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.