The story of "Munich" is, in many ways, as fascinating as the movie itself.
Assembled, shot and released in a stunningly brief period of time, dogged by an intense need for secrecy and overseen by a director who dropped "War of the Worlds" in the midst of it all, the film nevertheless emerged as a late-season critical and box-office success.
As star Eric Bana reflects on the flick's DVD release, which was nominated for five Oscars, he can finally allow his own slightly upturned grin to contrast the blank expression of his character, haunted hit man Avner. Calling from a film set in his native Australia, the intense actor let his guard down for a revealing discussion of Steven Spielberg the basketball coach, the fatherly scenes you may never see and a message for the haters who continue to approach him with "predetermined crap."
MTV: "Munich" is finally making its way to DVD Tuesday (May 9). What will fans be able to appreciate more at home than in theaters?
Eric Bana: There's so much detail in so many of the sequences in this film. I think the DVD for this would be pretty spectacular [for appreciating] the way Steven has composed some of the shots. I was blown away the first time I saw it, and I was there!
MTV: Spielberg was still shooting in mid-2005 for a firm December release. Did the tight schedule help or hurt the making of the film?
Bana: It helped in the sense that we had a pretty crazy schedule, but from what I gather, it's not at all unusual for Steven. I don't think this film would've been shot any differently if he had an 18-month production. He always schedules films tight and hits the ground running, so for the crew, it's no different to what they're used to. ... For me, playing a role so forlorn, I actually liked the workload because it enabled you to completely immerse yourself and not come up for air until it was over.
MTV: Did Spielberg hit his end date perfectly?
Bana: We finished bang-on. I think it was 69 or 70 days, and it was the day he said we were gonna finish that we finished.
MTV: Your head must have been spinning.
Bana: It's really [like] a basketball team working on a film. It's sport and art merged together.
MTV: The DVD offers a peek into that Spielberg process, as well as footage of the real-life tragedy. What it doesn't give us, however, is the rumored scenes between you and an actor playing Avner's father.
Bana: He's referred to in the end, but yes, you never see it.
MTV: So you did shoot those scenes?
Bana: We did. ... There was only one, and it was a scene when I went back to Israel and it was towards the end. It didn't make it in for whatever reason. I don't think there were that many deleted scenes; it was pretty tight. I don't think by any means it was a four-hour film cut down to two and a half.
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MTV: Why do some movies make tons of deleted scenes, and others don't?
Bana: The one amazing thing about Steven is he's absolutely ruthless. ... He would, on the spot, say, "OK, we just deleted the scene that comes after this, because there's no way I can cut to it." ... He would make that decision on the spot, and that scene that you were going to shoot this afternoon or tomorrow morning is now gone.
MTV: A lot of actors will request an additional take if they feel they weren't good enough while the cameras were rolling. Were you afraid that would have screwed up the Spielberg process?
Bana: If I felt like I had any, I'd always ask, and Steven would always give me that. It's just that give-and-take thing. But you need to send some [good] prints to him early if you're gonna ask. You'd better give him something he likes the first time.
MTV: The subjects of Israeli-Palestinian terrorism and soul-sucking retribution got people talking.
Bana: [He laughs.] Yeah, that's for sure.
MTV: Tell us about the moviegoer response that meant the most to you.
Bana: I've had a lot of people from both sides comment, which I thought was really interesting. People who thought they were going to hate it, who preconceived it as propaganda, were really surprised by it, and that's been pleasing. ... It's always good when you [get compliments from] people who served in certain areas, who relate to men on a mission. I had similar experiences with "Black Hawk Down."
MTV: What about the flip side? "Munich" message boards are typically populated by some very angry people.
Bana: I don't feel as though people get that angry about the film. We're dealing with a subject matter that makes people angry — and there's a real difference between the two. I've found in most cases, people's [negative] opinions of the film were that way before they went in. It doesn't really bother me. ... There's been so much predetermined crap written about the film that was quite unbelievable, really.
MTV: We've heard stories about the film being shot under intense secrecy. What was the craziest precaution you witnessed?
Bana: I don't know that it was any more secretive than any other project that I've worked on. For some reason, it's getting kind of more and more crazy, and I guess it's got to do with piracy. I worked on another film last year ... and there were crewmen who hadn't even [been allowed to] read the script ... but I'm sure security was pretty tight on the set.
MTV: Because of the subject matter?
Bana: We undoubtedly had more security than normal; there's just no doubt about that. That took a bit of getting used to, but when you really got into it, you kind of don't notice.
MTV: You shot all over the world, in Hungary, Malta and France. Did some of these places get a bit scary?
Bana: We just needed it physically because when we were shooting, we weren't in hostile areas or something, but you're exposed to the public so much. A lot of those areas you can't completely lock down and control, so I guess it kind of lends itself to that.
MTV: Every actor wants to work under Spielberg. What's the best piece of advice he gave you?
Bana: He was always very good at encouraging you to go with your instincts. If you had a thought and you were about to start questioning it too much, he would cut you off and say, "Don't even think about it. Do it on camera. Do it on film. Do it, do it, do it." Which is pretty great — that he's prepared to have something unfold before him. He's really excited by that whole process of things happening on film.
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