On Playing the President of the U.S. In The Movie Olympus Has Fallen, Trying To Discover The Secrets Of The White House, The Importance Of Truthfulness In Acting, His Work With Gerard Butler, Patriotism, And Being Under Pressure.
Author/Credits: Sian Edwards / The Interview Feed
Photo Credits: Reuters
"Nobody wants to hear from actors. Especially about the politics"
Handsome and square-jawed, Aaron Eckhart, 45, plays his most ambitious role yet, the President of the United States, in the upcoming action movie, Olympus Has Fallen, in which America is under attack from North Korea. Also starring Gerard Butler, Dylan McDermott, Morgan Freeman and Melissa Leo, Eckhart plays alongside this impressive cast and presents himself as a very convincing leader.
The son of a poet and a computer executive, Eckhart is the youngest of three brothers and was raised in the Mormon Church, though he no longer considers himself a member of the congregation. Not much is known about his personal life, although he was formerly engaged to actress Emily Cline and has dated country music songwriter Kristyn Osborn.
Tanned and fit, Eckhart is wearing dark grey jeans and a faded black t-shirt underneath a black shirt. His hair is darker than usual and he’s unshaven. He will next star in I Frankenstein, and The Drummer.
Question (Q): This movie is about terrorism with the object being the White House. Pretty scary stuff, do you think it could happen?
Aaron Eckhart (AE): Well, The White House is such a recognizable symbol throughout the world for certain beliefs and there are those who would like to attack it, so it’s in a fictional but an interesting storyline. I think that it’s not inconceivable that it could happen but it’s interesting how the response would be from inside the White House and America’s response and the world’s response, so I think it makes a good storyline for a film.
Q: And also North Korea, I don’t think they’ll be very happy about it. They are not shown in a good light.
AE: Well that will be interesting, I will wait for that one.
Q: Did you feel very presidential or empowered?
AE: Well, in front of Morgan, no. (laughs) No I did, actually. It was fun to do and be in the Oval Office with Morgan. Morgan has such a history and in terms of my field, and he is Presidential in my field, and I have gotten to know Morgan over the years and Melissa (Leo) and so those were fun scenes to do; to imagine that there is so much history, and when I talked to Antoine (director) about the role, we talked about the youthfulness of the President and he wanted the President to use his hands and be physical, to box, so we thought about JFK and that sort of ease he had and the casualness in which he held himself. But also the serious side, I mean JFK had to tackle some serious issues with the Russians and the Cubans, so he wanted that sort of thing. With the boxing in the beginning and the fighting back from the terrorists, and I thought that sort of balanced out the film, because Gerry (Butler) has so much to do in the movie, he has so much ground to cover and he is so physical in the movie, and I wanted to sort of balance that out a little bit, and have some fun myself.
Q: On the day that you found out that you’d be playing the President of the United States, what did you do?
AE: Called my mom. (laughs) But did I ever think I was going to play the President? I didn’t ever think I was going to play a chef. Did I ever think I was going to play Two Face in Batman? I mean, in this business, it’s just so crazy what you come up with, you might be playing a nuclear scientist but you know what? I love my country, and I am very interested in what happens to my country, and the politics and my elected officials, and I always have. My dad brought me up that way, so it was an honor to play the President. I have high respect for the office of the Presidency, and you know, I think just putting yourself in that mindset educates you more on what the President has to do on a daily basis, and so it was a learning experience for me in that way.
Q: Did you also discover that there is a secret bunker at the White House?
AE: Yeah, oh yeah.
Q: So it really exists?
AE: Well I would have to kill you if I told you anymore about it (laughs)…
Q: I just wanted to know your research.
AE: (laughs) Well I tried to get in it but I was arrested. (laughs) With The White House, it’s a little difficult because you can’t get access to that sort of stuff. What you do have access is to people who know who have been there. And yes, we did a lot of research with those people. So does this exist? Could this happen? Yes.
Q: You have played various characters. What is your main point to your character?
AE: My main point as an actor, well the most important thing to me, is truthfulness. Is that no matter who I play, no matter what movie, no matter if it’s theatre or film, that when you see me, you believe what I am doing. That is my number one goal. In terms of, do I want to play in action movies or romantic comedies? It doesn’t really matter to me. As long as the audience believes that I gave 100 percent, that I was as truthful as I could possibly be, and that I earned my money. Those are my three things. Other than that, I don’t care. Because I am an actor and I like to look bad, I like to be fat, I like to be skinny, I like to be weak, I like to be strong, I like to be funny, all this sort of stuff, so that’s what interested me, because I have I hope a wild imagination, and I like to fulfill that imagination.
Q: You like to experience…
AE: Yeah, and I want to actually feel. If I am doing a war movie, I want to feel like I am at war. If I am doing a Presidential movie, I want to feel like I am President of the United States that, let’s say we are in the movie and we are shooting right now, and you guys are all actors, if I say something, I want you guys to do it you see what I am saying? As the President of the United States if he tells you to do something, you do it. If I’m playing him and I said, "Get down and give me 20 pushups," you’d have to do it (laughs).
Q: But as a movie star, don’t you have that kind of power anyway?
b>AE: No. (Laughs) Obviously not. No, it shouldn’t be abused and nobody wants to hear from actors anyway. Especially about the politics.
Q: Can you talk about the collaboration of working with Gerald Butler, who was also the producer, and what does patriotism mean to you?
AE: Well, working with Gerry was great. I mean, Gerry was hands on in the movie at all times on and off, he’s a producer of the film, he has a very good relationship with Antoine (director) and they worked closely together so that’s nice to see as an actor because you are looking at Gerry and you are saying to yourself, he has to do this as an actor, which is a tough role already, but now he is looking at things in a bigger dimension, a bigger scope, so he has all of our interests at mind. When that happens, it’s nice because he is interested in what you are doing, he is interested in the art direction, in the hair and makeup, all of that sort of stuff, and he’s very involved. So in that instance it was great, Gerry has always got a good temperament, always joking around, but on the other hand, he takes his job very seriously. I felt like when Gerry is the man that is going to figure this out, and he is going to go save the President, I would look at Gerry and I would feel that confidence that that could happen. And it’s important to me as an actor that when I look at the guy who is going to save the President of the United States, that he has the brains to do it, the muscle to do it, and he has the will to do it.
Q: How good are you under pressure?
AE: You know, like if I were getting Punk’d or something like that, I would be terrible. I think it’s a muscle that you can exercise and can strengthen, and being calm in those circumstances I think would be very difficult to take in the information, to make the right decision, to trust your instincts, which I think is the key ingredient to successful leadership. But I will tell you what, if you were to think that people’s lives were on the line, that you were responsible for not only your family, but your whole country, and people around the world, I couldn’t imagine. I don’t think I would be very good.