BERLIN (Reuters) - Eric Bana insisted his co-stars Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman got on famously and that all three actors were able to raise their game in “The Other Boleyn Girl” with a friendly competition to out-do each other.
The Australian who plays England’s King Henry VIII in the film that made its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival on Friday went out of his way to quash any notion there was any clash of egos or friction between high-powered young Americans.
“Why is it that people in the media hate the idea that actors working together is possibly true?,” Bana said at a good spirited news conference after Johansson and Portman had been heaping praise on each other’s acting talents.
“I hate to break it to you but actors really do love each other. It’s a crazy job and we put ourselves in vulnerable positions. I don’t care if it sounds corny but it’s true: you’re part of a brotherhood, and protect each other.
“And they indeed do get along really well.”
Yet there are sparks between the two in “The Other Boleyn Girl,” adopted from a best-selling novel by Philippa Gregory about the 16th century king and his second wife Anne Boleyn — the mother of Queen Elizabeth I who was beheaded in 1536.
Portman, who plays a scheming Anne Boleyn, and Johansson, her sister Mary, vie against each other for the affections of King Henry — Mary is his mistress and Anne becomes his wife.
“People keep asking if the rivalry was real but it was the opposite because we just liked each other so much,” said Portman, 26. “It was such a rare opportunity to work with an actress my age who I much admire.”
Johansson, who corrected Bana by calling it a “sisterhood” of actors, chimed in that Portman, who excels as a sinister character in the film, kept apologizing for being so mean.
“Natalie was apologizing all the time. She’d say ‘I’m sorry for stealing your baby’ or ‘I’m sorry for that’,” said Johansson, 23. “I said ‘Don’t worry. Let’s get dinner later’.”
Bana, 39, and Johansson said they all thrived on the competition during filming, which director Justin Chadwick took to many historic locations to give his cast an extra bit of inspiration. Chadwick said he was lucky to get the trio for his first film.
“It really was challenging,” Johansson said. “It was a very healthy competition among all of us to raise the scene to the next level and keep the energy up. It was impressive every day.
“You can’t be selfish as an actor and say ‘I’m going to do this all for me and I don’t care about the rest of you because my performance is going to be great’,” Johansson said.
“That won’t work. You see how your performance makes their performance better and it means so much to be able to have this kind of a sisterhood with other actors.”
Bana, who gave the German media a treat by speaking a few lines in polished German, said there was nothing unusual about Australians and Americans playing historic English characters.
“Casting should be open to people from different nationalities,” he said, before joking: “I think that as Australia is part of the commonwealth I felt it was my right to play this character.”
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