Eric Bana is an Australian film and television actor. He began his career as a comedian in the sketch comedy series Full Frontal before gaining critical recognition in the biopic Chopper (2000). After a decade of critically acclaimed roles in Australian TV shows and films, Bana gained Hollywood's attention by playing the role of American Delta Force Sergeant Norm 'Hoot' Gibson in Black Hawk Down (2001) and the lead role as Bruce Banner in the Ang Lee directed film Hulk (2003).
An accomplished dramatic actor and comedian, he received Australia's highest film and television awards for his performances in Chopper, Full Frontal and Romulus, My Father. Bana performs predominantly in leading roles in a variety of low-budget and major studio films, ranging from romantic comedies and drama to science fiction and action thrillers. His most popular films include Black Hawk Down (2001), Hulk (2003), Troy (2004), and Munich (2005).
Bana was born in Melbourne, Australia, the younger of two children. His Croatian father, Ivan, was a logistics manager for Caterpillar, Inc., and his German-born mother, Eleanor, was a hairdresser. Bana grew up in Melbourne's Tullamarine, a suburban area on the western edge of the city, near the airport.
Showing acting skill early in life, Bana began doing impressions of family members at the age of six or seven, first mimicking his grandfather's walk, voice and mannerisms. In school, he mimicked his teachers to get out of trouble. As a teen he watched the Mel Gibson film Mad Max (1979), and decided he wanted to become an actor. However, he did not seriously consider a career in the performing arts until 1991 when he was persuaded to try stand-up comedy while working as a barman at Melbourne's Castle Hotel.
In 1993, Bana made his television debut on Steve Vizard's late night talk show, Tonight Live. His performance gained the attention of producers from the sketch comedy series, Full Frontal, who invited him to join the show as a writer and performer. During his four years on the show, Bana wrote much of his own material, and based some of his characters on members of his family. This success led to his own television special titled Eric in 1996. The show, a collection of sketches featuring everyday characters, prompted him to launch a sketch comedy series The Eric Bana Show. The series, written and performed by Bana, featured skits, stand-up and celebrity guests, but failed to attract a substantial audience and was cancelled after only eight episodes due to low ratings. Even so, in 1997, he received a Logie Award for "Most Popular Comedian" for his work on the show.
That same year, Bana made his film debut in the Australian movie The Castle, in a supporting role.
In 1997, in spite of his lack of experience in dramatic roles, Bana was approached by director Andrew Dominik to appear in the film Chopper (2000), a biopic based on the life of infamous Australian criminal Chopper Read. Dominik had been working on the project for five years, but was unable to find an actor to portray Read. Only after Read himself suggested Bana, having seen him perform a skit on television, did Dominik consider him for the part.
For the role, Bana shaved his head and gained thirty pounds and spent two days with Read to perfect his mimicry. During filming he arrived on set at four in the morning and spent five hours being covered in Read's trademark tattoos. Chopper was a critical and financial success in Australia, and was nominated for Best Film at the Australian Film Institute Awards in 2001. Bana's performance won the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Actor.
In 2001, director Ridley Scott cast Bana as an American soldier in the film Black Hawk Down (2001).
Bana's next project was the low-budget Australian film The Nugget (2002). While filming The Nugget, Bana was offered the lead role of Bruce Banner in the film adaptation of the popular comic book series The Incredible Hulk. Only after learning of director Ang Lee's involvement in the project did he consider the role. Hulk (2003) was not a critical nor box office success, but Bana's performance was praised.
In 2004, Bana co-starred with Brad Pitt in the big-budget film Troy. In the film he played Prince Hector, leader of the Trojan forces battling against the Greek warrior Achilles. Director Wolfgang Petersen offered him a role in the film after meeting with Brad Pitt, a fan of Chopper. The film was an international success, grossing US$364 million. In North America however, it earned considerably less, grossing less than US$133 million.
After the commercial failure of Hulk the previous year and the American box office disappointment of Troy.
In 2006, Bana was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Lucky You, a romantic comedy on which Bana worked before filming Munich, was released in early 2007.
Bana recently appeared in The Other Boleyn Girl, a historical drama in which he plays Henry VIII of England opposite Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman.
In 1995, while working on the television series Full Frontal, Bana began dating Rebecca Gleeson, a publicist with the Seven Network and daughter of Chief Justice of Australia Murray Gleeson. They married in 1997, after Bana proposed to her on a trip to the United States that he won from Cleo Magazine after being named "Bachelor of the Year" in 1996. Bana and Gleeson have two children, a son Klaus (born July 1998), and a daughter Sophia (born April 2001).