Eric Bana on Portraying Such a Charming Villain in ‘Deadfall’
WRITER’S NOTE: This article was originally written in 2012.
Watching Eric Bana as Addison in Stefan Ruzowitzky’s “Deadfall” will remind many of his breakthrough performance as Chopper Read in “Chopper.” Both films have him playing characters who are charming yet fearsome, and his unpredictability as an actor had us on the edge of our seats throughout. But hearing Bana talk about how he prepared to play Addison is a reminder to all actors on how to approach a role like this; the character may be a bad guy, but he’s still a human being with wants and needs like anybody else. It’s not just about acting evil all the time.
I was lucky enough to attend the “Deadfall” press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, and Bana said he really liked Zach Dean’s screenplay and was “immediately compelled” by Addison. Bana described the character as being “quite hilarious actually,” and this was one of the main reasons he wanted to play him. It was interesting to hear him say that because funny is not an easy adjective to give to a character like Addison who can react violently without little or any notice. Bana, however, started out as a stand-up comedian and saw the opportunity to bring some darkly comedic touches to this role.
“I don’t think there was anything deliberately funny in Addison, but I think the situations that all the characters find themselves in and some of the things he does are inadvertently very funny,” Bana said. “It wasn’t like playing for laughs but I knew the audience probably would laugh at some of the ridiculous nature of what we’re all forced to do.”
Bana also went on to say he thought Addison was “morally straight” and that he really did not see the character as being a bad guy. Now while the crimes he commits in “Deadfall” certainly tell us otherwise, I really liked Bana’s approach to this role. It reminded me of a behind the scenes special on “Die Hard” where Alan Rickman talked about how he saw his character of Hans Gruber:
“As far as I’m concerned, I am not playing ‘the villain.’ I’m just playing somebody who wants certain things in life, has made certain choices and goes after them.”
The same can be said about Bana in the way he portrayed Addison.
“He had a strong sense of purpose in what he was doing and that is what makes those characters so scary, knowing you can’t really negotiate with him,” Bana said of Addison. “In his mind everything he’s doing is completely and morally correct and there’s a real reason for it. It’s not the actor’s place to judge, but I’m more than happy to be morally corrupt for a few months for the benefit of my career.”
This thought process was even more on display when Bana was interviewed by James Rocchi of MSN Entertainment. Rocchi talked about “Deadfall’s” first scene in which Addison’s car crashes and ends up shooting a state trooper in the process, and he described Addison as being spontaneous in his actions as this guy is thinking on his feet and improvising constantly. Bana explained that when the actor commits fully to their character’s actions, they should all come out naturally.
“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,” Bana told Rocchi. “But that instance in the beginning of the film kind of sets in motion the rest of the stakes really for Liza (Addison’s sister who is played by Olivia Wilde) 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.”
Throughout “Deadfall,” Addison ends up engaging a couple of nasty fights, some of which are with Jay who is played by Charlie Hunnam (“Sons of Anarchy”). We keep hearing actors say how they did their own stunts in this or that movie, but we can never be too sure as the insurance people are usually dead set against that ever happening. But I believed Bana when he said that he did his own stunts in “Deadfall” because even he couldn’t hide the toll it took on his body.
“My neck was ruined,” Bana told Ariel Kashanchi of Screen Picks. “Charlie Hunnam beat the shit out of me. I don’t think I landed a punch. It was just like bang, bang. I remember after about five takes I was stiff all over and thinking ‘how much more can my neck take.’ I’m used to throwing punches and now I just have to just sort of take it. But it was kind of fun.”
“Deadfall” has received mixed reviews, but there is no denying Bana gives a riveting performance as Addison. Playing a charming bad guy is nothing new for this Australian actor, and he is still great at it. In a year of movies filled with truly intimidating antagonists, Bana’s performance deserves to be held up alongside the best of the bunch.
Ben Kenber, “Interview with the Cast and Director of ‘Deadfall,’” We Got This Covered, December 7, 2012.
“Alan Rickman: Hans Gruber is not a villain,” YouTube
James Rocchi, “Interview: Eric Bana of ‘Deadfall,’” MSN Entertainment, December 7, 2012.
Ariel Kashanchi, “Interview: Eric Bana on ‘Deadfall,'” Screen Picks, December 6, 2012.