Aaron Eckhart lets Movie Fanatic know in our exclusive Olympus Has Fallen interview, that the actor never sought or even wished to play a president during his career. Heck, he doesn't even know why someone would want the job in real life. "Of course I admire the office of the presidency greatly. But, who would want it? You have got to be a multi-tasker," Eckhart said.
As teased in the Olympus Has Fallen trailer, Eckhart is President Asher. He begins the movie as a happily married man leading the free world. Then, tragedy strikes. The film fast forwards 18 months and he is still grappling with the tragedy and also the impending threats from North Korean.
Meanwhile, Gerard Butler plays Secret Service Agent Banning -- who was unable to help the president during the aforementioned tragedy. He took himself off the White House detail and is now working with the Treasury Department when… North Koreans attack and take over “America’s House.”
Butler swings into action in the thriller from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day). Eckhart tells us about the joy he had working with the visionary Fuqua, how he really wants to direct someday and why he saw his President Asher as a true modern leader.
Movie Fanatic: You’ve joined an esteemed list of movie presidents (what are the top 10 movies presidents?). Was that something you ever dreamed of doing?
Aaron Eckhart: No, I have not. I was happy to play it and to have Morgan (Freeman, who plays the Speaker of the House) there to support me. I like Antoine’s version of the president. The movie wasn’t about the president. He’s the prize, but it’s about the secret service. I enjoyed learning the protocol of the president -- who comes in, who leaves, who dies, and who gets to go to the bunker and the power structure between the Secretary of Defense and the Speaker of the House. That’s all interesting.
Movie Fanatic: What kind of president did you see him as?
Aaron Eckhart: I wanted to portray an honest president, a trustworthy, good leader, a man who is working for the people. It’s my ideal of what the president is. Antoine wanted a young, vital fighter.
Movie Fanatic: That effort had to be made more challenging by the fact that he was also a father to a young boy, grappling with his mother’s death.
Aaron Eckhart: Can you imagine a president having to preside over the presidency after his wife has been yanked from his arms and then deal with the kid? The kid has to have issues, and he has to run a country! And now be separated from his child while the White House is being attacked. There are a lot of good layers there.
Movie Fanatic: Did you like the father figure feel from Gerard and your onscreen son as well?
Aaron Eckhart: Oh yes, that is great too. The movie is all about family and the betrayal of the family.
Movie Fanatic: What most impressed you about Antoine?
Aaron Eckhart: His calmness in the midst of hurricane-like conditions, metaphorically. Time issues, actor issues, script issues, blah-blah-blah issues. I remember going up to him one day and putting my hands on his face and going, “You’re a saint.” But, on the other hand, he could kick your ass.
Movie Fanatic: Yes! He’s a golden gloves boxer!
Aaron Eckhart: That’s good for an actor to know that your director can kick your ass, especially in an action movie because you have to fight. He’s asking you to do things that are tough, that are physical, and that are uncomfortable and dangerous. You look at him and go, “He would do it too.” The dude knows what he’s talking about. You’re also talking about a lot of egos on the set. He really managed us so that we all got our egos fed and we all basically got along.
Movie Fanatic: What about Melissa Leo just losing herself in this role of Secretary of State? You were tied up to a railing with her for several weeks during filming!
Aaron Eckhart: It’s 100-percent commitment. Our job was different and it was unique because we had to generate energy tied up for three weeks or whatever it was! With Melissa there and finding ways to stay in the moment, finding ways for it to be important, feeding off each other’s energy, believing that it’s real -- when I look at Melissa’s face, I know it’s real. So that’s a blessing. She’s worth her weight in gold.
Movie Fanatic: Was there anything that the real life secret service agent who consulted on the film taught you that you were surprised to learn?
Aaron Eckhart: The thing about the secret service is they’re very disciplined. So Ricky (the consultant) was there -- I never saw when Ricky wasn’t there. And he was always watching, very calm, very soft spoken. He’d say, “Aaron, the president does this. Aaron, I don’t think the president would do that.” I remember when I was shot in the movie. Ricky pulled me aside and said, “Aaron, when you get shot, your mouth gets very dry. You start to hyperventilate.” I said, “How do you know, Ricky?” He pulls up his shirt and he goes, “Because I was shot right here.” [Laughs] I loved it... he came up to me at one point and he’d shake my hand and say, “Sir, you remind me of Reagan.”
Movie Fanatic: You join a long list of movie presidents, Bill Pullman, Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas… Do you have a favorite?
Aaron Eckhart: Well, I’m not an aficionado. I put Morgan top of the list in Deep Impact. I love Morgan. It’s always fun to see the president.
Movie Fanatic: Now that you’ve played a president, where do you want to go from here?
Aaron Eckhart: I would like to push myself in a different direction. I want to direct movies. I want to be more involved in the story telling. I want to have more control because as an actor, you just don’t -- after you’re done, sayonara. They don’t give a crap and it’s not your movie. So producing and directing is definitely going to put me through my next decade. It’s not going to be action movies. It’s going to be human dramas. That’s what I’m interested in, but no less heartening or fulfilling than an action movie.
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