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With key roles in two acclaimed films, Aaron Eckhart revels in being out of actor jail

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.

Aaron Eckhart photo in black jacket

Photo: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

“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.”

Both films find Eckhart portraying notable real-life figures. In the blockbuster “Sully” he was tasked with playing former U.S. Airways pilot Jeff Skiles, the first officer who assisted Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks) with a dramatic emergency landing on New York City’s Hudson River.  As soon as Eckhart was cast he spoke to Skiles and asked questions that he admits seem pretty obvious but were incredibly important when researching the role.

“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.”

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Aaron Eckhart Without Ego

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?


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.

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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.

Listen to it at the source: 89.3KPCC


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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One Life – Aaron Eckhart

Photo: Mark Seliger

Watching Aaron Eckhart on the big screen, it is obvious that he takes his roles seriously, giving each new character the depth and texture that they deserve. It is impossible not to disappear inside of his films, easily forgetting that they are merely stories being told by a group of talented actors. For Eckhart, there is something more of a hunger. As an actor, a man, he seems unable to sit back and take life as it comes. There is an edge, a desire to constantly push himself, a need for more. Eckhart’s movie choices suggest that he is always on the lookout for those game changing roles, the ones that, in the right hands – his hands – could enlighten viewers, and bring to the surface things that we as a society tend to keep under wraps.

I’m just trying to be an actor in a movie and be as real as I possibly can be in any movie I’m in. I know that’s a boring answer, but that’s really what I care about. That’s what drives me every single day.

Photo: Mark Seliger

Continue reading at the source: Destination Magazine

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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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The Best-Dressed Men At The Toronto Film Festival 2016

Bleed For This is the true story of world champion boxer Mr Vincenzo Pazienza, aka Vinny Paz (played by Miles Teller), who, after a near-fatal car crash that left him not knowing if he’d be able to walk again, made one of sport’s most incredible comebacks. Mr Aaron Eckhart, 48, plays Mr Paz’s troubled trainer, Mr Kevin Rooney, in a barely recognisable knockout performance that has some critics talking about a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

Aaron Eckhart in suit on table

Photo by: Bjorn Iooss

What was it like having to put on so much weight for this role?

This was my third time gaining 40lb-plus. It’s always difficult. This time, it’s stretched my skin as I’m getting older. That worried me a bit. It’s good for the character, it’s good for the acting, it shows my commitment, but I didn’t look in the mirror the entire time I was making this film.

Because you hated what you looked like?

I didn’t want to come to grips with it. I didn’t want to admit to myself. And try having a relationship. My girlfriend is a professional triathlete.

How did you do the receding hairline?

They shaved it every day.

What do you like wearing now you’re back in shape?

Zegna, Ralph Lauren. I love leather jackets and every year I buy myself one. If ever I have kids, I’ll hand them down. I also love leather shoes, especially Tricker’s because I feel like I can wear them for life.

Who’s your style icon?

Ralph. He’s just the guy. He’s country and city at the same time; he’s vintage motorcycles and tuxedos.