After making a name for himself in the dark dramas of American writer/director Neil LaBute, actor Aaron Eckhart broke out with the role of Julie Robert's biker boyfriend in Erin Brockovich. Since then he has clinched key roles - from Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight to Nick Naylor in Thank You For Smoking - in a whole range of major movies. His latest incarnation is a vengeful monster in the sci-fi fantasy I, Frankenstein.
We caught up with him to talk the nuts and bolts of Frankenstein.
Sky Movies: What attracted you in the first instance?
Aaron Eckhart: It's a fantastic, fantastical action adventure movie. What attracted me was the idea of the father-son relationship with Frankenstein...going all the way back to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. This idea of a son who's lost and is looking for his purpose in life, looking for love. Stuart |(Beattie) being the writer and director took it to another level. It's been his dream to make this movie and it was a lot of fun to make.
SM: The movie breaks away from the traditional movies monsters - there's gargoyles, demons etcetera. It's not what we've seen before.
AE: This idea of gargoyles and demons, good and evil, making choices and trusting your instinct. There's some big issues in it in terms of thematics. But, on the other hand, we wanted to make a movie that was very accessible to young people.
He (Beattie) is a martial artist and so had done Kali stick fighting in his studies so he thought he'd bring it to a film. He sort of married all these things together and came up with this fantastical world, this gothic, dark world. The producers of this film also made the Underworld films so it has that same flavour.
SM: How much preparation went into the role?
AE: Physically, I’ll tell you it was a challenge. Three hours a day for Kali. Then, getting in good shape. To get to that level, it was every day with a trainer. I said to him, ‘Try to kill me every day.’
SM: Can you describe your place in the film?
AE: I play the monster Frankenstein. His name is Adam. The movie is divided into two parts - the old historical part and then we go into the modern age. The monster Frankenstein is cursed with everlasting life and he's also ostracised because of the way he looks - he's monstrous.
In our film he's presented with two factions - one being good [gargoyles], one being evil [demons]. He has to make a choice...and there are dire consequences. What they are after is his soul. But he doesn't know whether he has a soul. Victor Frankenstein, his creator, gave him a body, thoughts and a beating heart...but did he give him a soul? So that's really the premise of the movie.
SM: In the movie there's extensive use of prosthetics. How did you find it conveying your character through all these layers of latex?
AE: Through movie history, you have so many versions of Frankenstein. Boris Karloff then you have Mel Brooks' incarnation... Then we think to ourselves: 'Do we do the bolts, do we do the hand or is he green? What about scarring - he's a patchwork of about eight different corpses. What happens to those scars over time? Do we want our protagonist to be unrecognisable? Do we want him to be heroic?
What we came up with was a Frankenstein who was energetic - he's athletic. In the past, he's been a cumbersome, inarticulate being and we didn't want to have anything to do with that. We wanted to go in a different direction and put him in a different world.
SM: A few years ago you made People Magazine's Top 100 Beautiful People. What's it like going into a role that doesn't require anything of that?
AE: (laughs) That's interesting, thinking about that. Obviously, it's all subjective.
SM: Did you read much backgound to the role?
AE: I went back to Mary Shelley's original book and, in a strange way, thought 'I was like that' - being awkward trying to ask girls out. My issues with my parents and trying to be free, feeling ostracised and not knowing what I wanted to do. Doesn't every teenager feel this way? Everybody can look at back at themselves as say look at my eyes, look at my nose? I don't think those feelings are such a stretch to what Frankenstein is thinking.
What our biggest challenge was taking a historical character and bringing him to modern Hollywood, putting sticks in his hands and calling him - I don't know if superhero is the right word - but something like that.
SM: What do you think people will take away from the film?
AE: First off, they're going to be fantastically entertained. They're going to be taken into another world, which is cinema's job. I think you're going to see things you haven't seen before like Kali stick fighting. The main message for me in this movie is trust your instincts, that small voice inside of you that tells you what to do even though it doesn't seem to be the right thing to do.