Aaron Eckhart i Frankenstein He looks affable enough now, but Aaron Eckhart's role in "I, Frankenstein" took its toll. Credit: Getty

Aaron Eckhart put himself through the wringer both mentally and physically to take on the titular monster in "I, Frankenstein," Stuart Beatti's reimagining of Mary Shelley's creation as a lone wanderer caught in the middle of an ancient war between gargoyles and demons. Sometimes, Eckhart learned, preparing for a role means getting knocked out a whole bunch of times.

What's your way into the headspace of a character like this?
Well, you have to go back to the original source, and when I reread Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," I was reacquainted with this sensitive creature, who all he wanted to do was fit in and be loved and know that he had a place in society. And I just thought, wow, so many people feel this way in life already. I felt like that as a teenager. I continually asked myself questions about my humanity. And hopefully people who see this movie will maybe ask themselves a couple of questions about their own existence and are they following their own dreams in life?

That's a lot to take on.
Yeah, that's a lot of stuff there.

 

You were in very intimidating shape in this.
Yeah. Yeah, I had to be. I figured if you have to take off your shirt in this movie, you better get in good shape. And it's reflective of his mental state as well. He's a survivalist, he's had to live on the periphery and eat when he can. There was no life of luxury, so his body needed to reflect that.

Was this the most physical role you've done in a while?
Oh yeah, for sure. It was just very exhausting and very difficult, and learning the stick-fighting — I did six months of training and getting in shape, being thrown around. Stuart wanted me to do all my own stunts and all the fighting myself so the audience can see my face and the sticks flying at the same time, so it was a lot of work.

It was very impressive — and mildly terrifying.
That makes two of us. I was terrified the entire time. (laughs)

How many times in that six months of training did you accidentally hit yourself?
Many. I hit people and people hit me. It's terrible, hitting another person. Sticks are damaging, they come with such force. You know, you could easily break a nose or a cheek or knee or elbow, knuckle, something like that. I was knocked out a couple times. But it makes a good effect for the movie, especially in 3-D.

What other challenges are you looking for, moving on from this?
I just love to be in a room and fight out the issues with two people, a husband and a wife or a son and a daughter, whatever it is. I like the human aspects of drama, so I like doing small movies, too. I think that's probably where I'll go in the near future.

And what about the follow-up to "Olympus Has Fallen"?
I've heard of it, I've sort of heard the plot line. You know probably as much as I do about that. I don't think it's as real as everybody thinks, but they are trying to get it done.

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