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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Eric Bana, star of movies such as "Troy" and "Munich," let New Yorkers in on a different slice of his seemingly glitzy life this week at the Tribeca Film Festival -- his passion for cars and motor racing.
The green monster of 2003's "Hulk" who returns to movie screens on May 8 in big-budget "Star Trek," has made his directing debut with a documentary revolving around his love of cars. Although, he says, it truly deals with friendship and having interests in life other than just work and career.
"Love the Beast" tells of his obsession with his beaten-up 1973 Ford GT Falcon Coupe, nicknamed "The Beast." He has owned it since he was 15 years-old and, he says, it "has had a very big impact on my life" because it kept him off the streets and "out of trouble when I was younger."
The Australian actor told Reuters he loves acting and would find life hard if he could not be involved in filmmaking, but as automobile enthusiast, he would be "devastated if someone took the keys to my car away and said you can't have it back."
"Love The Beast" follows the 40-year-old Bana and his closest friends as they transform his cherished Falcon Coupe into a racing machine and enter it in a five-day rally on public roads in southern Australia.
The film also features interviews with fellow car enthusiasts, U.S. television host Jay Leno, British motoring journalist and host of "Top Gear" Jeremy Clarkson and U.S. television psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw.
But Bana, who uses footage in the film of him growing up in the suburbs of Melbourne, said his movie is not just about cars, but also addresses the bonds of friendship and the importance of hobbies.
"I felt very passionately that the story would resonate with anyone who has these huge interests, and it doesn't have to be cars -- 'love the beast' being a metaphor for whatever the beast is in your life," he said.
"To me this story is as much about that -- I don't find the fact that I have had a car for 25 years that interesting," he added.
To contrast his passion for cars with his career, Bana touches on his life as a celebrity and film star, including one scene that shows him about to hit the red carpet. Bana calls the celebrity world of glitz and glamour far removed from his life with his wife and their two children in Melbourne.
"Including that in the film was my way of showing how potentially uninteresting that (celebrity) world can be in the context of a normal life, and I also felt like it would have been dishonest to try and ignore the fact that it is actually a part of my working life," he said.
Early U.S. reviews were mixed, with some noting Bana's modest and easygoing nature helped to draw in audiences.
"Bana packs plenty of visual grunt for revhead auds, but his misty-eyed narration and awkwardly staged probing of man-car love with an Oz TV psychologist veer close to vanity-project potholes," said one review in showbusiness newspaper Variety. "Biggest asset is Bana's likeability."
The movie is looking for distributors in the United States and other international territories, but it was well-received in Australia, becoming one of the highest grossing documentaries ever in that country.
Besides his passion for cars, the actor's other secret as a comedy talent, which remains relatively unknown outside his native Australia, will also soon be revealed in Judd Apatow's upcoming film "Funny People."
(Additional reporting by Tara Cleary)
Editing by Michelle Nichols