Rebecca Bana focuses on her future behind the camera
Hollywood actor Eric Bana may be the most famous face in his family, but creativity is at the core of his talented clan.
Wife Rebecca is an accomplished photographer, their 20-year-old son Klaus is in his final year of film and television at the Victorian College of the Arts, and daughter Sophia, 18, is taking theatre studies and studio arts as part of her VCE.
The down-to-earth family lives a relatively ordinary existence in Melbourne, a million miles from the glamour and bright lights of Eric's international stardom.
The couple is almost never seen out and about and they shy away from A-list parties unless they're genuinely passionate about the cause or the event.
Living a low-key, grounded life is something Rebecca has worked hard to establish and maintain, despite the fact Eric has travelled extensively over the years for roles in Hollywood blockbusters including Black Hawk Down, Troy, Hulk, Star Trek, Hanna, Munich and The Time Traveller's Wife.
"In the early days, Eric was travelling so much and it was quite a wild ride and my instinct was, 'Well, that's all great, but the kids need to have normal lives," Rebecca says.
"So we'd travel somewhere and I'd be like, 'How can I kind of make it like home? How can I get piano lessons and a bit of sport and school?' And, weirdly, seeing people do this coronavirus thing, it felt a little bit like that. We'd go to these countries and the kids wouldn't have a single friend and there was no support, there was no childcare, it was just us buckling down and trying to create a life on our own.
"I just thought that was my job in all of this, to go, 'Okay Eric, you're doing all your things and that's fantastic and really exciting', and I just have to be the one that enjoys that but keeps everything really normal. That's how I thought they'd feel safe in the world and grounded."
She says early on they did contemplate living more permanently overseas, but ultimately decided that Melbourne was where they wanted to raise their children. Rebecca, the daughter of former Chief Justice of Australia Murray Gleeson, grew up in Sydney, while Eric grew up in Tullamarine.
"We vaguely thought about it, but we quickly decided that wasn't going to be the plan because you can move to LA, but I think Eric shot one film in LA and then didn't do another one for 10 years there. We were always happier in Australia," Rebecca says.
"Having lived in different countries, we didn't want them to go to school anywhere other than Australia. They did have a lot of time out of school when they were younger, but then once high school hit that was really impossible because they had their own stuff.
"Sophia is really mad into dance and Klaus was in every school production, and you suddenly go, you can't just keep taking them out of this. We did as much travel as we could but that was the priority, that they were able to do their things that were important to them. To keep that life really normal."
A former Channel 7 publicist, Rebecca met Eric in 1995 while he was appearing on Full Frontal, and the couple married in 1997. She helped him pursue his flourishing acting career while raising their young family, but is finding her feet as a respected creative in her own right now the children are more independent.
"For so long I did the travelling and the thing with the kids, making sure they were all good, and then I got to the point where you start thinking, 'Oh the days a getting a little longer because they've got activities after school or whatever' and I just had time.
"When I was doing publicity, that was my favourite part of the job, doing the photo shoots.
"I got into and picked up a camera for the first time about 10 years ago. I did a couple of short courses and did a three-month course and then went and did a proper two-year course. It was the first thing I ever did in my life where I forgot to eat, I was so engrossed in doing it. I just absolutely fell in love with it."
She has "tortured" her family with photo shoots over the years, as well as capturing some of her famous friends including comedian Kitty Flanagan and singer Tottie Goldsmith.
"I've done shoots with Eric - that's been really nice to take me to the next level of what's required for magazines, that's been really fun," she says.
But the work she loves most is shooting inspiring women.
"I love shooting women who say, 'I hate having my photo taken, I've never had a nice photo'. It's probably my favourite thing to do because I think, 'No, you've probably never had nice lighting or you've never had anyone take that time'."
Rebecca says the couple has enjoyed watching their kids follow in their creative footsteps. Eric is particularly proud of both Klaus and Sophia's pursuits behind the camera.
"I think he's really supportive. Klaus is very different to Eric because he's not interested in being in front of the camera. But I think he thinks it's great and he can see that (Klaus has) got an eye for it. I always love seeing Eric's take on the work that Klaus has done," she says.
"And Sofia is doing photography for her VCE as well, so that goes down really well - giving advice to a year 12 student. I'll ask her, 'What's our assignment, Sophia?' and she'll be like, 'No, Mum, it's my assignment'."
Rebecca credits the long-term success of their marriage, in an industry notorious for scandalous breakups, to their shared outlook on life and their passion for varied interests.
"There is a lot of luck involved when you pick someone but yes, we're very lucky and do get along really well. We're very lucky in that sense," she says.
"That's why hobbies for everyone are so important, because if everything is in that work basket and something happens that can be really tricky. Eric's always had a million hobbies. He's mad about bikes and cars. Literally they have been lifesavers, having those things to do when suddenly you're not working for a few months or whatever, and that's every actor. You go from really intense, six days a week, and then suddenly, 'Oh, now I'm at home'."
Originally published as Why Eric and Rebecca Bana shunned the Hollywood life