Actor Aaron Eckhart

Actor explains why his character in Battle: Los Angeles is the only one in his career that he’s been sad to move on from.

Aaron Eckhart has earned considerable acclaim for his diverse film portfolio, from blockbusters like The Dark Knight to romantic comedies and dramas, including Rabbit Hole—in a role that won him an Independent Spirit Award nod for best male lead. The California native lived with his family in England and Australia as a teen and studied film at BYU, where he met aspiring director Neil LaBute. It was LaBute who gave him his breakthrough role in the controversial indie, In the Company of Men. Eckhart's latest project is the sci-fi adventure Battle: Los Angeles.


Tavis: Pleased to welcome Aaron Eckhart back to this program. His impressive resume includes notable films like “Thank you For Smoking,” “The Dark Knight” and “In the Company of Men.” His latest is easily the most anticipated film of 2011 – “Battle: Los Angeles.” The film opens everywhere on Friday, and so here now, a scene from “Battle: Los Angeles.”
Tavis: Looks like a blockbuster to me. A lot of things blowing up, a lot of action, what else do you need? (Laughter) And Aaron Eckhart.
Aaron Eckhart: Yeah. Yeah, it’s a movie I’m very proud of.
Tavis: When you say “proud of,” what do you mean by that?
Eckhart: Well, we worked hard. It’s a big popcorn movie, sort of summer – it starts off the summer of 2011, but it’s a film that we worked very carefully to be respectful to the Marine Corps, who we portray, and also to be accurate and to make it very believable. Although we’re fighting aliens, we wanted to make sure that the audience really felt like we were in mortal danger.
Tavis: We’ll talk more in a second about how you do justice to that Marine ethic that you mentioned a moment ago, but let me ask first whether or not there’s any pressure that one feels when one knows that he’s in a film that is, in fact, the most anticipated of the year. Does that make you feel a certain way?
Eckhart: Well, I’ve done somebody said 30 films so far in my career, and every film I expect – there’s a lot of hype around every film and everybody has great expectations, so I no longer – I take a more Zen approach to the films that are coming out.
Tavis: (Laughs) I like that.
Eckhart: In other words, this film, I’m happy to be in it, I’m honored to be in it and I’m hearing good things about it, but I will not live and die on the box office on this movie. I hope it does well so that I can go on and do films that are meaningful to me and that everybody will be honored in making the film. But on Saturday morning it’ll be just another Saturday morning for me.
Tavis: I assume that you reference that 30-movie resume in part because – I could be wrong – I thought I heard you suggesting that it’s over that trajectory that you’ve learned how to be more Zen-like, that you’ve learned not to take this stuff too, too seriously.
Eckhart: Yeah, because I’ve been – your expectations rise and then you’re let down, and that’s very painful. Sometimes you’re not let down. But every film, whether or not it performs at the box office, is so meaningful to me because I’ve spent so much time investing my thoughts into it, my imagination, my creativity and then the physical output that I want them all to do well. So when they don’t it’s really hurtful.
Tavis: You may have answered the question I was about to ask – you said doesn’t do well, it’s a bit hurtful. I was about to ask whether or not you ever take personally the fact that your choice might not have met with the audience choice, that those two things didn’t seem to coalesce.
Eckhart: Definitely, especially because – and every audience member has the right to – but they dismiss a film so easily, and after the first week if it doesn’t perform then it can really be just – it’s put on the trash bin. But it’s less about the audience. It’s more, really, about my peers.
Tavis: I was in a conversation the other day which I’m just curious if you have any thoughts about it. We’ll come back to the film in a second, but it’s connected to this conversation. In a conversation with some friends the other day about the fact that technology, for all the good that it does – and we know technology has both good and bad associated with it.
It can advance us and also slow us down in other ways. But one of the things that’s happening, as you well know, in this business, better than I do, is that because of the Twitter stuff, people go to movies and they’re tweeting while they’re watching the movie, or the minute they come out of it, and you don’t even get a chance to see it anymore (laughter) because they will kill this thing in the first hour of release.
Eckhart: Oh, god, don’t say that to me.
Tavis: The first hour of release, it gets – they can blow it up in a good way or they can kill it.
Eckhart: Yeah.
Tavis: What do you make of the fact that technology, people going to see movies are tweeting about it so quickly? They tell you, “Don’t waste your time going to see it,” and you can see it actually played out in the numbers – it tanks the next day.
Eckhart: I wasn’t even aware of that. (Laughter)
Tavis: You lie, you lie. You lie, you lie.
Eckhart: No, I’m serious. Tavis, I don’t Tweet. I’m not on Facebook. I never imagined that. You’re right, it can be destroyed. On the other hand, and I think it will happen with this film, I think word of mouth will carry this –
Tavis: It’ll blow it up, oh, yeah.
Eckhart: Yeah, blow this movie up.
Tavis: No pun intended, yeah.
