Aaron Eckhart has starred in some massive movies – The Dark Knight (as Harvey Dent), Oscar-winning drama Erin Brockovich (alongside Julia Roberts), Olympus Has Fallen (as the actual President). His is a filmography that would make most actors very jealous indeed. So why isn’t he satisfied with his career?
We caught up with the Californian beefcake to find out why he still “thirsts for something more.” Here he is on mean fans, workplace frustrations and new action blockbuster In The Line of Duty.
- Read more: Aaron Eckhart responds to Peter Sarsgaard reportedly being cast as Harvey Dent in ‘The Batman’
You play a cop in In The Line Of Duty – do you feel a sense of duty as an actor?
“In some ways I do. As I get older, I feel a responsibility to make films that the whole family can see together; that have a moral centre. That’s what I like about this movie – he’s a cop who’s been through some bad times and needs to redeem himself. He gave his own life for the life of another. And I don’t think there’s a higher calling.”
The police have had a lot of bad press recently – were you aware of them when filming?
“Oh yeah. That’s really the whole theme of the film. Today, you’re more likely to have a videographer than a good samaritan. Everybody’s so concerned about filming the police that they forget that they can help them, get out of their way and let them do their job. Obviously, there are different angles on that. But in general, the police find it very difficult to do their job with a camera in their face because it’s going to go on YouTube, it’s going to go viral – and you’re going to have millions of people see it, like their family and friends.”
Are you disapproving of social media?
“I was on the red carpet the other day for [WWII biopic] Midway, and somebody asked me, ‘Do you ‘Gram?’ [laughs] I didn’t know what he meant so I said, ‘Am I doing coke or blow? No, no I’m not!’ Then they explained, ‘No, do you ‘Gram? Instagram?’ And I just said, ‘What is that?!’”
In the past, you’ve been very open with your opinions – is that a conscious decision?
“No, I’m just not trying to fool anybody and I’m certainly not trying to fool myself. I’m not trying to protect an image.”
Is that Hollywood side of things offensive to you?
“I just love privacy. It’s weird to go through life knowing that everybody else knows more about you than you know about them. It’s a weird feeling. I appreciate social media in the sense that you’re getting news in real time. It’s the personal stuff that gets you in trouble. It breeds envy, jealousy and competition and I don’t necessarily like those things. It doesn’t take long until you’re sharing something so intimate that you lose a part of yourself.”
Is that not troublesome for an actor who has to open themselves up on screen?
“Yes, but you can always hide behind a character. I think Jack Nicholson said it best – ‘Never let them know who you are’. If you’re in the papers, if you’re in the public eye, if you’re on social media, it’s because you want to be. I don’t care if it’s good or bad. If you don’t want to be in the papers, it’s easy, just don’t be in the papers. Don’t do things that people would be excited about.”
So if you court attention you have to take everything that comes with it?
“Well, certainly not everything that comes with it. People can be very cruel, and not even know it. I’ve had some people say things to me that make me go, ‘Can you believe you just said that to me?'”
“Oh, they’ll tell you they hate you right in front of your face or that your movie sucked. Once, I was in an elevator at Berlin airport at 4:30AM, alone with this dude, and he looked at me and yelled ‘You suck!’ in my face. At 4:30am in the morning! Now, how am I supposed to deal with that?”
You used to have a reputation for being difficult to work with – has that changed?
“Oh I dunno, probably not. I’ve always found movie-making to be quite confrontational. Look what you’re dealing with in terms of subject matter. For example, I’m about to do a movie where I play the parent of a girl who is stoned and stabbed to death. When I get on set, I’m going to be sensitive. The crew, who don’t have to deal with any of that, are obviously going to feel differently to what I am. I think Philip Seymour Hoffman said it best, and I jumped out of my seat when he said it. He said, ‘You know, I can’t be nice all of the time, I just can’t.’ Movie-making is like pregnancy, it hurts, it’s bloody, it’s ugly and when it’s done, you hopefully come out with a beautiful looking baby.”
In a 2011 interview with Vanity Fair, you said “I’m not happy with my career” – has that changed?
“I feel like I haven’t found what is aching inside of me. I haven’t been able to manifest that. Sure, I’ve worked with great people and done movies and all that sort of stuff but I think I thirst for something more.”
What is that?
“If you’re an actor for hire and you’re not getting your own voice out there then I don’t know how fulfilled you can be. If you look at Ben Affleck, if you look at Bradley Cooper, if you look at Gary Oldman. They went out and did it and they had the guts to do it. I feel that if I were to do that, I would feel better about myself. But I’m gonna be dead soon, I don’t have much longer to do it!”
‘In The Line Of Duty’ is in cinemas and on digital HD now