked when he found out about my comedic background'
Aussie actor Eric Bana of Hulk fame is proving he's a funnyman despite lack of Hollywood comedy offers
Eric Bana did not turn into the mean and green superhero when asked about his breakout lead role in Lee Ang's 2003 movie Hulk.
But that didn't mean he was keen to talk about "something that was so long ago".
It has been 13 years since the Australian actor brought the troubled Bruce Banner - also known as the Incredible Hulk - to life on the big screen.
The character has since been played by Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk (2008), and most recently by Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers (2012) and Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015).
Even as the mega-popular Avengers franchise and current Captain America: Civil War train chugs along to box office success, Bana insists there is no part of him that wishes he could have been involved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Whenever he is stopped for autographs, it is "never for the Hulk", he said nonchalantly to The New Paper yesterday over the phone from Sydney.
Bana, however, was more keen to focus on his latest movie Special Correspondents, which is streaming on Netflix, and not what might have been.
The comedy revolves around New York radio news reporter Frank Bonneville (Bana) and nerdy technician Finch (Ricky Gervais), who are assigned to go to Ecuador to report on a war.
But when Finch accidentally loses their tickets and passports, they decide to make up human interest news as if they really are in Ecuador - from an apartment across the radio station.
Special Correspondents was written and directed by Gervais, and the British comedian specially chose Bana to play Frank as he wanted an "action, dramatic guy" based on what he had seen Bana do in films such as Munich (2005), Star Trek (2009) and Hanna (2011).
But Bana is also an accomplished comedian, one who used to have his own sketch comedy series in Australia called The Eric Bana Show.
Bana has even won a Logie Award (the Australian equivalent of the Oscars) in 1997 for Most Popular Comedy Personality for his work on the show.
"Ricky was shocked when he found out about my comedic background," said Bana. "He found out only after we met to talk about the script."
Bana, 47, said that Gervais did change some things around after that.
"It was a loose collaboration. The role of Frank was still the same but dialogue and certain scenes were changed based on how we played (the scenes) out that day."
Bana has always been a fan of Gervais, and enjoyed the experience working with him.
"He's a very nice, lovely man, nothing like what you see on TV," he added, referring to the potty-mouthed, obnoxious Golden Globes host persona that Gervais is known for.
"Not once did Ricky abuse me," said Bana, laughing.
Bana isn't concerned about whether Special Correspondents will lead to more potential comedy offers.
"I don't know why Hollywood hasn't offered me a comedy. Maybe they don't know me," said the father of two children aged 16 and 14.
"Maybe I didn't pursue the genre outright, but I was getting a lot of interesting projects so it didn't bother me at all."
He has completed Guy Ritchie's action adventure Knights Of The Roundtable: King Arthur, opening here next March, where he'll take on the role of Uther Pendragon, father of King Arthur, played by Charlie Hunnam.
On what he'll work on next, he said: "As long as the right project comes along, I'll do it, but for now I've yet to find something good."
Ricky (Gervais) was shocked when he found out about my comedic background.
- Eric Bana, best known for the movie Hulk, used to have his own sketch comedy series in Australia and won a Logie Award in 1997 for Most Popular Comedy Personality
OTHER NETFLIX ORIGINAL MOVIES
BEASTS OF NO NATION (OCT 2015)
Starring Idris Elba, Abraham Attah
Story When civil war tears his family apart, a young West African boy (Attah) is forced to join a unit of mercenary fighters led by a sadistic commander (Elba) and transform into a child soldier.
The buzz Following this year's Oscar nominations announcement in January, the critically acclaimed war drama - the first of Netflix's many high-profile projects - made headlines for being totally snubbed.
However, Elba went on to win the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award for his supporting performance, becoming the first movie actor to win a SAG without being nominated for an Oscar.
Beasts Of No Nation was released on Netflix globally and watched by more than three million viewers, and also had a limited theatrical release in the US, but made only US$90,000 (S$122,000) at the box office.
THE RIDICULOUS 6 (DEC 2015)
Starring Adam Sandler, Terry Crews, Rob Schneider
Story In the Old West era, an outlaw (Sandler) who was raised by Native Americans discovers that he has five half-brothers and together they go on a mission to find their wayward deadbeat dad.
The buzz According to Variety, the Western comedy became the most-watched movie in Netflix's history in its first 30 days of streaming and enjoyed a spot at No. 1 in every territory Netflix is available in, despite the uproar over the film's stereotyping of Native Americans and overwhelmingly negative reviews.
In 2014, Sandler and Netflix signed a ground-breaking four-picture deal, beginning with The Ridiculous 6.
CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON: SWORD OF DESTINY (FEB 2016)
Starring Donnie Yen, Michelle Yeoh, Jason Scott Lee
Story A renowned warrior (Yeoh) comes out of retirement to keep the legendary Green Destiny sword away from a villainous warlord (Lee).
The buzz The sequel to the 2000 Oscar-winning Taiwanese film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was shot almost entirely in English, with some Mandarin dialogue..
The co-production between The Weinstein Company, Netflix and China Film Group enjoyed an opening gross of US$20.8 million (S$28.2 million) in China before it was rolled out to the rest of the world.
THE DO-OVER (MAY 27, 2016)
Starring Adam Sandler, David Spade
Story Two down-on-their-luck friends (Sandler and Spade) decide to fake their own deaths and start over with new identities.
The buzz The action-comedy is the second of four films Sandler's Happy Madison production company will make exclusively for Netflix.
- Natasha Meah