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

Neighbors testify at Overbrook roommate slaying trial

Neighbors and roommates were called to testify Wednesday in the trial of Renaldo Robichaw, 56, charged with murder for the death of roommate Albert Smith, 48.

Local

Attorney at heart of alleged insurance fraud took…

A Center City personal injury lawyer took his own life last week, days before D.A. Seth Williams released an indictment putting the lawyer at the heart of an alleged insurance…

National

Hamas, Abbas's PLO announce reconciliation agreement

The Gaza-based Islamist group Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed on Wednesday to a unity pact.

National

U.S. soldier convicted of WikiLeaks crimes granted name…

By Carey Gillam(Reuters) - Former U.S. soldier Bradley Manning, who is serving 35 years in prison for turning over classified files to WikiLeaks, can exchange…

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 23: 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern…

'Suburgatory' The men of "Suburgatory" go camping and Tessa mentors a social outcast in a Miss Chatswin contest, which brings her, once again, into conflict…

Movies

Latin culture highlighted at Filadelphia film fest

Get ready to have a “Bad Hair” day at the upcoming Filadelphia Latin American Film Festival. We mean that in the best possible way. The…

The Word

The best lines from Oprah's ex-stepmother's Daily Mail…

Oprah’s ex-stepmother, Barbara Winfrey, is out for revenge.

Books

A debut novel about fate, love and moving…

Pia Padukone talks about her debut novel, "Where Earth Meets Water."

NHL

All signs suggest Steve Mason will start in…

Flyers head coach Craig Berube elected to put Steve Mason in net for the final minutes of Game 3.

NHL

Gary Bettman praises Philly prior to NHL draft

Gary Bettman will bring the NHL draft to Philadelphia this summer.

NHL

Flyers can’t solve Rangers shot blockers

The Rangers blocked a remarkable 28 Flyers' shots Tuesday night.

NHL

Flyers need much more from Claude Giroux

The Rangers have successfully shut down Claude Giroux so far, leading the Flyers 2-1 in the best of seven series.

Style

Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.

Parenting

What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.

Sex

Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.

Tech

Happy birthday, Game Boy! The handheld console turns…

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 25 this week. To commemorate, we look at some of its better games, like "Tetris" and "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening."