Eck­hart leaps into heart of the ac­tion

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

IF ru­mours are true, then North Korean dic­ta­tor Kim Jong-un, is a bit of a film buff. It would be in­ter­est­ing to know what he makes of the new movie Olym­pus Has Fallen; a big-bud­get ac­tion piece in which North Korean ter­ror­ists de­stroy the White House and take the Pres­i­dent and his staff hostage be­fore Ger­ard But­ler’s se­cret ser­vice agent steps in to save the days.

Bizarrely, the North Korean pro­pa­ganda trailer re­leased on YouTube shows the White House be­ing blown up and is eerily sim­i­lar to the movie trailer.

‘‘We have a big Hol­ly­wood ma­chine,’’ grins Aaron Eck­hart who plays Pres­i­dent Ben­jamin Asher in the film.

‘‘It’s a lit­tle weird but, on the other hand, who do you pick for the bad guy th­ese days? Hol­ly­wood’s no longer an Amer­i­can event. Th­ese movies are funded by In­dia, China, Rus­sia, Venezuela and one of their stip­u­la­tions is ‘we’re good guys’.’’

Eck­hart ex­pects to ex­pe­ri­ence this sen­ti­ment first-hand be­fore long as he is pre­par­ing to pro­duce his first movie in Colom­bia. Based on Stu­art Woods’ novel White Cargo, the film de­picts a fa­ther ‘‘who has to go into hell and get his daugh­ter back’’ and Eck­hart and his team are hop­ing for fund­ing from the trou­bled coun­try.

As with White Cargo, 2012’s The Ex­pa­tri­ate and now Olym­pus Has Fallen, the ac­tor ap­pears keen to ex­plore the fa­ther-child re­la­tion­ship.

‘‘I’m be­com­ing an old man with no chil­dren,’’ says Eck­hart, 45, who’s not mar­ried, laugh­ing.

He would like to think Olym­pus Has Fallen dif­fers from other ac­tion films in that is has a ‘‘lot of heart’’. But if it’s true that movies are a mir­ror of our times, then what state­ment is Olym­pus Has Fallen ac­tu­ally mak­ing?

As Eck­hart puts it: ‘‘Be­fore, the White House was sort of off lim­its. Af­ter 9/11,

Ger­ard But­ler and Aaron Eck­hart in a scene from it’s on the ta­ble. But then this movie is about the un­seen heroes be­hind the Pres­i­dent who keep us safe.’’

While Olym­pus Has Fallen is a good old ac­tion yarn with plenty of ex­plo­sions and a seem­ingly in­de­struc­tible hero with a tal­ent for one-lin­ers, don’t ex­pect any damsels in dis­tress. The women are just as bru­tal, tough and deft as the men. Take Os­car-nom­i­nee An­gela Bas­sett’s tough-talk­ing se­cret ser­vice boss or the Os­car-win­ning Melissa Leo, who plays the Sec­re­tary of De­fence and is fear­less even when tak­ing a pum­melling from the ter­ror­ists.

Cal­i­for­nia-born Eck­hart lived with his fam­ily in the UK when he was 13. He later moved to Syd­ney and trav­elled to Hawaii where he en­rolled on a film course be­fore trans­fer­ring to Utah Univer­sity, where he met the writer and di­rec­tor Neil LaBute.

In the early ’90s, Eck­hart sub­sidised TV stints with bar and build­ing work. Then in 1997 LaBute of­fered him a role in the big-screen adap­ta­tion of his play In The Com­pany Of Men.

The film, along with Eck­hart’s de­pic­tion of a mer­ci­less white-col­lar worker who se­duces a deaf woman only to dump her, earned crit­i­cal success.

In 2000 he was cast along­side Ju­lia Roberts in the box-of­fice smash Erin Brock­ovich, fol­lowed by Sean Penn’s The Pledge with Jack Ni­chol­son.

He was ready to re­unite with Penn on an­other movie and then 9/11 hap­pened.

‘‘I ba­si­cally called Sean and said: ‘Sorry, can’t do it’. I thought the world was go­ing to hell and I needed some dough so went and did The Core.’’

It bombed crit­i­cally and fi­nan­cially, and Eck­hart says with can­dour: ‘‘I wish I was smarter and had a bet­ter idea about what the fu­ture was go­ing to bring and what was go­ing to be pop­u­lar.’’

The film he says he’s ‘‘most ap­pre­ci­ated for’’ is 2006’s Thank You For Smok­ing in which he played a to­bacco lob­by­ist.

‘‘Peo­ple just can’t help but smile. They love (my char­ac­ter) Nick Nay­lor, the au­dac­ity, his Machi­avel­lian spirit. I think I’m best at do­ing those kinds of roles where a guy is mov­ing for­ward like a shark and he leaves all the de­bris be­hind him and he doesn’t apol­o­gise.’’

The role earned him a Golden Globe nom­i­na­tion and there has never been any doubt that his peers rate his tal­ent.

The prob­lem is he isn’t the house­hold name he de­serves to be.

‘‘That stuff (fame) sounds like a dis­trac­tion but it’s kind of like the stuff that al­lows peo­ple to put down $10 mil­lion, $20 mil­lion (to make a movie),’’ says Eck­hart, who makes no se­cret of the fact he wants to di­rect and is ac­tively look­ing for the right project.

‘‘I’m not so keen on work­ing for other peo­ple’s point of view and vi­sion any more. I want to do my own thing and be re­spon­si­ble for my own per­for­mance.

‘‘I have a say­ing: ‘I can make a bad movie as good as any­one’, so that’s what I’m go­ing to go do.’’

Olym­pus Has Fallen opens to­day.

– SU­SAN GRIF­FIN

Olym­pus Has Fallen.

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