Aaron Eckhart is comfortable playing just about anybody. The native Californian, 45, first became familiar to audiences as the white-collar misogynist in Neil LaBute’s In the Company of Men, victimizing a deaf woman for sport. Eckhart quickly gained a reputation as the handsome bad boy and was duly cast as the biker boyfriend of Julia Roberts’ title character in Erin Brockovich.
Those chiseled good looks (and adorable chin dimple) have helped land Eckhart as the love interest in such rom coms as No Reservations and Love Happens, military hero in Battle L.A., and the president in Olympus Has Fallen (with an upcoming sequel).
Yes, there’s no typecasting Eckhart. We saw him creepily transform from Harvey Dent into acid-scarred supervillain Two-Face in The Dark Knight. And he once again perfected sleazy in a suit in Thank You for Smoking and The Rum Diary.
But we’ve never seen him as a weapon (and ab) -wielding monster/action star. Until now. In I Frankenstein, out Friday, Eckhart is more rock star than Boris Karloff, despite the crudely stitched-up face. He’s Frankenstein’s monster for a new generation, with cool sticks to fight off demons in a gothic, 3-D underworld.
We chatted at The Soho Beach House.
What drew you to the role?
The kind of human aspect of this guy looking for his soul, wondering if he's a human being or not. You know, I’ve felt like that before. I mean, as a teenager: unloved and unworthy, rejected. I thought there’s a good story to tell, and I like it.
What was it like to it play half-man, half-monster?
It was fun, but more fun to get out of that wig [laughs]. I had like three hours in the makeup chair every day. They really did a good job with the stitching and the evolution of the scars. I liked the action. We’ve never seen Frankenstein’s creature this way; he’s always been this cumbersome, lumbering figure, sort of inarticulate. We made him much more physical, more accessible.
You’ve been in 30-plus movies since 1997. How do you look back on your resume?
I started late, and yeah, I’ve been in a lot. There are guys like Michael Caine that have done over 100. There are others that do blue-chip movies all the way. That’s very difficult because you’re dealing with so many outside variables. I’m going to make movies that are good, some are bad. That’s what I do. In the end, I’ll learn something and have life experiences.
Have you ever noticed that your characters are named Nick a lot?
I have! It’s weird in Hollywood. If you want your character to be a bad guy that’s cool at the same time, you call him Nick. There are a few other names that get recycled. Like, if you see a guy that’s active and has a great girl and can’t commit, he’s Jack [laughs].
Do you have a dream role?
I’m always thinking I’d like to do a Western, be on a horse, real old fashioned. I also look for family drama. I’m good at being a dad even though I’m not a father. I like to see relationships. I want people to come out of the theater and have felt something. If I ever directed, that’s what I would do.
What do you think of the Miami area?
I shot Any Given Sunday here so I got to know South Beach quite well. Nothing beats looking out the window and seeing all that you have right here.