Eckhart: Yeah. No, but I really feel like it gives everybody, the whole family, a chance to be entertained, because as you said it’s got the action, it’s also got a lot of heart. It’s also about things that we care about, and hopefully this film – this is the only character in my career that I’ve ever been sad to leave. That on the last day, when I was standing amongst all the Marines at Pendleton, we had four Osprey, we had 46 helos, all this sort of stuff, and I just sat there and looked at all these Marines and I just thought, wow, I hope they make a sequel to this movie.
Tavis: Are you trying to tell me – if I take your last comment to be completely truthful, what that means you’re telling me is that even though Nicole Kidman called you personally (laughter) and asked you to play her husband, the last day of shooting you didn’t feel anything about that?
Eckhart: (Laughs) You know what I did after that, though?
Tavis: Is that what you meant to say?
Eckhart: I rented a car and drove across the country. (Laughter) I was about to call an exorcist after that movie. (Laughter)
Tavis: Yeah, that’s funny.
Eckhart: I did this movie, actually, “Battle: Los Angeles,” right after “Rabbit Hole.” I needed a break. That year, I made a movie with Johnny Depp called “The Rum Diary,” which is based on a Hunter S. Thompson novel, so we went and did that in Puerto Rico. Johnny flew me to New York, I started literally the next day into “Rabbit Hole,” finished “Rabbit Hole” and went right into “Battle: Los Angeles.” So I had a very eclectic year.
Tavis: That is the only reason I will let you stand by that statement. After playing her husband, you’re, like, ready to go.
Eckhart: Would you like to see a sequel of “Rabbit Hole?” (Laughter) Let me tell you this –
Tavis: I digress. (Laughter)
Eckhart: The box office numbers do not bear it out.
Tavis: I digress, I digress.
Eckhart: Now if she wanted to come join the cast of “Battle: Tokyo” or “Battle: Paris.” (Laughter)
Tavis: That’s funny. All right, so let me get back to the movie. You mentioned that it’s got heart, there’s a lot of stuff in it that we care about, quoting you, so tell me about the storyline.
Eckhart: Well, it’s about a retiring Marine, 20 years in. He’s sort of lost who he is, had some bad experiences, men have died under his command, and he’s ready to walk away with a bitter feeling in his heart. Lo and behold, some aliens come out of Santa Monica Bay and all hands on deck.
I have to take a squad of green Marines behind enemy lines, which is behind Lincoln Avenue in Santa Monica, (laughter) and then we have to rescue some civilians. So it’s very familiar territory to anybody who’s lived in Los Angeles or visited Los Angeles, and it’s quite a ride.
Tavis: You referenced earlier the respect and regard you have for the Marines. I assume here again that that’s in part because you spent some good time with them preparing to play this role.
Eckhart: Yeah, we did a three-week boot camp. We had a sergeant major, a master sergeant and gunny. They put us in a tent with our rank. Through our rank we ate together, slept together, showered together, trained together. So by the time – you mentioned that Ne-Yo was on the show. By the time Ne-Yo and the whole crew started their first day in the middle of summer in Louisiana – hot – they were best friends. They knew everything about each other.
So any time you see in this movie them palling around or they’re being intimate with each other or they’re taking care of each other, that comes from a very real place. There were times when we were in boot camp when guys couldn’t run anymore, guys couldn’t take the heat, guys couldn’t take the pressure.
They felt like people were ganging up on them or whatever it was, their demons were playing with them. It was up to us to have their back and to bring them along with the rest of the group.
So this film – and that’s another reason why this film is very meaningful to me, because to me, it’s a very real film.
Tavis: You mentioned Ne-Yo. Just between the two of us, we know he sings pretty well.
Eckhart: Yeah. (Laughs)
Tavis: We know he writes pretty well. Can he act?
Eckhart: Yes, he can. (Laughter) He can, and not only can he act, but he was into it, and Ne-Yo is also a very humble guy. He’s willing to learn. So Ne-Yo, in fact, I don’t mind saying this – he said to me one time, he said, “I’m watching you,” which was a great compliment to me, and any time that I could help anybody out or if I could learn off one of the other cast members, it was appreciated.
Tavis: It raises a fascinating question, at least for me – so Ne-Yo is a great artist who now wants to act. If Aaron Eckhart were not acting, what would he be doing?
Eckhart: I’d be a songwriter.
Tavis: (Laughs) I knew that was going to happen.
Eckhart: No, I’m not kidding you. I’ve told Ne-Yo that. Didn’t go very far, but that was my first love.
Tavis: He didn’t ask you for your demo tape? (Laughter)
Eckhart: No, I might have sung him a tune, but it was a country tune, so. Of course, he does everything, doesn’t he?
Tavis: Oh, yeah, and country’s hot, man. Country’s hot.
Eckhart: Yeah, he – in fact, he went to Nashville a few weekends while we were there. No, I wouldn’t do that to anybody. (Laughter)
Tavis: Somehow I think you, if given the opportunity –
Eckhart: Want me to sing you a song?
Tavis: Yeah, exactly. I think you would if I had more time. We’d let you. Anyway, the movie, as if you didn’t know, “Battle: Los Angeles.” It is, as we said already, the most-anticipated movie of the summer and I suspect it’s going to measure up. So don’t worry about those Twitter folks, you’ll be fine.
Eckhart: All right. (Laughs) Thank you very much.
Tavis: You’ll be fine. Good to see you, Aaron. Good to have you back.
Eckhart: Thank you.

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Last modified: April 26, 2011 at 12:29 pm