September 10, 2008
Aaron Eckhart: My Career Is Insane
Playing Harvey Two-Face in The Dark Knight was a career-booster for Aaron Eckhart — who’s collected his share of critical kudos and awards including a Golden Globe nomination for Thank You For Smoking.
Now the actor is taking on the tortured role of a child rapist in the controversial indie film Towelheads. In the darkly disturbing drama from Oscar-winning filmmaker Alan Ball (American Beauty, Six Feet Under), a young Arab-American girl in Houston struggles to come to terms with her own sexuality while surrounded by bigotry and racism.
Q: Did you wonder if the kind of controversy this film is generating could hurt your career?
A: Can you call my agent? She’s the one who got me into it by giving me the script to read. Maybe I should have someone who’s telling me just to do romantic comedies. But hopefully there won’t be any sort of career consequences. I feel like when you’re done with a movie it’s up to everybody else to dislike it or like it.
Q: Why put yourself through the agony your character faces in a sexual relationship with a young girl?
A: I guess I’m attracted to the challenge of playing the complexities of a bad guy — in this case, one who commits a criminal act against a 13-year-old. Somehow making the audience in some way empathetic is a challenge. I don’t look at my characters as either good or bad. I just think of them as human.
Q: Would you be that forgiving in real life if someone harmed someone you love?
A: No, but you often have to put the shoe on the other foot in this business. I'm more willing to say, 'Look at their side of the story.' But if you do have to choose sides — my character is doing something terribly wrong.
Q: How tough were the sexual scenes with Summer Bishil who plays the victim?
A: Summer is such a mature girl — so talented and so smart. Even though she’s playing 13 she’s really 18. There wasn’t really a lot of awkwardness on the set. Between takes she was just laughing and having a good time.
Q: Has playing Harvey Two-Face given you a new fan base?
A: I am getting mail from kids who are like 8 to 13. They write you in pencil. I’ve never had that. I like it. It’s cool. I like to answer the fan mail. As for Towelhead, I don’t know what the kids are going to say about it. Hopefully they’re too young to see it.
Q: You just did Traveling — a romantic dramedy with Jennifer Aniston. What’s she really like?
A: When I do a film like that, my first question is usually, 'Who’s my leading lady?' I had a really good time with Jennifer. She has obviously had an interesting life and she’s so balanced and so much fun. She loves to laugh and she’s a total pro, great to act with.
Q: When did you first realize you wanted to be an actor?
A: I grew up in California but I moved to England when I was 13. I was into sports but I was always writing songs because I wanted to be a songwriter. One day instead of going to rugby practice, I went to the audition for Charlie Brown, The Doctor Is In and I got the lead role of Charlie Brown and did seven solos. After that I just never gave up acting.
Q: Did you struggle?
A: The truth is I went to college and then moved to New York and couldn’t get an acting job for four years. I couldn’t get a soap, I couldn’t get a TV show, I couldn’t do anything. And so one day Neil LaBute, who couldn’t get a job either, called me up and said, 'I want to do a film of my play In the Company of Men. And ever since then my career has been insane.
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