Eric Bana was born Eric Banadinovic on August 9, 1968, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. He is the younger of two brothers. His father, named Ivan Banadinovic, came from Zagreb, Croatia, and worked as a manager for Caterpillar Inc. His mother, named Eleanor Banadinovic, came from a German family and was a hairdresser.
Young Bana grew up in suburban Melbourne. He was popular among his schoolmates for his talent of making comic impressions of his teachers. At that time, he was fond of Mel Gibson in Mad Max (1979) and also decided to become an actor. He moved to Sydney and worked odd jobs to support himself. In 1991, he began a career as a stand-up comedian, while working as a barman at Melbourne’s Castle Hotel. In 1993, Bana made his television debut on Steve Vizard’s Tonight Live with Steve Vizard (1990) talk show, then joined the Full Frontal (1993) TV-series. He gained popularity for making impressions of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Cruse and “Columbo”. In 1996, he started his own show titled Eric (1997), then launched a comedy series titled The Eric Bana Show Live (1997). The show was canceled for the lack of substantial audience. However, in 1997, Bana received the Logie Award for “Most Popular Comedian” for his work on The Eric Bana Show Live (1997).
He made his film debut in The Castle (1997), in a supporting comic role. That same year, he was cast to portray Mark “Chopper” Read, the notorious Australian underworld figure. For the role, Bana gained 30 pounds, by eating junk food; he also spent a few days with Read in prison, in order to perfect his mimicry. Bana completely transformed himself into a bald, plump, disturbed criminal. He would arrive on the film set at four in the morning, spending several hours in makeup, being tattooed exactly like Read. Chopper (2000) became an international success and won three Australian Film Institute Awards. Bana won the Best Actor at the 2000 Stockholm Film Festival and also the AFI 2000 Best Actor Award. Then he co-starred in Black Hawk Down (2001), then starred in Hulk (2003). In 2002, he was cast as the Trojan Prince Hector in the historical epic Troy (2004), after being recommended by Brad Pitt, who admired Bana for his work in Chopper (2000). In 2005, Bana co-starred with Daniel Craig and Geoffrey Rush in the political drama Munich (2005) directed by Steven Spielberg.
In 1995, he began dating Rebecca Gleeson, a publicist and daughter of Australian High Court Chief Justice Murray Gleeson. The following year, he was named “Bachelor of the Year” by Cleo magazine, and won a trip for two to the United States. He invited Gleeson, and proposed to her during that romantic trip. In 1997, the two were married; their son, Klaus, was born in 1999, their daughter, Sophia, was born in 2002. He currently resides in Melbourne with his wife and their two children. Bana is a passionate supporter of Australian football. He was appointed Member of the Order of Australia at the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours for his services to the performing arts and to charitable organisations.
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