It's been a 13-year drought since actor Eric Bana took a leading role in an Australian film. He's back as a federal agent who returns to his country home town to confront a secret from the past, and solve a murder in The Dry.
Eric Bana joined Jesse Mulligan to talk about about filming in rural Victoria during a drought and enduring lockdowns in Melbourne.
Acting in the film is somewhat serendipitous for Bana. His wife recommended the source novel by Jane Harper to him, which he loved, and then the friend and director Robert Connolly, who he shared an office with, was offered the chance to make the film.
“Before you knew it, we were out and filming so it definitely feels like a lot of moons aligning.”
Bana was so attached to the book, he signed on to the film as a producer to protect the source material.
“It was a huge thrill to be a part of the process all the way through. Living in Australia, I’m normally removed from a lot of the post-production process, so being able to be a part of that – cutting in my own backyard – made the involvement all the more fun.”
Knowing Victoria reasonably well, Bana was also part of finding suitable locations to film.
“If you’ve read the book, the landscape is such an important character – essentially – in this thriller and it really adds to the dramatic tension and the visual imagery of the film. It’s something we were at pains to make sure we got right, especially for a big screen adaptation.”
The novel takes place in a small town where severe drought has put residents under stress. Add to that, a family is murdered in mysterious circumstances. Bana describes the book as a great whodunnit.
“Jane’s book is so well done. The challenge for us was to make it as emotional as possible and as visual as possible.”
Harper appears as an extra in the film and has given Bana the seal of approval for his portrayal of police agent Aaron Falk.
“The beauty of Aaron in the book is there’s very few physical descriptions of him so I felt free. Being a fan of the book, I felt very protective of it anyway, it was just a case of trying to manipulate the tools we have in cinema to make that connection as emotional as possible for the audience.”
The film was originally slated for an April release but had to be delayed to New Years Day due to Covid-19 lockdowns in Australia. Bana says they were lucky enough to have a patient distributor who was happy to hold onto the film until a good release window was available.
“We’re just pinching ourselves now that we’re in this position and we’re going to be able to share the film at such a huge opening on so many screens with so many people able to return to cinemas safely and view it as intended.”