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Sound Advice From Aaron Eckhart: “Just Be Yourself”

Words of wisdom the actor received via Harrison Ford

 

In Sully, one man saves 155 lives. Has anyone ever saved your life?

In fact, Rosie Perez (White Men Can’t Jump) saved my life one time. In New York City, a bus was going to hit me and she pushed me out of the way. I have angels around me that I believe are saving my life – I fell off a cliff 60ft onto rocks when I was 11 – it should’ve killed me. Saving lives was Sully’s number one concern – he still laments the fact that there was one flight attendant on the plane who got hurt.

Is Tom Hanks really the nicest guy in show business?

He’s damn nice. I don’t know everybody in the business – but to be Tom’s stature and still have time, attention and focus for all the people around him, regardless of stage or station, is amazing. He loves to tell stories and that’s how you figure out where he is on set – where is there a conversation about some obscure play that happened in Middle America in the ’50s? Oh, that’s where Tom is.

What about Clint (Eastwood)?

He’s a part of movie history and he knows stories that nobody else knows. Like: during the Spaghetti Western era he used to smoke cigarillos, and because I smoke cigars I said: “Clint, what was your cigar?” He said: “I hated cigars and I hated smoking.” He used to go down to Mexico and get these cigarillos – they were the worst tasting, harshest ones and so that’s what gave him the grimace on his face. So there’s Clint right there – Method actor.

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Aaron Eckhart on ‘Sully’ and Tom Hanks Running for President

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.

Aaron Eckhart attends the Mexican premiere of his film ‘Sully’ in Morelia, Mexico, October 24, 2016. The actor speaks to Newsweek about why he would vote for Tom Hanks as president. Jesse Grant/Getty

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.”

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Aaron Eckhart: ‘I have a terrible reputation’

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.

Aaron Eckhart in black shirt

Photo credit: Rii Schroer

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?'”

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Aaron Eckhart: ‘I’m 48. For 20 years I’ve made mistakes’

Photograph: Mike Pont/WireImage

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.

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