Miles Teller is proving to be an actor who specializes in roles that combine extreme effort and crippling excess. Aaron Eckhart, meanwhile, has become the kind of performer who can bring a well-worn specificity to grizzled supporting roles.
Combine those elements and you get “Bleed for This,” the latest film from Ben Younger (“Boiler Room”). Teller plays Vinny Pazienza, a boxer struggling to return to the ring after a debilitating neck injury. It’s a performance that showcases Teller’s physicality against the backdrop of a true-life story. As Pazienza’s coach, Kevin Rooney, Eckhart brings his ferocity to a role that requires a less obvious show of continual force.
Younger has said that “Bleed for This” is far from a movie solely for boxing purists; he also wanted to rope in audiences who don’t care about sports at all. It’s an admirable goal, but one that doesn’t work without the full commitment and contributions of the two men at the center.
Teller and Eckhart spoke with us at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival about letting Panzienza’s absurd recklessness and unrelenting drive inform each of their characters. For them, it was about protecting that spirit in the same way that Rooney looked out for his fighter.
AARON ECKHART PILOTING WAY INTO AWARDS RACE
Eckhart really knows what the word supporting is all about after this season. He has been justifiably praised for his work in two films in which he plays the quieter guy behind two remarkable men, in both Sully and Bleed For This.
In the former, he plays co-pilot Jeff Skiles who helped Sully Sullenberger steer to a safe landing on the Hudson River in that celebrated story of the hero pilot played by Tom Hanks. And in the latter he plays Kevin Rooney, the man behind the incredible, against-all-odds boxing comeback of Vinnie Pazienza played by Miles Teller.
In both he also plays real-life living people, but didn’t get the opportunity that the stars of those films did to spend much, if any, with the men he plays. Skiles was always on a transatlantic flight, so he only talked to him on the phone. Rooney has dementia, but Eckhart did talk with his son, as well as Pazienza himself, to get an idea of what he was like.
Whatever the levels of research, Eckhart is solid in both roles, the true definition if you ask me of what a supporting performance should be even if, as Eckhart notes, it can be “weird” doing movies about people who are actually living. It’s been an interesting experience for Eckhart to promote these two films simultaneously during the fall awards season, but a gratifying one. He launched both at the Telluride Film Festival over Labor Day weekend, where we first ran into each other and where he would jump from one film’s screening and Q&A to another one, running up and down Main Street.
Independent – Aaron Eckhart is recounting a tale that, you feel, he’ll be telling his grandchildren in years to come – the time he first met Clint Eastwood. He spotted the 86-year-old actor-director a few years ago at the Golden Globes. “He was surrounded by [Steven] Spielberg and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie… I just made my way up to Clint, who doesn’t know me from a hole in the wall, and I said, ‘sir, I just hope to work with you one day.’ He looks at me, kinda like Dirty Harry, and he says, ‘yeah, we’ll see what’s shakin’.”
To be fair to Eckhart, he’s a tad more than “a hole in the wall”. His 20-year career has seen him directed by the likes of Sean Penn, in The Pledge (2001), Christopher Nolan in The Dark Knight (2008), and Brian De Palma The Black Dahlia (2006). But the 48-year-old can’t help but flush with the memory. “I was like, ‘oh fuck’. I was embarrassed, I was humiliated. I was in front of everybody. I walked away saying, ‘that’ll never happen’.” He takes a sip from his cup of tea. “And it happened.”
Eastwood’s Sully is one of two new movies Eckhart stars in. The other is Bleed For This, Ben Younger’s boxing drama. In both, he plays a real-life person. His character is Jeff Skiles, co-pilot on the infamous US Airways Flight 1549 – on 15 January 2009, the jet was forced to emergency-land on New York’s Hudson River after a flock of birds hit both engines shortly after take-off.
“Playing a real person, if they’re alive, is daunting – because they have to live with the results of your efforts,” says Eckhart, who stars alongside Tom Hanks – Hanks plays Chelsey ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, the pilot who heroically landed the plane. “There are some people on Earth who are only going to know Sully as Tom Hanks. And Jeff Skiles, certainly, as me. Now that’s a big responsibility. Jeff still flies. I want people to come up to Jeff and go, ‘hey, that was an awesome movie’.”
Huffington Post – For the latest in our WISE WORDS interview series – where stars from a whole range of fields share the important life lessons they’ve learned along the way – we’re posing some of the big questions to Aaron Eckhart.
Following his breakthrough roles in ‘Erin Brockovich’ and ‘Thank You for Smoking’, Aaron found blockbuster success as attorney Harvey Dent in ‘The Dark Knight’. He’s also starred in ‘The Pledge’, ‘Rabbit Hole’ and ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ and its sequel.
His latest film, ‘Sully’, sees him share screen-time with Tom Hanks, co-starring as First Officer Jeffrey Skiles, the co-pilot sitting in the cockpit of US Airways Flight 1549 alongside Captain Chesley Sullenberger in January 2009, when a freak flock of geese few into the engines, and swift decisions had to be made, to save hundreds of lives, and create one of the most memorable visions ever to be seen on the New York landscape, the sight of a jet plane full of passengers sitting on top of the Hudson River.
To celebrate the film’s release, Aaron spoke to Huff Post UK about some of the lessons he’s learned along the way, how Harrison Ford gave him the words that secured his success, and how a spontaneous act of kindness by Nicole Kidman filled his heart …
What do you do to switch off from the world?
I have a ranch in Montana and on that ranch there is very little relaxing going on. I mostly chop wood, move large rocks, cut dead wood, cut trees down. Till the land, that’s what I do. It’s not at all Hollywood. It’s very redneck. I grow my beard and spend the day in mud. That’s the real me.Or I would be on my bicycle, going up a hill. It’s the left-right motion of the brain, just like walking, puts you in a trance. Your biggest inspiration comes when you’re in that hypnotic state. That’s why people get their best ideas on long walks, riding bikes, anything with that left-right motion. I love quiet.
How do you deal with negativity that comes your way?
I’m working on that quite hard. What I’m working on is that, you cannot control anybody else, the sooner you accept the person without changing them, the better off you’ll be. Instead of trying to impede the sound of others, whether it’s a dog barking, or a traffic noise, if you can train your mind not to engage with that sound but to protect yourself within, then you can have peace and tranquillity in the midst of chaos, then that to me is the biggest evolution of life.I’m not perfect about it, but even if you’re cognisant of it, then you can start to switch. I’m a light sleeper and I have an issue with a neighbour with a dog. I don’t want to fight with him, engage with him, bring him into my world. I want to inoculate myself so that it doesn’t matter if there are 15 dogs barking. That’s a daily pursuit that I have.