Eckhart leaps into heart of the action
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.