Updated: December 3, 2012 11:55 AM | By Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press, thecanadianpress.com

Bana goes bad for brutal 'Deadfall'

TORONTO - Presented with the chance to play either a troubled ex-boxer eager for redemption or a volatile psycho-killer with a hair-trigger temper, Eric Bana saw little choice at all.

Bana goes bad for brutal 'Deadfall'

Charlie Hunnam and Olivia Wilde star in "Deadfall" in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - eOne Films

TORONTO - Presented with the chance to play either a troubled ex-boxer eager for redemption or a volatile psycho-killer with a hair-trigger temper, Eric Bana saw little choice at all.

He leapt at the opportunity to let loose as the volatile villain in "Deadfall," a morally bereft robber named Addison whose crime spree reaches its apex in a tense Thanksgiving day standoff with Jay, the fallen fighter.

Bana notes both roles were open when he was given the screenplay for the low-budget thriller. His agent thought he'd prefer the more sympathetic character but Bana says he was immediately drawn to Addison's dangerous complexities.

"It was the most interestingly written character as far as I was concerned," Bana says in a recent phone interview from Los Angeles.

"I really loved his dialogue, I loved the predicament he was in and knew that it would be a great challenge."

It helped that there were multiple layers in his personality to play with, says the 44-year-old Australian.

"It was really well-written and very descriptive and I actually found it quite humorous as well. In a sort of twisted way," adds Bana, who adopted a deep southern U.S. drawl for the part.

"I felt like there was real humour there without it being deliberately so."

Such levity is key to balancing a simmering brutality that pervades "Deadfall," he acknowledges. The story follows Addison and his younger sister Liza as they scramble towards the Canadian border in the wake of a botched casino heist.

They are forced to split up and proceed on foot just as a blizzard descends — creating near-whiteout conditions that provide a stark visual backdrop as each sibling entangles unwitting bystanders in their escape.

Things get complicated when Liza hitches a ride from Jay, played by Charlie Hunnam, who is en route to a Thanksgiving homecoming with his parents June and Chet, played by Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson.

Meanwhile, Addison leaves a trail of destruction as he trudges through the remote Upper Peninsula of northern Michigan, attracting attention from the foolhardy Sheriff Becker, played by Treat Williams, and his downtrodden deputy daughter Hanna, played by Kate Mara.

It all comes to a head when everyone meets at June and Chet's remote farmhouse, where Addison's dark proclivities are fully revealed.

Bana, whose diverse credits include playing a tortured super-hero in "Hulk," an idealistic Mossad agent in "Munich" and a loopy rugby fanatic in "Funny People," says he relished the chance to explore a monstrous mind.

"When you've got a character like Addison who has an internal kind of moral compass that's unflinching, I think that always makes those characters a bit scarier because you know that you can't reason with them and that they have total conviction in the fact that what they're doing is the right thing," he says.

Addison's only alliance is to his fragile sister Liza, played by Olivia Wilde. Their disturbingly tight bond hints at a sinister family history that is intentionally left vague.

"That was gloriously ambiguous and (director) Stefan (Ruzowitzky) was great," Bana says of the Austrian filmmaker, who won a foreign-language film Oscar for 2007's "The Counterfeiters."

"He basically told Olivia and I to make up our own version of our backstory and not discuss it with each other, which kind of made it a bit creepier and kind of more interesting in a way. So that's exactly what we did."

Bana says "Deadfall" was shot last winter in rural Quebec, about an hour from Montreal. He notes temperatures dipped down to minus 20C — what he calls "proper cold."

"It was beautiful. It was freezing cold, obviously, but I'd much rather be cold and have a convincing set than trudging around in fake snow being comfortable," says Bana, who lives in Melbourne.

"It sort of becomes a character of the film, really. And it wasn't a huge budget so the fact that they went to the trouble of actually shooting those locations was pretty great."

Although Bana played a similarly demented ex-con in the 2001 Australian film "Chopper," he admits that Addison is much darker than his more recent Hollywood roles.

"I've been lucky enough to be able to jump around a bit and haven't been grossly pigeonholed, which has been nice but also a kind of conscious thing," he says, adding he'll continue to seek as varied roles as possible.

"So long as they'll let me loose I'll keep grabbing them."

"Deadfall" opens in Toronto, Calgary and Montreal on Friday.

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