Man of the Hour
He was a vital cog in the mammoth piece of cinematic machinery that was THE DARK KNIGHT, and now character actor AARON ECKHART heads into even more dangerous territory with the politically, socially and sexually explosive drama TOWELHEAD.
Aaron Eckhart is difficult to figure out, both as a person and as an actor. For a long time, he disliked being interviewed. And his prickly personality came to the fore when he agreed to be a presenter at The Golden Globes. As president [of The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who organise the Globes], I was told that he had gone to the wrong entrance of the theatre, and since he didn't have the right credentials, security wouldn't let him in. I rushed over to solve the problem, which he had caused by not showing up for rehearsal the day before. When I found him, Eckhart was not just angry - he was royally pissed off. He wanted to know where his publicist was. When I handed him his credential, he turned to me with a look of anger flashing across his face. "Look, I'm out of here," he said, and promptly took off.
Fortunately I was able to get Ryan Phillippe to fill in for him, and nobody was the wiser. Eckhart never apologised, but he did fire his publicist. But after his acclaimed turn in Jason Reitman's popular satire Thank You For Smoking, Eckhart was a completely different person...for reasons best expressed at his press conference for No Reservations. "I'm so thankful for that nomination, and I had such a good time that night," he says of his Best Actor nomination for Thank You For Smoking. "It was also one of my all time great career nights. I don't know how I got that table at The Golden Globes, sitting with Will Ferrell and Cate Blanchett, watching Tom Hanks up there...it was a fabulous night. And career wise, even though I didn't win, that nomination meant a lot to people hiring me. Since then, I've had a busy year."
Eckhart's attitude adjustment even encouraged him to talk about his personal life - usually a topic best described as "off limits" - and even his girlfriend, Ashley. "She's not an actress," he said. "She's in the fashion business." He was even willing to tell us how they met. "We met on the streets of New York City," he explained. "She was reading [self help guru] Eckhart Toll, and I told her that I wrote the book. I think that intrigued her, and we're getting along well. Since 2002, I've really changed personally. I quit drinking and smoking. I'm much happier now. I bought a ranch in Montana. I'm happy there; there are bears and elk and horses. I have other interests. I've taken up photography. I develop my own film. One day, I'd like to do a bit of photojournalism."
As a non-practicing but committed Mormon, Eckhart is the youngest of three brothers. He used to shy away from talking about his Mormonism, but since Thank You For Smoking, he's opened up. "I grew up a Mormon," he says. "I don't go to church every week, but you can't take that away from who I am because it's ingrained in me. I appreciate what the church has done for me. I appreciate the value system that I have, but I've also come to realise that I make my own rules, and that's given me a lot of freedom in my life. Look at the movies that I make! I don't think the church screens my movies on a regular basis! But the church has made great contributions. They're good people. They have good families and a good work ethic. But I live my life the way I live it; I'm not the poster child for the Mormon Church."
To read the rest of this exclusive interview with Aaron Eckhart, pick up the latest issue of FILMINK Magazine, available in newsagents now.