Bana’s other recent film will likely appeal more to the testosterone crowd. Love the Beast, which he directed and produced, is a sentimental portrait of Bana’s first automobile, a 1974 Australian Ford Falcon coupe muscle car he nicknamed the Beast, which he still drives after 25 years. Jay Leno and Dr. Phil appear in the documentary to help tease out the true significance of the Beast as the center of a world of masculine camaraderie Bana shares with his lifelong friends. “There’s so much focus and social activity that comes with owning this car,” Bana explains. “It’s that old thing of women bond by talking and men by doing. Over my lifetime, the car had actually transcended the fact that it is a car. It has become a venue.”
Love the Beast screened at the Tribeca Film Festival to largely positive reviews, though it doesn’t yet have American distribution. Bana boasts that it has already become the second-highest grossing non-Imax domestic documentary ever in Australia (after 2007’s Bra Boys)—a distinction some might find almost comically modest. Nonetheless, it’s a pleasing one for an actor who has steadfastly clung to his homeland despite his Stateside success, and he praises the virtues of living in a country with a muted celebrity culture.
“It’s not as crazy as here; it’s more sporting-based than based on the arts, fortunately for me,” says Bana of comparatively paparazzi-free Melbourne. “Once the footy season is under way, it wouldn’t matter who you are. Trust me.”