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 eager about Mark “Chopper” Read. A violent prison, Mark was infamous in Australia in a minor manner – till he printed a sequence of autobiographies, which is how I heard about him. I consider the primary one is essentially the most stolen e-book in Australian publishing historical past.

I see it this fashion: if violence is an issue, it’s worthwhile to perceive the violent individual, not the sufferer. The factor about Mark was his stance of regretting nothing, however then he would describe goals the place he noticed his victims. Clearly, there was a disconnect between what he claimed and who he actually was. I’m involved in that private mythology, the way in which some folks don’t see the broader world, simply themselves – as a result of I feel that’s my very own downside.

It wasn’t till I truly met Mark that the script took form. I received a way of what he was like. He was all feeling. He had a couple of guidelines: he didn’t wish to be portrayed taking any medication, committing violence in the direction of ladies, and nor might any of his poetry be included. All of these issues are within the film. I attempted to offer him the script whereas he was nonetheless in jail, so he might blow his high 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 position. All of the boys wish 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 wonderful. 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 may sit with all of the accoutrements of film-making, however if you happen to remind actors that that is the room the place the stabbing occurred, you get a chill you possibly can benefit from.

As a first-time director, I discovered it fairly scary. The primary week, we shot the worst and in addition the very best shit. By the weekend, I had one movie that seemed like a Jean-Pierre Melville movie and one other that seemed 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 assumed it was good.

Mark mentioned 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 turned 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 prison in Australia. I don’t assume it turned him right into a hero, however allure goes a good distance.

Eric Bana, actor
I grew up in Melbourne, so I knew about Mark and what he’d performed. 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 could possibly be actual ramifications if issues didn’t go effectively. We simply listened to him discuss jail and his theories about life and folks. I received 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 motorcycle up a hill, whereas the second half was like skateboarding again down it. Plenty of the criminals and screws had been performed by individuals who had served time in that jail. Being there in the course of winter had an actual darkish power.

I at all times joked with Andrew that there was by no means a scene after I simply requested: “Can I’ve a pie, please?” Every thing was loaded and had deep that means. Throughout tough 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 sort of violence porn.

It took two to a few hours to prepare day-after-day. I might 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 paintings and they’d solely final about two days. So we solely did them after I needed to have my shirt off.

I used to be most likely extra fearful for Andrew than I used to be for myself concerning 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 instantly about it, possibly out of respect. I by no means pretended Mark and I had been going to finish up greatest mates.

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