Newsweek – Aaron Eckhart is instantly recognizable. His blonde-haired, blue-eyed, square-jawed good looks are that of the prototypical Hollywood star. He is the kind of actor who, when you see him on screen, has a strong, dependable presence and the ability to bring gravitas to a movie, whether it’s an action blockbuster as overblown as Olympus Has Fallen or, like his latest work, Sully, a subtle drama based on real events. But even with those all-American features and a commendable array of credits, Eckhart has never quite broken through as a leading man. He is perhaps Hollywood’s most valuable supporting player.
I present this theory to Eckhart when we meet in London’s famous Claridge’s hotel. He isn’t in the least offended. Rather the opposite, in fact. He wears it as a badge of honor. “I’m happy to take that title,” he says. “I’ve always been a solid guy for [leading women]…for Julia [Roberts in Erin Brockovich], Catherine Zeta Jones [2007’s No Reservations]. I’m proud of that. I’m proud that I can contribute in my own way.”
Eckhart, 48, might be the leading man of this interview, but we’re discussing two more films in which he comes second to the protagonist. In the Clint Eastwood-directed Sully, about the 2009 emergency landing of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River, he plays first officer Jeff Skiles opposite Tom Hanks’ Captain Chesley Sullenberger. In Bleed for This, the biopic charting U.S. boxing champion Vinny Pazienza’s comeback from a life-threatening car accident, he portrays Pazienza’s trainer Kevin Rooney (Miles Teller plays the Pazmanian Devil).
Both movies have had significant awards chatter leading into next February’s Academy Awards. Having Eastwood and Hanks, both perennial Oscar favorites, on the marquee alone makes Sully a contender, but its chances are boosted further by Eckhart’s conviction as Sullenberger’s first officer, a beautifully understated script from Todd Komarnicki, and positive reviews across the world. The power of Bleed for This, meanwhile, lies in the one-two punch of Teller and Eckhart’s performances and their ability to bounce off each other. In an eerie coincidence, or fate, depending on how you look at it, the two films are released on the same day, Friday, in the U.K.
“The biggest challenge [on Sully ] for me—and the most excitement—was playing off of Tom,” says Eckhart. “A supporting character is very important because you’re defining the protagonist. Not everybody knows how to do that. If you’re trying to be the star of the movie, you’re taking some of the shine off your hero…that’s not the job of the supporting character.”
The Telegraph – I meet Aaron Eckhart in London, early on a Saturday evening. He is dressed in a dinner jacket and a straight black satin tie for a secret assignation with Bafta. “I had it pressed for this,” he jokes.
The suit is slim but not skinny, an important distinction for Eckhart, who, though so chiselled he could probably be used as a weapon, describes himself as “just an older man”, determined to “take the sexuality out of it”. (He is 48.) “Which is interesting in this business,” he adds, “because they try to sexualise everything. You know, all the suits are rail-thin and they’re tight and I’m like: ‘You guys! What are we trying to accomplish?'”
If you think that’s oversharing, it’s nothing. Within five minutes, Eckhart has told me that for his new film, Bleed for This, in which he plays the washed-up boxing coach Kevin Rooney, he put on 18kg, bought huge trousers but never buttoned them up, and shot the whole film “with poison oak all over my backside”. “Why are we talking about this?” he says, as if to himself.
Then he goes on.
“Three months before this movie started, I circled the day on the calendar and said: ‘I’m gonna put away the arugula salad and I’m gonna go for pizzas and banana splits’.” The weight gain led to a great deal of discomfort, he confides.
People who’ve seen Bleed for This all seem to emerge from the cinema with the same question: how long did it take you to realise Kevin Rooney was Eckhart? We first see him slumped on a floor in a stupor, and when roused, he moves so lethargically, and slouches so heavily over his enormous stomach that it’s impossible to tell who the actor is. Even after he finally lifts his bald head it’s not clear. Rooney is so far from the sort of alpha male role Eckhart seems cut out for that even if you know he’s in the film, you assume he must be playing another part.
Ben Younger, the director, gave an early screening to Steven Soderbergh, who directed Eckhart in Erin Brockovich, and, Eckhart tells me, “Ten minutes after I had entered the film Steven said: ‘Who is that guy?'”
The Guardian – Hi Aaron. In your new movie, Bleed For This, you play the legendary boxing trainer Kevin Rooney, and you transformed physically, right down to the fake receding hairline.
You know, so much of this job is physical. So in Bleed for This, we see that my character has gained weight, he walks on the back of his heels, and these things tell us he’s tired, depressed, pissed off. I mean, I’ve studied body language, I see what you just did, shifting your weight, one side to the other. I saw your thought.
Right. So was it a tough film to make, physically?
I have a saying: “If you’re sweating you’re doing it wrong.” You don’t need to sweat. When you sweat, you’re giving effort. And the goal is to do it with no effort. People ask me, “Why aren’t you sweating?” And I say, “Because I am making myself effortless.” (1) The physical is key. Like, I know your state of mind right now by how you’re holding your body, that tension in your chest.
Just to clarify, when you say that you don’t sweat, you mean literally?
I mean physically not getting hot. But real body language is hard to catch on camera. Like, now you have your finger at your ear. Nobody is going to let me do that on film. A producer will whisper to the director, and the director will walk over and say, “Maybe try it without the finger.” But then we rob the audience of reality. Because that finger in the ear is you telling me something. (2)
Is it harder still to capture that on the kind of big-budget blockbuster you sometimes make?
