My role from hell: Eric Bana on starring in cop drama 'Deliver us From Evil'

Eric Bana has played his fair share of tough guys – but preparing for his latest part as a  New York cop investigating the supernatural shook him to the core, he tells Gill Pringle

Eric Bana looks a little abashed when I tell him how I’d spotted him prior to our interview, hoodie pulled over his head, skateboard slung casually over his shoulder, slipping unnoticed into a ritzy Beverly Hills hotel. “Aaah, you saw that,” he grins. “Nobody else noticed.”

It’s actually a testament to how the Australian actor has successfully conducted a high-profile career – highlights of which include flashy roles in Munich, Hanna and Star Trek – while staying beneath the radar.

In a world where most celebrities conduct interviews in this one particular five-star Beverly Hills hotel, under paparazzi surveillance 24-hours-a-day, Bana chuckles at his ability to go undercover. “I’ve never really sought the attention,” says the actor, who has thus far avoided the spotlight by remaining in his Melbourne birthplace with his wife, Rebecca, and their two teenage children.

Bana, 46, is among an elite group of Aussies who can pull off a Brit accent. Having taken on Henry VII in The Other Boleyn Girl  eight years ago, last year he tackled a British barrister in the crime drama Closed Circuit. “I’d be in serious trouble if I got those wrong,” he laughs. “I could have been hanged.”

He also tries to lie low in London. “It’s easily my favourite city outside of Australia. Unlike the other great cities – New York, Berlin, Sydney, Paris – I think it’s very easy to get a taste of what it’s like to be a part of the city. You don’t have to be connected and you don’t have to be rich to get a sense of the city. It’s a walking, living, breathing museum. I feel like a local when I’m there. London is probably one of the easiest cities in the world in which to embed yourself.”

You might even catch him in your local pub. “I don’t support any of the English teams, so it’s very relaxing for me to sit in the pub and watch everyone else get worked up. I’m the annoying guy in the corner with a pint of cold lager, cheering for both or cheering for neither of them and just enjoying the game.”

The set in the South Bronx was pretty gnarly; the crew were on edge most of the time The set in the South Bronx was pretty gnarly; the crew were on edge most of the time  

Born to a Croatian father and a German mother, he came into the world surrounded by different accents. “I had a girlfriend who once told me, ‘Your parents have got really unique accents,’ and I was like, ‘but they don’t have any accents. They’ve got Australian accents.’ It was only when I moved out of home I realised, ‘Holy shit, they’ve got accents!’”

The actor’s passport bears the name Eric Banadinovic. “It’s still my name,” he asserts. “I've never changed it. Bana was my nickname back when I was doing stand-up and then I thought, ‘That’s kind of handy having a name that no one knows’. So if I get mail addressed to ‘Bana’ I can throw it away – and if I get mail that’s addressed to me, it’s for me! Fortunately my agent knows the difference.”

He’s using a Bronx accent for his portrayal of real-life NYPD cop Sergeant Ralph Sarchie in the supernatural thriller Deliver Us from Evil. A muscle-bound 6ft 3in, Bana’s not a man who scares easily, having embodied some of the toughest men on the big screen – from his 2000 debut in Chopper as the notorious Australian underworld figure Mark “Chopper” Read to an elite US soldier in Black Hawk Down and angry comic-book icon the Hulk.

But, in portraying Sarchie, he saw things he wished he’d never seen. In an era where pretty much everything is available on YouTube, he was privy to private video recordings of real-life exorcisms that changed his views on the nature of evil forever.

Starring in this movie, described by the legendary Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer as “The Exorcist meets Serpico”, he found himself unable to sleep for weeks. He regrets that Deliver Us From Evil’s writer/director, Scott Derrickson, even showed him the real-life archived footage. “I was a little bit pissed off,  because when he put this particular material in front of us, I found myself watching something I really didn’t want to see. It really affected me. I saw something I immediately identified as not being faked and something I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get out of my head. It was like, ‘OK, I can’t un-see what I just saw’. It was enough to give me a very uncomfortable few weeks when I barely slept.”

Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana as the troubled couple in 'The Time Traveller's Wife' Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams as the troubled couple in 'The Time Traveller's Wife'  

Indeed, while discussing whether or not the devil exists, in the relative luxury of his hotel suite, the air conditioning inexplicably shuts off. Unperturbed, he says, “The same thing just happened in the other room I was in.”

The filming of Deliver Us from Evil  took place last year over the course of 30 night-shoots on the streets of the South Bronx – the 46th Precinct once dubbed the toughest neighbourhood in the US. “The set was pretty gnarly and the crew were on edge most of the time,” he recalls. “I tried to blinker myself to what was going on because I saw enough in pre-production to have the desired effect of freaking me out  – so, in order to do my job, I tried to block a lot of that out.”

In replicating some of the horrific real-life exorcisms in which Sarchie participated, he says, “I think a lot of it is about what frequency you choose to tune into – and I guess the bigger question is, ‘Does the frequency choose you or do you chose the frequency?’ I believe there are  some people who are more attuned to living on that frequency than others.

“There’s no doubt that if you’ve actually ever been really, really scared – if you’ve felt that something’s over your shoulder, say, or you catch something on the edge of your frame that’s not there – I think that’s an example of when you’ve chosen to tune into that frequency.”


Bana began his career in stand-up comedy, impersonating the likes of Sly Stallone, Tom Cruise and Arnold Schwarzenegger – yet he’s had few awkward run-ins with his former targets. “I’ve only met a few of them. It’s been a well-kept secret for the most part.” These days he rarely frequents comedy clubs. “I guess because I’ve done so much of it, I find stand-up difficult to watch,” he says. “I love stand-up when it’s really good and I find it very uncomfortable if it’s not very good – just because I know what that feels like.”

As a boy, it was Mel Gibson’s Mad Max that inspired him to think big. Many years later, he finally met his idol. “It was a real treat and also very bizarre to actually meet someone who you idolized as a kid. What a lot of us Australians saw in Mel Gibson’s career was that you could, in fact, become an actor. It was a bit of a breaking down of the door. Mad Max was a seminal film, my favourite film of all time.”

He met his wife, the Australian TV publicist Rebecca Gleeson, when they were both employed at the same network. “The network was going through a renaissance and I have spectacular memories of that time in my life. We met in the middle of all that. We both had partners and we were friends, and then both found ourselves single – and the rest is history. And, by the way, her name is my name – her name is not Gleeson. She’s Rebecca Banadinovic. She made that choice.”

Proud parent to son Klaus, 15, and daughter, Sophia, 13, he cautions, “There’s no way my kids are going to see this film until they’re much older. I wish I could forget some of the things I’ve seen.”

'Deliver Us from Evil’ is released on 20 August

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...