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Aaron Eckhart: ‘I don’t think about being a star anymore. I’ve given that up’

Actor Aaron Eckhart has accomplished a lot in his career. He’s been in numerous blockbusters including “The Dark Knight.” He was nominated for a Golden Globe award for his starring role in “Thank You For Smoking.”

Most recently, he plays co-pilot Jeff Skiles to Captain Sullenberger, played by Tom Hanks, in the film “Sully.” And he plays famous boxer Vinny Pazienza’s coach in the film, “Bleed For This.”

His big break came in 1997, with Neil Labute’s film “In the Company of Men.” But, like most actors with a 20-year career, he hasn’t always picked great films. For instance, his 2014 film “I, Frankenstein” made less than $20 million domestically and currently has 3 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Frame’s John Horn spoke with Aaron Eckhart about being directed by Clint Eastwood in “Sully,” how Hollywood prepped him to be a movie star, and how he realizes that he’s not trying to be a leading man anymore.

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On how he reacted when he got the part in “Sully”:

In this business, every single day of your life can change on any given day. So I just got a call and somehow Clint Eastwood wanted to meet me. It was one of those moments. It’s been years since I jumped around in my car and fist pumped and yelled. I remember where I was when I did it and I went right back to 20 years ago when I started making my first film in the sense that I was just overjoyed to be making a movie with such professionals.

On the realities of being a movie star:

It’s hard to get into these films. There’s a handful of actors who are consistently getting into “blue chip” films that are about something, that are meaningful, that have great directors and have the studio behind them. In my career, sometimes I’ve been in and sometimes I’ve been out. I feel like I’m just getting out of prison after six years and it feels good.

Horn: A prison of what?

You know, maybe questionable choices of taking a shot here that didn’t work out and having to work myself out of it. I count myself lucky to be in the business after 20 years. And for me to still be kicking around and still be a viable, recognizable commodity in this business is a huge achievement.

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‘Bleed for This’ Cast on Bringing Boxer Vinny Paz’s Life to the Big Screen

Aaron Eckhart on preparing to play boxing trainer Kevin Rooney

I’ve been boxing training for about 20 years, ever since I did “Erin Brockovich.” So, I knew it a little bit, saw a picture of Kevin, looked him up and said, OK, got to get to that guy.

I went through a great boxing trainer here, Freddie Roach, took me through his training camp with Pacquiao and Bradley, so I stuck it out and went to Vegas with them, was in the locker room before and after. Freddie taught me everything I know about training, about doing the mitts, about the psychology of a fighter, the psychology of an opponent. The whole chess game. Then Kevin Rooney Jr., Kevin’s son, was fighting in the Algieri camp when Pacquiao fought him later that year, so I went to that camp and I hung out with Kevin Rooney Jr. and he told me about his father and his training style, his technique. Then I went to the internet and got everything I could on his fights because Kevin was a fighter himself and had many interviews. Anything I could.

When I was in Vegas, I met all the old promoters who knew Kevin. They told me stories. As Miles said, in Rhode Island everybody had a story. So, by the time we were filming, we were well educated.

We have a responsibility because these are real people and they’re living and you have to respect, reverence for them. I want to look like him. Everyone on the set was really committed to this film, these characters. It was very important for us to portray this family as they lived, as they are. It’s important to Rhode Island as well. Ben took that seriously. I put on the pounds. The moment I cut my hair is the moment I knew I was doing the movie. It was great. It put you in character.

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Aaron Eckhart on How Doubt Can Fuel Your Acting Career – Aaron Eckhart doesn’t shy away from misgivings about his acting abilities. He relishes them.

Aaron Eckhart Backstage magazine cover

Photo Source: Kareem Black

In the months leading up to the performance that would leave him unrecognizable, he prepared alongside top boxing trainers and fighters, studying their techniques and strategies. Their track records meant any skepticism was warranted, he says.

“Nobody really believed that I was going to be able to do this part,” he says of his casting as trainer Kevin Rooney in the upcoming Vinny Pazienza biopic “Bleed for This.” “When I talked to the old trainers in Vegas, the fighter guys and the promoters, when I told them I was doing Kevin Rooney, they gave me time, but they didn’t have any belief in their eyes.

