Home Entertainment Eric Bana on making Chopper: ‘I knew we weren’t creating some kind of violence porn’

Eric Bana on making Chopper: ‘I knew we weren’t creating some kind of violence porn’

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Andrew Dominik, director
I spent seven years occupied with Mark “Chopper” Read. A violent felony, Mark was infamous in Australia in a minor approach – till he printed a collection of autobiographies, which is how I heard about him. I consider the primary one is essentially the most stolen ebook in Australian publishing historical past.

I see it this fashion: if violence is an issue, it is advisable perceive the violent particular person, not the sufferer. The factor about Mark was his stance of regretting nothing, however then he would describe desires the place he noticed his victims. Clearly, there was a disconnect between what he claimed and who he actually was. I’m all in favour of that non-public mythology, the best way some individuals don’t see the broader world, simply themselves – as a result of I feel that’s my very own drawback.

It wasn’t till I truly met Mark that the script took form. I obtained a way of what he was like. He was all feeling. He had just a few guidelines: he didn’t need to be portrayed taking any medication, committing violence in the direction of girls, and nor might any of his poetry be included. All of these issues are within the film. I attempted to present him the script whereas he was nonetheless in jail, so he might blow his prime after which settle down. However he refused to learn it.

Each actor in Australia, together with Russell Crowe and Ben Mendelsohn, had a go at studying for the function. All of the boys need to play psycho killers. Eric Bana didn’t look like a good suggestion initially. He was a TV comic, on a present known as Full Frontal, however his audition was superb. Afterwards, I spent a day working with him. By the top, it was apparent it was going to be him.

‘As a first-time director, I found it pretty scary’ … Bana and Dominik during filming.
‘As a first-time director, I discovered it fairly scary’ … Bana and Dominik throughout filming. {Photograph}: Provided by Mushroom Group

We by no means might have made the movie for A$2m (£1.1m) if Pentridge Jail, the place Mark had been held, hadn’t been decommissioned round that point. We shot all of it there, within the locations the place it truly occurred. You possibly can sit with all of the accoutrements of film-making, however in case you remind actors that that is the room the place the stabbing occurred, you get a chill you’ll be able to reap the benefits of.

As a first-time director, I discovered it fairly scary. The primary week, we shot the worst and in addition the perfect shit. By the weekend, I had one movie that regarded like a Jean-Pierre Melville movie and one other that regarded like a Carry On film. I removed the Carry On stuff, then resisted the temptation to be a “good” director – one who meets his each day schedule. I simply shot till I believed it was good.

Mark stated watching the film made him realise he did loopy issues. When he was within the second, he felt his behaviour was regular. However taking a look at it from the skin, watching some man do what he did, he realised he was mistaken. I feel it’s fascinating that he didn’t return to jail after he grew to become a author. He was beginning to face himself.

Australian audiences loved Chopper. There was a cartoon across the time of the Afghanistan invasion, with the prime minister saying: “No, I’m not sending choppers – I’m sending Chopper.” The movie made him essentially the most infamous felony in Australia. I don’t suppose it turned him right into a hero, however attraction goes a good distance.

Eric Bana, actor
I grew up in Melbourne, so I knew about Mark and what he’d achieved. Chopper was a very uncommon script – very humorous, very darkish. I used to be assured I might painting him. Spending time with Mark was priceless, however I knew there might be actual ramifications if issues didn’t go effectively. We simply listened to him discuss jail and his theories about life and folks. I obtained that sense of an alpha presence and soaked it up like a sponge.

Eric Bana and Kate Beahan in Chopper.
‘Making use of the tattoos took many hours’ … Eric Bana and Kate Beahan in Chopper. {Photograph}: Everett Assortment /Alamy

Filming the primary half felt like driving a motorbike up a hill, whereas the second half was like skateboarding again down it. Quite a lot of the criminals and screws have been performed by individuals who had served time in that jail. Being there in the midst of winter had an actual darkish vitality.

I all the time joked with Andrew that there was by no means a scene after I simply requested: “Can I’ve a pie, please?” The whole lot was loaded and had deep that means. Throughout troublesome scenes, I fell again on two issues: what was truthful and my full belief in Andrew, that he wasn’t whoring out the topic for some type of violence porn.

It took two to 3 hours to prepare every single day. I’d shave my head myself to make the prosthetics for my hacked-off ears simpler to attach down. Making use of the tattoos took many hours of painstaking hand-drawn art work and they might solely final about two days. So we solely did them after I needed to have my shirt off.

I used to be in all probability extra anxious for Andrew than I used to be for myself relating to Mark’s response. Clearly, I hope he loved my efficiency, that it didn’t make him cringe and it felt truthful. However I by no means talked to him straight about it, perhaps out of respect. I by no means pretended Mark and I have been going to finish up greatest mates.

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