The international suspense thriller Closed Circuit tells the story of two ex-lovers, Martin Rose (Eric Bana) and Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall), who are bound together on the defense team for a high-profile terrorism case that turns out to be such a far-reaching conspiracy that it places both of their lives in jeopardy. From director John Crowley, the film also stars Ciarán Hinds, Jim Broadbent, Riz Ahmed, Anne-Marie Duff and Julia Stiles.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Eric Bana talked about how much of a page-turner this script was, how much fun he had working with his co-star Rebecca Hall, training for the rowing scenes, working in and around London in real locations, and the lack of privacy we all have now. He also talked about what made him want to do Lone Survivor with director Peter Berg, and what drew him to the horror thriller Beware the Night, from Scott Derrickson (Sinister). Check out what he had to say after the jump.
ERIC BANA: Yeah, absolutely! It was a great read, actually. It was very fortunate how it happened. I was actually on a flight from Australia to the States. I was on a research trip for another production, and my agent sent the script to me. I was shut down from reading anything then, but she said, “Look, I’m sending it to you. If you have time on the flight, have a read because, when you get to L.A., the director happens to be there for a day, so there’s a really slim window of opportunity.” So, I read it and absolutely loved it. When I landed, I said, “Is there any chance I can meet with him?” I met with John [Crowley] the next day and had a great chat with him, and we were off. And the irony was that the film I was researching fell apart, and this ended up being my next job. It was just a great read. I had no way of telling, on page 20, where it was going or how it was going to end.
When you did meet with John Crowley, what came out of that discussion that led you to know you were both on the same page?
BANA: I just really enjoyed him, as a person. We just really hit it off immediately. I had a lot of questions for him that were technical, based around some of the more mundane parts of the film that I knew had to be right for it to work. I also had a lot of character questions. And he was just so thoroughly read and researched to answer anything that I could throw his way and I felt like I was going to be in really great hands. He’s got a great sense of humor, too. I just felt really comfortable and like it was going to be a really interesting process, and I was right. I had a great experience on this.
This story seems like it could have easily become confusing and convoluted, but it’s pretty understandable and easy to follow. Was that important to you?
BANA: I felt confident that it was going to be easy to follow, if we ourselves really understood it. But, if John wasn’t so confident, he would have felt the urge to try to explain it more, which would have made it more complicated. I think he did a great job in the edit of explaining it enough that it’s not the central character. It’s more used as a device to prove how frustrating it is when state secrets are controlled to that level. I think John did a really good job of that.
This character is clearly a guy who’s extremely driven and consumed by his work, to the detriment of his marriage and family. What do you think made him so dedicated to the law and his work, and was that something you could relate to?
BANA: Yeah, I think a lot of people can relate to it. I just saw him as someone who is really good at what he does, but he’s essentially driven to work. His marriage has failed, for various reasons. Falling in love with Claudia was one of the elements, even though I never really got the sense that he was a home-wrecker. I think it was more of a realization of his marriage failing. The other thing I really enjoyed about Martin and playing him was the sense that, amongst this thriller and amongst this very complicated storyline and heady dialogue, essentially you’ve got a really frail character who’s pretending not to be. And I really loved that notion. Anything that lifts the veil on characters who position themselves in ways that they’re not really, and they need to put on this veil or cape of invincibility, when underneath it all, they’re just absolutely hopeless. That was really appealing.
What was it like to work with Rebecca Hall and go on this crazy thrill ride with her?
BANA: She is a dream. She’s so good at what she does and brings so much confidence. She’s absolutely hilarious, in person. The three of us had an absolute ball on the film. John is a very funny man. It doesn’t look like it, but it was a pretty wacky set. The amount of times the first A.D. would tap us on the shoulder and say, “Guys, have you finished with your mucking around? Can we get going?,” and we’d be like, “Sorry, we didn’t know you were waiting for us!” She was just awesome. And she got funnier and funnier, as the shoot went on. She’s a great gal. She’s just really intelligent and great at what she does. I thought she brought some wonderful qualities to Claudia. There’s a real sense of confidence that we all had, in what each other was doing, and I really felt that with her.
What do you think it was that drew your characters together, and do you think he really wanted her off the case, or was it more than he just didn’t want to deal with any feelings he might still have?
BANA: I think it’s definitely a case of not wanting to have to deal with the fall-out of the feelings of the relationship being where it was at. Also, it was a really important case for both of them, and by the letter of the law, they shouldn’t have been on that case together. They lie under oath, in order to stay on the case, and it ups the stakes for he characters that they do that.
What was it like to have scenes with people like Jim Broadbent and Ciaran Hinds?
BANA: It was awesome. I’m a huge fan of both. I worked with Ciaran before on Munich and absolutely loved him, so it was awesome to revisit that. And I’m a huge fan of Jim Broadbent. He was just a lovely man, and funny. I thought the stuff he did had a real touch of danger and humor to it. The scenes with him were great.
