Aaron Eckhart talks playing the President in ‘Olympus Has Fallen’

Aaron Eckhart plays the President of the United States in "Olympus Has Fallen" Credit: Phillip V. Caruso
Aaron Eckhart plays the President of the United States in “Olympus Has Fallen”
Credit: Phillip V. Caruso

Aaron Eckhart’s favorite actor is Cary Grant. Eckhart’s own career has veered all over the place: His breakthrough was playing a remorseless corporate sociopath in “In the Company of Men.” He’s played villains since, but even there lies diversity: a lovably amoral nicotine lobbyist in “Thank You For Smoking” and a tragic Two-Face in “The Dark Knight.” Elsewhere he’s played heroes (“Battle: Los Angeles”) and love interests (“Erin Brockovich”). Now, in the new “Olympus Has Fallen,” he’s the president of the United States.

Yet Eckhart latches onto Cary Grant, an actor who, with a few exceptions, kept to a certain (peerless) shtick. “I always feel like he’s so good that he’s not regarded as an actor,” Eckhart explains. “Maybe he didn’t have the range that people expect a modern actor to have. But there’s never been anybody like him.” Eckhart pines for a radically different era of screen acting. “They had multiple partnerships: Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. They got to know each other. So they were comfortable together. In movies today you don’t get to know the person you’re working with as well as you’d like.”

But today’s actors are judged by versatility, forever required to stretch their talents. “The most important part about being an actor is being truthful. It really doesn’t matter what I play, even if it’s the president,” he says. “You want to do different things, too. I’ve done big and small. I’ve been a pedophile, I’ve been a war hero. There’s not much I won’t do.”

Eckhart has done his share of action movies, including “Olympus,” which is “Die Hard” in the White House. Eckhart’s prez is kidnapped during a siege by rogue North Korean terrorists and has to be saved by secret service agent Gerard Butler. “Every movie’s an action movie. I don’t care if it’s a drama or a romantic comedy. You’re playing around. Everything’s a struggle.”

Playing the president required him to craft his ideal head of state. “I want somebody to look at me and feel confident, to feel like they elected the right guy, to feel like I was capable and honest, speaking truthfully to them. I wanted to be someone who was not easily coerced, that I wasn’t corrupted.”

Of course, there’s also the fear of being typecast. Early in his career Eckhart voiced concern about relentless villain roles. “I’m still conscious of that. When you’re playing the villain where you’re sort of trying to take down something, it’s not so interesting.” Typecasting isn’t always bad: Cary Grant got to play charming men of refinement. Villains can be less fun. “Being a villain, you have to deal with so many hard-core emotional issues. You spend a lot of time reading the diary of Jeffrey Dahmer and stuff like that. And it gets old after awhile. Basically you’re hanging out with a bunch of s—heads.”

Playing villains or heroes come from the same place, though. “The main challenge of being an actor is to be multidimensional, to be a whole person. Whether you’re the protagonist or the antagonist, you still have a life. You still have parents. You still have to put gas in the car. If audiences believe that, then they’ll get past the fact that he’s cutting people into little pieces. They’ll start going back to the history and ask why he’s cutting people up. And that’s when you’re more fulfilled as an audience member. A villain can laugh as well as cry. A villain can be tender and compassionate.”


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Best nature spots for kids in New York…

When it comes to kids and nature, most U.S. parents agree: children should be spending more time outdoors. According to a recent survey by The…

Local

Easter 2014: The year's best bonnets

It's Easter, and that means it's time for Fifth Avenue to turn into a veritable catwalk of bonnet-wearers. The annual march, which kicks off at…

Local

Woman arrested for attempted kidnapping of baby in…

Authorities said that a Queens woman behind an attempted kidnapping of an 8-month-old baby boy was arrested on Saturday.

Local

Hate crime charge in attack on Sikh Columbia…

A man has been arrested and charged with a hate crime after he allegedly pulled the beard of a Sikh Columbia University professor as part…

Television

‘Mad Men’ recap: Season 7, Episode 2, ‘A…

Peggy and Lou are horrible, Bert's racist, Don is honest(ish) and Roger and Pete are frustrated. "A Day's Work" not quite worthy of "This Will Be Our Year."

Television

'Game of Thrones' recap: Season 4, Episode 3,…

The problem with the devil you know is that ignoring them doesn’t mean they simply lie in wait. It allows them time to do things…

Television

Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…

NHL

Rangers let chance at victory slip away in…

All the Rangers had to do was hold serve in a raucous Madison Square Garden — roaring in anticipation of putting a hated rival in a 2-0 series hole.

MLB

Yankees place Ivan Nova on DL with partially…

Yankees starter Ivan Nova was diagnosed with a partially torn UCL in his throwing elbow Sunday.

NHL

Rangers never thought opening round would be 'an…

You might have thought the Metropolitan Division semifinal series was going to be a rout after watching Game 1 Thursday night. The Rangers did not.

NHL

Rangers blow two-goal lead in Game 2 loss…

The Rangers got out to an early 2-0 lead in Game 2 and the Garden was rocking. But it went downhill quickly from there.

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.