“But that’s the fun about being an actor,” he continues. “Whether you’re playing a Marine or if you’re playing this [or] that, actors know they can get to places because of their experience and their technique. We can transform if we’re willing to go to those places.” Looking at Eckhart’s handsome features and lean, 6-foot frame, it’s evident why some might’ve felt he was miscast to play an overweight, middle-aged boxing trainer past his prime. But the actor’s commitment to the role sparked a complete transformation.

To star in the against-all-odds success story opposite Miles Teller as the world-title-holding champion Paz, Eckhart put on 40 pounds, shaved his head to appear balding, and began a meticulous study of the man who trained Mike Tyson before he aided in one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the sport.

At the start of his now 20-year acting career—he initially came to New York City with $1,300 in his pocket and no contacts—Eckhart admits the doubts of those who knew Rooney would’ve thrown him off his game. But that was before he started studying at the William Esper Studio between waiter-bartender shifts at famed French brasserie Les Halles, landed a Miller Lite commercial, moved to Los Angeles, and grabbed Hollywood’s attention. His first major film came in 1997 with Neil LaBute’s “In the Company of Men,” which was shot in under two weeks and funded with money from the car accident settlement of one of LaBute’s friends; he followed it up with “Erin Brockovich,” “Thank You for Smoking,” and his blockbuster breakthrough playing Harvey Dent (aka Two-Face) in “The Dark Knight.”

These days, lack of faith fuels him.

“I have such a technique and a strategy now for my process, and I’ve done it so many times that I know what I can do,” he says of his nearly 40 acting credits. “That’s not to say that I’m not scared when I take a movie, or [ask myself], ‘How am I going to do this?’ But it’s almost fun for me now to take disbelief and go, ‘You guys, it’s going to be OK. I am going to do this!’”

Photo Source: Kareem Black

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Aaron Eckhart On His “Bleed For This” Role, Future In The Film Industry, Hamptons Dream And More – 2016 marks a very busy year for actor Aaron Eckhart, who stars in Sully, Incarnate, London Has Fallen and Bleed for This, which made its East Coast Premiere at the 2016 Hamptons International Film Festival. caught up with the actor to discuss working with Miles Teller again, his film industry aspirations and much more.

This is your first time in the Hamptons. How do you like it so far?

AE: Well, I got in last night – look, I lived in New York when I was a struggling actor in the ’90s and I never had the means to come out to the Hamptons. I never went to the parties, but I’ve heard great things about it. This morning I woke up and took a run on the beach and I went swimming. I met a woman on the beach, who’s a yoga instructor here, and we went for a swim, went body surfing and it was the most beautiful morning in the world. So, I’ve had a terrific time and met great people, and saw the beautiful houses and ran around the golf course – it’s everything that everybody says about it. It’s just an absolutely gorgeous little hamlet.

Since this is your first time here, is there anything that you feel like you have to do or see?

AE: Well, unfortunately I have to go to London tonight, so I will be leaving this afternoon. If I did anything, I guess it would revolve around food. The Hamptons has a great reputation for food and local catches, and all that sort of stuff. I would like to do that. I would like to con somebody into letting me stay at their house.

I don’t think that would be very hard.

AE: No, it probably won’t, but it would be fun. That golf course out here looked pretty nice – that I was running at – it’d be fun to go golfing. And this is the most beautiful time to be here, too. It’s cool and there’s not any humidity. This hotel, c/o The Maidstone, where I’m staying at – I’m in the Karen Blixen room. I was an usher, in Australia, when I was 17 and Out of Africa was playing in the theater and so I got to know Karen Blixen’s story very well, and now I’m in the Karen Blixen room.

Bleed for This is screening at this year’s Festival. What attracted you to this role?

AE: I love boxing. Miles and I, this will be our second movie together. We were in Rabbit Hole together. Miles had just gotten out of NYU. It was his first role and we had a good time making that with Nicole [Kidman], so I was interested in working with him again. Ben Younger is a fierce, committed, passionate director, and is after the truth. He’s a wonderful writer and got to the real heart of this story about a man believing in himself and overcoming the impossible, and that’s what this movie is about, Vinny Pazienza, a colorful character. And, I felt like my character, Kevin Rooney, who was a boxer, again, was on top, went to the bottom and had to build himself back up. Again, that’s a story that I’m very familiar with myself, so it resonated with me.