Was it challenging to do the rowing scenes, which are such small moments in the film, but you must have had to spend a lot of time physically preparing for that?
BANA: I spent months. I had never rowed before, and Martin is someone who has rowed his whole life. Without a doubt, that’s the hardest thing you can attempt to lean in a short period of time. I got there in the end, and I got quite addicted to it and loved it. I actually kept it up while we were shooting, even when there was no need to. I just really enjoyed working with my coach. There are only a couple of brief moments in the film, but there was no way of faking it. There was absolutely no photo double way of shooting any of that stuff. It was a pretty lucky thing to do, to go row on the Thames. It was beautiful. I live in Melbourne, and I had to learn there before I got to London. It was pretty amazing.
What was it like to get to work in and around London and be in some real locations? Did that just add so much more to what you were doing?
BANA: I’m really spoiled. I don’t like working in a studio, at all. I really love being on location, so that was great. I don’t think I had a single day in a studio on this movie. We were in a courtroom for a few days, but basically we were just out on the streets of London, every day. It’s interesting that the film becomes so tense that you don’t notice it as much as I thought you would. I thought London would feel far more prevalent in the movie, in the end, because when you’re there it’s so encompassing. The movie is so tense that London tends to shrink a little bit, but at the same time, it’s really aided by being there and being in those locations. It’s really helpful. And I love it, as an actor. I just prefer to be on location, rather than hearing the bells of the studio going off. It’s like being in Las Vegas, where no one knows the time and there are no windows.
This film really explores a number of ideas, with how much we’re watched, how information is controlled and a lack of privacy. Had you thought about any of these ideas before doing the film, and since doing the film, are those things you think about now?
BANA: Definitely. I feel like, in a lot of ways, the last few years have been really interesting. I’ve got it pretty good, but I used to be quite frustrated by the ongoing discussions about privacy. I feel like it was a bit of a waste of time because it was only the famous whose privacy was being truly invaded. You don’t really want to be one of those people who complains about that. But, I think the general public is catching up with us now. The notion of people commenting on you, the notion of people saying things about you, people liking or disliking you and getting into your business, has become more of a reality for the general public over the last couple of years, as people have dipped further into Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and social media. So, I think there’s more room now for a discussion that everyone should be prepared to have. I think it’s dangerous to sit back and go, “Let’s just leave it in the hands of the young people.” If you ask a 12-year-old about the notion of privacy, then you’re dealing with a generation who doesn’t have an issue with illegal downloads. It’s gotten more interesting, and it is something that I’ve thought about, over the years, for sure.
When I last spoke to you, you had just finished shooting Lone Survivor and you talked about how you wanted to do it because you’d wanted to work with Pete Berg, for some time. What was it that made you want to work with him, and how did that experience turn out?
BANA: It was amazing! I think Pete’s a really incredible filmmaker. I really loved The Kingdom, and I also really loved his early film, Very Bad Things. I’ve met with him, over the years, and just thought he was really interesting. On top of the fact was that I’d read Marcus Luttrell’s book and was a huge fan of that. So, when Pete called me and said, “I’ve cast the main roles, but would you consider playing Erik Kristensen,” I jumped and said, “Absolutely!” To get the chance to get to know the real Marcus and these guys was amazing. I was only on the film for a few weeks, but it was fantastic. That Special Forces community is so great. I actually worked with a lot of the guys that I worked with on Black Hawk Down, and was reacquainted with them. It was really special. It was great.
You’ve also done a horror thriller with Beware the Night. What made now the right time for you to do a scary movie, and why that one?
BANA: I was just completely intrigued by the script, and the character is awesome. The character is just absolutely one-in-a-million. And I love Scott Derrickson’s work. I loved The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and I loved Sinister. I would not have jumped into that movie, if it was a first-time director. There’s just no way. With that genre, the audience is so well-educated and there’s so much that they demand. To get the chance to play that character, in a film that’s very complex, and get the chance to do it under the stewardship of Scott was just awesome. It was so much fun, and a challenge. I loved every minute of it. I think it’s going to be a bit out there. It’s a bit of a mash-up. It’s a really full-on character in a police procedural thriller, that happens to be scary as hell.
Scott Derrickson’s films are so scary because they do have a sense that they’re not entirely impossible. Does this film feel that same way?
BANA: They’re grounded in character. I think that’s why. Ethan Hawke’s performance in Sinister is just fantastic. His work carries you through and makes you completely invested. That’s his strength, and that’s why I really wanted to do the film. I knew that it wasn’t going to be one of these situations where the director is using you as just one of the tools to tell his story. He’s telling a story about this character, which happens to be scary. There’s a really big difference. Only in that space do you have a chance for it to be really interesting. Fingers crossed that it will be. I loved working with him. He’s a great guy, and he’s really smart. He has total respect and knowledge of the genre, so it was great.
Closed Circuit is now playing in theaters.