In the movie made with green screen, where the director doesn’t actually know what’s behind you? Where they say, “Oh, we’re going to have aliens?” Yes. It makes it hard to be specific. (3) And being specific is where good acting comes from. Being disciplined, too. But there’s also what I call having balls. It takes balls to be disciplined. It makes people uncomfortable.
Aaron Eckhart has played a variety of roles through the years ― from Harvey Dent/Two-Face in “The Dark Knight” to a tobacco lobbyist in “Thank You For Smoking.”
But the 48-year-old actor says his most challenging role to date happens to be his most recent. Eckhart portrays real-life trainer Kevin Rooney in the boxing drama “Bleed For This,” which follows the true story of Vinny Pazienza, a world champion boxer who breaks his neck in a car crash.
“The accent, for me, was terrifying in the sense that you have a Staten Island broken-nosed boxer guy from the streets. He has a higher register, which I really tried to get,” Eckhart told The Huffington Post’s Lauren Moraski.
To prepare for the part, Eckhart closely watched tapes of Rooney and also spent time at boxing matches to get a sense of how the sport works.
He also packed on roughly 40 pounds for the role. When he’s had to gain weight for movies in the past, Eckhart went straight for a diet of pizza, fast food and banana splits. This time, Eckhart initially tried working with a nutritionist, who put him on a meal plan focused on beans and other healthier food options. But two weeks before filming began, Eckhart hadn’t put on the pounds. So, he changed course completely, ditched the beans and consumed lots of pepperoni pizza.
Check out the clip at the source: HuffingtonPost.com
Los Angeles Times – You don’t have to tell Aaron Eckhart that he’s been through something of a dry spell. He’s well aware that landing prominent roles in both Clint Eastwood’s “Sully” and Ben Younger’s “Bleed for This” is something that, as far as his career goes, comes along once every 10 years or so.
“The last time I had this situation, it was ‘The Dark Knight,’” the 48-year-old actor says. “I’ve been 20 years professionally in Hollywood and I’ve been through ups and I’ve been through downs. I have such a greater appreciation now for what it takes to be in this position in terms of having a critically acclaimed movie and a movie that performs in the box office, and so I’m just relishing it. I’m just having fun with it. I’m looking on Twitter. I would have never done that before.”
“Did you think you were going to die? That’s what I think most people want to know,” Eckhart says. “How did you keep from dying and killing 155 people? The answer is ‘We didn’t think about that. We didn’t have time to think about that.’ It was complete instinct. It was complete training. These guys are drilled in this. They’d give their lives over that stuff.”
Interview – “Oftentimes in movies, actors are playing very disagreeable, cantankerous, unattractive characters,” Aaron Eckhart says. “If you’re supposed to be in character all the time you’re going to do things that are going to displease people or make people uncomfortable—but you’re going to get a better performance. You have to weigh and balance: is it worth me pissing everybody off and having a reputation as a disagreeable person?” he continues, speaking over the phone from L.A. “If there wasn’t so much pressure to be a good guy then you’d get better performances from people.”
The cantankerous character Eckhart is referring to—and playing—is Kevin Rooney, the longtime boxing trainer who coached Mike Tyson early on in his career. In Bleed For This, we see Rooney at his lowest: drunken, overweight, gambling, and certainly disagreeable. When the accomplished and eccentric boxer Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller) breaks his neck in a horrifying car crash, the pair find redemption in one another through Pazienza’s hard fought return to fighting form, despite doctors’ uncertainty over if he’d ever walk again.
In order to portray the aging coach, Eckhart gained weight, shaved his head as if his hairline had receded, stuffed tissues up his nose to capture the nasal sound of a Rhode Island accent, and rarely broke character or spoke to his family or friends during the film’s shoot. While classically gruff—as what boxing trainer isn’t?—his performance provides a necessary, sobering presence to balance out the possessed rage and passion of Teller’s Pazienza. While maybe not always likable, the duo provides a compelling exploration of the violence, fervor, and highs and lows of boxing.
ETHAN SAPIENZA: I read that you originally wanted to be a songwriter, is that right?
AARON ECKHART: Yes sir.
SAPIENZA: Were the arts something that always compelled you?
ECKHART: Yeah. My mother and her mother are writers and poets. [When] I was about 14, I was going to rugby practice and they had auditions for a Charlie Brown musical. Because there was no competition I got Charlie Brown. It all started there. I knew I wanted to be an actor then. I just started doing plays in high school. No one in my family is in the business. Nobody encouraged me. I went to school and then went to university and got a film and acting degree. I moved to New York and didn’t get my real first film role until I was 27, which was In the Company of Men. It definitely was not in my family zeitgeist for sure.
SAPIENZA: Were you still writing music while trying to become an actor?
ECKHART: Oh yeah. I continue to write songs. I guess I got that from my mom—my love for words and images, creating feelings with words—the challenge of that. I’ve always been interested in that—the challenge of making songs.
SAPIENZA: Do you find there’s any overlap between songwriting and acting?
ECKHART: I always have a guitar on me when I’m in my trailer. I’m always writing songs, and definitely when I’m doing a character and need to get into a mood I use music to do that—whether it’s an aggressive mood or a sad mood.