The A.V. Club – Aaron Eckhart rarely plays vulnerable men. His chiseled looks and cocky smirk have led him to roles as an unrepentant bully (In The Company Of Men), a confident leader (Any Given Sunday), a sleazy husband (Nurse Betty), a smooth-tongued company man (Thank You For Smoking), a swaggering chef (No Reservations), and a darkly tortured politico (The Dark Knight), among other things.
But in John Cameron Mitchell’s Rabbit Hole, he stars as a father grappling with his 4-year-old son’s death. Struggling with anger, guilt, and despair, he tries to salvage his marriage to emotionally paralyzed spouse Nicole Kidman. Their complicated grief unfurls at a patient pace.
An antidote to other, more extreme awards-season dramas like Black Swan, the quiet, thoughtful Rabbit Hole—based on David Lindsay-Abaire’s Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play—has earned Eckhart accolades for smoothly stepping out of his perceived comfort zone. The A.V. Club recently caught up with Eckhart to discuss his career ambitions highbrow and low.
The A.V. Club: Did you see Rabbit Hole onstage before taking on this role?
Aaron Eckhart: No, I came into this thing ignorant. I had been making movies and living under a rock. So I literally went from The Rum Diary, which I was filming with Johnny Depp in Puerto Rico, to rehearsal the next day—and was filming the next week.
AVC: Did John Cameron Mitchell ask you to play this character in an understated way?
AE: I like to overact everything, so—that was a joke. This movie could’ve easily slipped into melodrama. And we were all very cognizant of that, and talked about it, “How can we make it so it’s real?” It was the little things: the silences, the moving around in each other’s spaces. And Nicole and I agreed with each other that we would let each other into our spaces intimately. Whatever it was, we were gonna do it real. And I think we pulled it off.