You know him as a badass Delta sergeant, a green monster, and, most recently, a doting assassin. But away from the screen, the actor is something of a mystery, which is just fine with him. To really understand the man, you have to hit the racetrack and strap in beside him.
On our final lap, we hit 250 km/h, or about 155 mph, which feels pretty exhilarating to me, though Bana isn’t much impressed. “Straightaways and top-end speed are batshit boring,” he says, meaning that a real driver showcases his skill on the corners. We’re about to come into Calder’s two trickiest turns, and a hell of a lot faster than we have on the previous laps.
As we approach the first hard right of an S-shape double turn, Bana downshifts, slows, then accelerates hard, passing two other cars. The steering wheel is twitchy as hell, and the Porsche feels like it’s about to slide off the track. I wonder, just for a moment, if Bana is pushing too hard, but then he guides us out of the second half of the turn perfectly. “I certainly have no interest in dying and leaving my kids without a father,” he tells me later. “At the same time, I believe in setting the example of risk taking.”
His favorite moments in making films, too, are when the stakes are the highest, when acting itself becomes a sort of physical challenge. “That happened a lot in Black Hawk Down,” he says. “When you could hear the money flying around and you knew it’s an hour-and-a-half reset for something. Or on Troy, when you had hundreds of people running and yelling and screaming and cameras flying overhead and horses, you could really get hurt. That’s when I feel really comfortable, when those two worlds combine and you have to get it right or there are consequences. I thrive on that. It’s like WWF ultimate acting.”
Bana slows the Porsche into the pit lane, allowing the blood to rush back into my head. I thank him for the ride and get out of the car, expecting him to do the same. But he stays put.
He chats through his window with his crew about the last run, about where he can eke out a few more hundredths of a second of time. Then he closes the door to the outside world, shifts into gear, and without a journalist’s deadweight dragging him down, takes off for a few good, hard laps all his own.
This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Men’s Journal.