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Aaron Eckhart Talks About Varied Career And ‘Bleed For This’ At Hamptons International Film Festival – “I don’t believe in genres, I believe in acting.”

Actor Aaron Eckhart at The Maidstone before his

One would think this would be a grand statement at the end of a rant from a theater major in college criticizing modern movies, but it’s actually a personal preference when it comes to selecting the films that make up the nearly 20-year career of Aaron Eckhart.

He may not believe in identifying a film by a label or type, but most people do, and he is familiar to fans of a variety of genres: action (“The Dark Knight,” “Olympus Has Fallen”), drama (“Rabbit Hole,” “In the Company of Men”), comedy “Thank You for Smoking,” “The Rum Diary”). And those who get out to the movies in 2016 are bound to see him in one or more of several new films: He started the year with an action movie in the spring (“London Has Fallen”), followed by two dramas in the fall (“Sully,” “Bleed for This”), and will finish the year with a horror movie in the winter (“Incarnate”).

This past weekend at the Hamptons International Film Festival, Mr. Eckhart pulled double duty promoting a featured film in the festival (“Bleed for This”) and being interviewed for “A Conversation With…” If he’s being honest—though it’s hard to tell with that same charm and verbal etiquette he brought to his Golden-Globe-nominated role as a hotshot tobacco lobbyist in “Thank You for Smoking”—he doesn’t even understand the purpose of genres.

“I think genre is categorizing something that doesn’t need to be categorized,” Mr. Eckhart said. “As an actor, if somebody dies in a movie you have to determine how you feel about that. If you’re having a relationship breakup, or you’re having a baby or whatever, it doesn’t matter what genre you’re in, you’re an actor in a movie and I’ve always been confused by that.”

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Aaron Eckhart Discusses His Approach to Playing Real-Life People

Variety – Few actors have balanced blockbuster movies with independent film as successful Aaron Eckhart, who first burst into the public consciousness with a blistering, unapologetic turn in Neil LaBute’s 1997 feature debut, “In the Company of Men.” That star-making role earned Eckhart an Independent Spirit Award and set him on a path of complicated but often lovable antiheroes. Since then he’s gone on to appear in such beloved franchises as “The Dark Knight” and the “Olympus Has Fallen” series while delivering acclaimed turns in smaller-budget fare like “Thank You for Smoking” and “Rabbit Hole.”

This is shaping up to be a really great fall for you.
I have to say, I’m enjoying it. I’m really proud of the movies and really proud of the people I worked with and I feel very, very fortunate to have worked with Clint and Tom and Ben and Miles. So I’m having fun.

How did the ‘Sully’ role come your way?
It really came out of the blue. Clint’s casting director kind of went to bat for me and showed Clint some of my stuff and really put his neck out. Then Clint gave me a call. I’ve always wanted to work with Clint and obviously been a huge fan of his since I grew up with his films. It was the first time in a long time I was sort of like a little kid in a candy shop. I was so happy.

“It was the first time in a long time I was sort of like a kid in a candy shop.”
Aaron Eckhart

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Aaron Eckhart – Sully Interview (2016)

While discussing his new film Sully, Aaron reveals what he and co-star Tom Hanks did in San Francisco to simulate the experience of flying. He also chats about the reconstructed plane that the actors shot their scenes in, the technical language he and Tom had to learn and deliver in a believable way once the cameras started rolling, and finally, the real life events the film is based on.

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OnlyOnAOL: Aaron Eckhart reveals what it’s like being around Tom Hanks

Aaron Eckhart gets star-struck. Just like the rest of us. Only he doesn’t ask for autographs (or selfies).

Witness his reaction when he was shooting “Sully,” the story of how Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) landed his US Airways jet in the Hudson River in 2009 after the plane was struck by geese. Hanks, says Eckhart, “is a sweetheart.”

Here’s Eckhart’s very cute recollection of one very pivotal day playing Hanks’ copilot.

“We’re in a Clint Eastwood movie with Tom Hanks. You get the best of the best. We’re shooting on Fifth Avenue. There’s nobody on Fifth Avenue but us. Imagine that. All those cars are ours. All those people are ours. That’s the power of Clint and Tom.”

But there’s more. He exits his trailer. And what does he witness?

“And then I see it. Clint and Tom are talking to Steven Spielberg.”

You know. Just another day in the workplace.

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