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EXCLUSIVE Eric Bana interviewed

It’s nearly here! After all that waiting, Star Trek finally beams into cinemas on Friday. Doing all manner of nasty things to Kirk, Spock, McCoy and co is Romulan villain Nero, played by Aussie actor Eric Bana (the guy out of Chopper, Troy, Munich and the upcoming The Time Traveller’s Wife). We gave him a call in Australia to find out what makes Trek’s bad boy tick.

Were you always a Star Trek fan?
I was a fan of the TV show as a kid but I didn’t get into any of the movies. I think I might have seen one of them, but that was probably about it. So I wouldn’t say I’ve been a huge Trekkie as an adult but as a kid I was pretty addicted to the show.

Did you do much Star Trek revision since you got the role?
I always find that really dangerous when preparing for a role. I think you do what you feel like you need to do for your character but in this case I think there was a certain liberation coming from the whole notion of it being a prequel. I knew that Nero hadn’t been seen before, and I was going to try to make the most of that. I felt very familiar with Star Trek, so I didn’t feel like I needed to go and do specific research in this case. It was more a case of trying to make Nero interesting and fun.

What was the JJ Abrams experience like?
He’s a pretty fantastic mix. He’s unbelievably enthusiastic about the material and about the process and that always bleeds through into the production – whenever you’ve got a director who’s high energy and extremely positive it’s really infectious. He’s a fantastic person to work with and a real genuine gentleman, a sweetheart of a man, and just full of great ideas. He’s not afraid to throw a fresh idea out on the spot and try something, or try something you want to try, and he has fun with it. And now that I’ve worked with him I think you can see that energy in all his work, I think it shows. I think he’s really excited about exciting an audience and telling a story, and that’s what he’s like to work with. He’s not one of these brooding types who’s running a dictatorship. It’s basically hanging out with someone who’s having a lot of fun and wants you to have fun as well while you do it.

Did the fact that you look so different from your normal self as Nero make it easier to get into the role?
It definitely helps. It’s very bizarre when you finish in the make up trailer and you’ve gone! I was pretty excited about the idea of trying to play a character where you’re unrecognisable because you don’t get to do that very much. It was very liberating and I got to work with fantastic prosthetic people and tattoo designs and so forth – we had quite a bit of a play with the design in pre-production to get it to where it ended up and it was really exciting. It took a little bit of recalibrating because the prosthetic soaks up a lot of facial expression so something that you would normally do that would be quite subtle, that would usually be quite big on screen, suddenly just appeared as nothing at all. That did take a bit of getting used to.

How long were you in the make-up chair? And did you sleep through it?
Going in it was about three hours and coming out it was two and a half. I didn’t sleep through it because he guys were too funny. The make up trailer was quite a fun place to hang out in = we were all pretty much all high from the fumes so it was a lot of fun. I had a really great crew, actually, a really crazy bunch of guys, so it was always a bit of a laugh.

Playing the bad guy, were you separate from the Enterprise crew most of the time?
I had a little bit of crossover, because there were a couple of units and we were sort of holed up in our tented off base camp so nobody could photograph us, so we did have a lot of good hang time in our base camp. I spent quite a lot of time with Chris Pine and Zach Quinto and my Romulans, so it was a really great bunch of guys. I’m very excited for Chris and Zach. When I read the script I thought whoever gets to play Spock and Kirk, this is two of the best young film roles I’ve read for a long, long time.

Did you and the other Romulans become a bit of a gang on set?
I guess you sort of bond a bit in the make up trailer and stuff. The odd thing is at the end of the first week I would be quite shocked when my Romulans would take their make-up off because you just get so used to hanging with them in character and that look starts to become quite normal very, very quickly and then they would take their make-up off and it would be hard to look at them and talk to them because you’d gotten to know their Romulan face.
I would have killed to have gone out into the real world, I would have really loved to have done that. Obviously I couldn’t but that would have been a really interesting experiment.

Have you paid much attention to internet buzz about the movie?
I’d love to but I just don’t have the time. I am aware of a great amount of excitement – even I’m excited – but I don’t ever go on the internet to read stuff. But what I’m learning about the fans is that they’re extremely well camouflaged. I’m bumping into people that I would never expect are die-hard Trekkies, or close friends who have never said the words Star Trek telling me, “Mate, you have no idea how excited I am, I cannot wait for this.” They come in all shapes and sizes and ages and professions, there’s no doubt about that. I’ve not ever been in a film that has an in-built audience, so it is a different sort of a feeling. Normally you’re at pains to try to describe what it is that you’ve done so it’s odd to be in a movie where, relatively thinking, 80 per cent of the sales pitch is complete because it’s Star Trek, and the other 20 per cent you can’t talk about!

What was it like meeting Leonard Nimoy?
I met him in the make-up trailer in pre-production, and he was having test make-up applied and I initially didn’t know he was there. I came in and sat down and just heard this voice, and I thought, “Oh my god, I’m back to my childhood!” It’s such an amazingly recognisable timbre, and I got to meet him and he’s really lovely. I love nature documentaries and I used to love “In Search Of…”, the TV series which he used to narrate, so when I heard his voice I had visions of the abominable snowman and all the other things they used to go hunting for on that show.