American audiences may best know Eric Bana as the good-looking action hero of “Troy” and “Hulk” so his role in Judd Apatow’s “Funny People” alongside a slew of former stand-up stars may have come as a surprise. Yet, in his native Australia, Bana first came to fame as a comedian. As a youngster in Melbourne, he entertained his classmates with comic impressions of Mel Gibson as “Mad Max” before becoming a professional stand-up in the early 1990s with noted impressions of American movie stars Tom Cruise, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He quickly transitioned to TV fame on Australia’s late night talk show “Tonight Live with Steve Vizard” and a sitcom “Full Frontal” before headlining two series: “Eric” and “The Eric Bana Show Live.” Then Bana surprised his Aussie fans by gaining 30 pounds and transforming into gangster and killer Mark “Chopper” Read, who was known for a removing the toes of his victims with a blowtorch or bolt cutters. This dark and surprising role led to international acclaim that caught the eye of Hollywood. Bana first appeared to American audiences in the military film “Black Hawk Down,” which led to his dramatic roles in “Munich” and “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” “Funny People” was a rare opportunity to return to his comedy roots.
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