Most intimidating actors
ERIC BANA: I read the script and loved it, and couldn’t believe that Roland was asking me to do it.At that stage, Forest [Whitaker] was already attached, so I was able to read it with him in that role.Oddly enough, that just came in the form of learning about the history of the Afrikaans and what had happened, and trying to understand how he could end up with so much hate.Obviously, Roland was very helpful, in terms of giving us enough to learn because you had to be convincing in your hate, in order to make that character work. For Tutu to work, you have to believe everything that’s coming out of my mouth, and that’s a lot to take on.We were just ready to go, and there was no joking around or rehearsing or getting up to speed. We were in a maximum-security prison and time was ticking away, like a time bomb. Having his blessing, so to speak, meant a lot to us.We both got in that cell, cameras rolled and we just went for it. The fun comes out of the fact that you can’t believe you’re getting to do it. In terms of access and confidence, that made a huge difference.
I thought the premise was a really interesting one.Written and directed by Roland Joffé and co-written by Michael Ashton, who also wrote the play The Archbishop and The Antichrist, the intense thriller The Forgiven, based on real events, follows Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Forest Whitaker), whose work as President of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-apartheid South Africa led him into a maximum security prison to sit across from notorious murderer Piet Blomfeld (Eric Bana).Seeking clemency, Blomfeld had so much bitterness and anger inside of him that it challenged Tutu to wonder whether maybe some people weren’t worthy of forgiveness and redemption.It was playing someone who’s own sense of what they believed in was unmovable and they’re unflinching in their belief. It was incredibly intense because we were on a very tight schedule and we both had very, very intense characters to play, in our own way.I was very respectful of the amount of make-up time that Forest had and that his time on set was going to be extremely valuable. The director gave us the option of breaking things up into sections, but we both decided to do every scene from start to finish. There would have been nothing worse than coming out with an end result that was either not endorsed or shunned.