Now is a very good time for “Closed Circuit,” a movie about the British judicial system and the proliferation of CCTV around London, to be released. With the firestorm of controversy surround illegal surveillance, Edward Snowden and PRISM, and the general feeling of unease knowing that there is a pretty good chance that the email you sent to your college roommate is being intercepted and reviewed by some higher power, it’s an ideal moment for a claustrophobic, conspiratorial thriller like “Closed Circuit.” Few thrillers tap into the zeitgeist like this film does. In the film, Eric Bana plays Martin Rose, a public-court lawyer assigned to defend a Turkish national who seems to have played a role in a deadly London bombing. As his investigation continues and he navigates Britain’s controversial closed court system, he’s drawn into a shadowy, conspiracy-laced world and reignites an old flame with his “special advocate” lawyer (Rebecca Hall—check out our interview with her here).
We got a chance to talk to Bana, a talented Australian actor who first rose to prominence thanks to his role as a violent criminal in Andrew Dominik‘s gonzo biopic “Chopper.” Since then, Bana has managed a variety of outstanding performances in movies that cover almost every genre and type of role, things like Steven Spielberg‘s “Munich,” Judd Apatow‘s “Funny People,” Ang Lee‘s “Hulk” and Joe Wright‘s “Hanna.” We spoke to him about what it was like starring in such a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller, what his favorite conspiracy thrillers are, whether or not he’s seen the subsequent “Hulk” films and, should his “Star Trek” director J.J. Abrams give him a call about that other space odyssey, what he would say…
How did you get involved?
I really loved the script. I thought it was incredibly well written and really intriguing. I read it on a plane and was completely absorbed. Also I had no idea where it was going to go. There’s nothing worse than getting to page twenty and going, “I think I know what’s going to happen on page 100.” I also really loved the characters of Claudia and Martin. I thought he was fun in some ways, a bit of a smart-ass and I enjoyed the notion of playing someone in that stage of their life and was going through what they were going through. And that was a large part of it for me. As much as it was a thriller and everything else, I loved the fragility of Martin’s journey.
What are your thoughts on the NSA controversy?
We created Snowden. We’ve got him in a room somewhere. We let him loose. We have another one we’re about to unleash. Obviously it does somewhat play into that. It’s relevant to that notion of Big Brother and the extent to which we’re prepared to give up our liberties in the name of security and I think it raises those questions, especially within the framework of the legal system. So it’s not just governmental Big Brother but in the case of the Brits it bleeds into the machinations of the actual legal system as well.
And the title of the movie changed from “Closed” to “Closed Circuit.”
Yeah, titles more often than not change from the time you read them to the time they’re released. So I wasn’t surprised. I was actually quite relieved. I am aware of how much time can be wasted trying to explain things so in some ways it being called “Closed Circuit” just makes it easier in a lot of ways.
“Closed Circuit” comes from a long line of conspiracy thrillers. Do you have any favorites in the genre?
I’m a big fan of “The Conversation.” I love, like we all do, the genre that emerged in the seventies or became prevalent in the seventies and it’s always nice to dabble in it. I got a bit of a taste of it in “Munich” and in this case it’s obviously different. But they feel from a similar world.
You’ve been in a lot of really heavy dramas or thrillers like “Closed Circuit” lately. But you have a background in comedy and were so great in “Funny People.” Do you see yourself getting back to that lighter material?
Not really. If something came along like “Funny People” where I read it and I thought I had something to contribute, I’d do it again. But the reality is that not a lot of that stuff comes that way and not a lot of it would be relevant in terms of my contributions. I don’t have it in me to prove anything to the world, if they haven’t seen my sketch comedy and standup comedy from years ago. If something came along that seemed interesting, I’d do it.
Your next movie, “Beware the Night,” is a horror movie. It’s kind of new for you. Have you always wanted to do a horror movie?
