Valley Girl With a Brain

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The Need for Speed

Eric Bana's fastest love affair.

Hulk actor Eric Bana tames a new beast and reveals a lesser known side of prowess in Love the Beast. The new documentary chronicles his journey with his beloved beast, a 1973 Ford GT Falcon, as he and his friends prepare to race one of the most challenging rallies in the world: The Targa Tasmania Rally.

However, an unexpected crash preemptively shortens the race and forces Bana to reevaluate his feelings toward the beast and cultivate new understanding about himself as both an actor and driver.

Seeking insight from psychologist Dr. Phil, Bana learns that in the fast lane of life, where few bonds and traditions survive, his beast has remained a glowing "campfire" throughout the milestones of his formative years and adulthood. Fellow automobile enthusiasts Jay Leno and Jeremy Clarkson also share their observations and feelings toward car culture, as Bana takes us on a journey of how a humble muscle car has been such a driving force in his life and relationships--for twenty-five years.

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Love the Beast will premiere on Speed TV on December 18, 2009. Check out the official film website: Love the Beast

Jen Kim: For non-car enthusiasts, can you explain your relationship toward your Falcon?

Eric Bana: It is a combination of a very long-term friendship with a vehicle that is very exciting to drive.

JK: In the documentary, Jeremy Clarkson suggests that if you had rebuilt the Falcon yourself that last time, you wouldn't have crashed it. Do you agree?

EB: I don't know if I fully agree. But part of the problem was that I had been racing proper race cars and at a good level, and then I tried to race my old friend in the same way that I would race any other car, which is very different. I was being called out on the fact that I changed the terms of the relationship with my own car. And, you know, it was the wrong thing to do.

JK: When Clarkson makes a comment about how muscle cars are crap, there's this look on your face that's simply priceless. What were you thinking?

EB: There's a reason why Porsches have always been fantastic and muscle cars are muscle cars. They're not built to handle certain things. When he said that, I was acknowledging, "What was I thinking, racing this bloody car?"

JK: There's a lot of juxtaposition in the film between acting and racing. What does racing fulfill that acting doesn't?

EB: Racing has longer lasting after-effects for sure. I find that the after-effects of a race stay with me for a long, long time. It's a combination of being unbelievably challenging--both physically and mentally--and yet, it's very primal. I really enjoy the measurability of racing. Even though people can win awards, acting has absolutely no way of being measured. It's not the same. I think you always question yourself as an actor, whereas you always get a result as a driver. No one can take that away from you.

JK: You raced your first Targa in 1996, and then your next in 2007. What prompted that decision a decade later?

EB: I decided to give up rallies because I had started to do more and more circuit racing. I knew a lot of people who were killed or badly injured in rallies so we just thought that we'd had enough. It was a last hoorah for the car, and I was just going to enjoy it as an enthusiast vehicle from that point.

JK: Things didn't turn out exactly as planned though. What was going on in your mind when you crashed?

EB: The first thing I thought was analytical. We were going in head on, which I thought wasn't too bad. It's actually a pretty good way to hit a tree. You really don't want to hit it sideways. The second thing I thought was, “I can’t believe I'm crashing.” Then I realized I was crashing a car that I really loved. Afterwards, I was devastated. I felt like my documenting it for the last ten years was a complete waste of time.

JK: Did the crash teach you any lessons?

EB: You learn about state of mind. I had always felt pretty invincible; I never thought I would crash that car. I felt so stupid. But then another part of me, the driver, took over. Where you just have to keep pushing and get faster each day; you just have to find that perfect moment behind the wheel.

JK: The potential of danger is always so great in racing. Do you ever get scared?

EB: I really don't. I had an accident last year that I thought was going to be catastrophic, but ended up not being too bad. I was spinning down the track in the pouring rain, and I thought I was going to get T-boned badly. It was going to be one of those accidents. I wasn't sure what was going on and what was going to happen. There was fear in that moment, but when I race in general, I don’t get scared. It helps a lot, especially when you're on a top racetrack. I'm a lot more scared riding my bicycle on the road, truthfully.

JK: Are there any plans to enter another Targa, perhaps in another decade?

EB: I would love to, but I made a decision a few years ago to stop racing rallies. There's been a lot of carnage since my last crash. We lost another driver navigator a few weeks ago. I stopped doing them for a pretty good reason. I'm just focusing on circuit racing and loving it.

JK: So are you a muscle car lover for life?

EB: I love all cars. But I'm most interested in car culture where people find cars that can be worked on. So unfortunately, you have to go back in time for that. A brand new car out of a show room is not really meant for a seventeen-year-old kid to work on, unless they're putting in a bigger stereo or bigger wheels. You just have to go back to the muscle cars and hot rods.

 

Jen Kim is a former Psychology Today intern and a graduate of Northwestern University.

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