I have respect for them if they’re done well. And in that case, I met with Scott Derickson, and I had loved his previous work. I loved “Sinister” and “Exorcism of Emily Rose.” And I had a great time meeting with him and I loved the script and the character is just a cracker. I think that one is going to be pretty amazing and I just finished it a couple of weeks ago. It’s going to be really out there. It’s another kind of thriller genre mash-up. It’s kind of cop procedure thriller with psychological undertones, a great character at the center of it, but it’s going to be scary as hell. I can’t wait to see it.
You were attached to two movies back in 2011—the jewel thief movie “Brilliant” and Shelton Turner’s “By Virtue Fall.” Are those things that have a possibility of getting resurrected?
I don’t think so. I think that it’s pretty much lightning in a bottle with a lot of these projects. Shelton is a great friend of mine, so who knows, but I think in time that film just gets harder and harder to make. It’s hard enough just getting a movie like “Closed Circuit” made. It’s a marketplace that’s narrowing and it’s a release state that’s getting more difficult. Just look at “Deadfall,” which I was really proud of and I think it would have been great to see released a lot wider, so who knows.
Well “Deadfall” had an on-demand release, and a lot of people see those.
I guess, theoretically more people get to see it on the one hand, but less people are aware of it, because to want to see it they have to be aware of it.
You directed a documentary a few years ago called “Love the Beast” about your love of cars. Would you want to be involved with something like that in a narrative movie? Like a “Fast and Furious” movie?
Oh hell no. No, I’d love to do a narrative feature but it’d have nothing to do with cars. I would love to direct again. I’m not reading scripts with an eye to direct them. It would have to be my own idea or something I wrote. So I would love to do a narrative some day and it wouldn’t be someone else’s work. But I’m not actively working on something right now.
You were in Ang Lee’s “Hulk.” Have you seen the other iterations of the Hulk since your movie and what do you think of them?
I saw the one after that but I haven’t seen any of the more recent stuff. I really don’t think about it much at all.
Was that a character you were looking forward to portraying again?
I am happy with the way things have gone the last 13 years. I have felt very lucky with the stuff that has come my way and know that a lot of it wouldn’t have been possible if I had done multiple “Hulk”s. I’m more than happy with the way things are.
Did you and Rebecca share superhero war stories?
Yes! Because she was contemplating it while we were shooting “Closed Circuit.” So I got in her ear. I won’t tell you what I said, that’s up to her.
One of my favorite movies you’ve done recently was “Hanna…”
Aw, thanks. That’s really sweet. I think a lot of people have discovered it later, who didn’t see it when it first came out. A lot of people come up to me and say, “I can’t believe that film wasn’t bigger.” So it’s kind of cool. And I was just talking to someone and they asked how I measure the success of a film and we were having a discussion about what’s better—have a film that not everyone sees in the first three weeks but have a great shelf life. Or a film that does great for three weeks but is completely forgettable? It’s weird for an actor because your career is affected by both cases. But I’m really proud of that movie and really loved it when I saw it. There’s a lot of really unique things about it and I loved working with Joe, so we’ll see [about working together again].
What can you tell us about “Lone Survivor?”
It was amazing. I had read the book and absolutely loved it. So to get to know Marcus Lutrell and his team was really special. I haven’t seen the film yet. It’s finished and a lot of people have. So I can’t wait to see it; it’s a great book and he’s an amazing guy. So I was more than happy to go and do some work on that.
And you have a beard in that? Because I’m a little concerned: the trailer looks like a bunch of handsome guys in fatigues and beards.
Well, it will be easier than in “Black Hawk Down” because there are 13 men in this mission instead of 32. So it’s a little easier to track.
Did you get to see “Star Trek Into Darkness?”
I did see it. I loved it. I thought J.J. did a great job.
Speaking of J.J., have you talked to him about “Star Wars?”
[laughs] No, we have not had a “Star Wars” discussion.
You said you wouldn’t be down for doing a bunch of sequels to “Hulk” but this is kind of a special case.
I don’t know. You’ve never really know until you’ve read it. There’s a bunch of stuff I’ve dismissed and then I’ve read it and thought, Actually, that could be really interesting.
“Closed Circuit” is open in theaters now.