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As the leader of the troop of Marines sent to Santa Monica to protect and evacuate the people, Eckhart delivers an awesome performance. During the interview, Eckhart talked about the intense boot camp they all went through, how the film compared to what he thought it would be, filming in Louisiana, and I asked him about his photography and karaoke.
I’m happy to report I really enjoyed Battle: Los Angeles. Definitely worth seeing.
* We talk about his photography
* How did the film compare to what he thought it would be when he signed on
* Talks about the intense boot camp. Also talked about some of the crazy things they did to make the movie
* If he could go back to Louisiana tomorrow what would he do
Aaron Eckhart battles on
In the new sci-fi action roller-coaster World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles, Aaron Eckhart leads a ragtag group of Marines to take on a merciless invading alien force. As Staff Sgt. Nantz, the actor certainly has his hands full on this, his latest outing, where a down-and-dirty battle for the City of Angels (seen as part of a global invasion) may hold the key to the survival of mankind itself.
A veteran performer with over 25 films to his credit, Eckhart first garnered international attention in 1997 for his breakthrough role in Neil LaBute’s In the Company of Men. He has since starred in such diverse hits as Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster The Dark Knight, indie favorite Thank You for Smoking, and, most recently, in the critically acclaimed drama, Rabbit Hole, opposite Nicole Kidman. We caught up with Eckhart in Los Angeles as World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles readied for its international premiere.
World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles seems to be a very different film than anything you’ve done before.
It is. I’ve done a lot of independent films and a lot of dramas. This past year I’ve had Rabbit Hole come out, I did a movie called The Rum Diary with Johnny Depp, and I did World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles one after the other. But I always approach each movie the same way. I always try to get to the reality of the character, of the story. In that sense, they’re all the same to me. But in terms of what was asked of the character, in terms of the physicality, this was by far the hardest film I’ve ever made....I mean, this movie is just a kick-ass, absolute, full-on, adrenaline rush. It’s going to be as real as it gets in the movies.
Tell us about who you play?
I play Staff Sgt. Nantz. I’m a retiring Marine. At the beginning of the movie, I’m on my way out. I’m kind of like that salty, hardened warrior. And I have to go back in with a bunch of young Marines who are not seasoned, who are inexperienced, to go and fight a very potent alien force.
The supporting cast certainly has some familiar faces...and some interesting new ones.
Well, there’s Michelle Rodriguez, first of all, who was really great to work with. You know, she’s so gung-ho and she loves to get down and get dirty....Bridget Moynahan plays a civilian who gets caught behind enemy lines that we have to help rescue—she was also a great inspiration, always working hard, always in character. And then you have all these kids that are there; you know, for many of them it could have been their first movie. Everybody gave 100 percent.
Were you familiar with up-and-coming director Jonathan Liebesman before you signed on to the film?
No. I met Jonathan and heard about him for the first time at my agency. But I can’t speak more highly of him. I’ve rarely worked with directors who are so enthusiastic and such hard workers and who believe so much in their material. Jonathan has a vision that I think is special in Hollywood in that he can tell a story and make it accessible to large audiences at the same time. He challenged me as an actor. He challenged the material....Any time that I was tired or hurt or discouraged, I’d just look at Jonathan and he’d give me the energy I needed.
How did you prepare for the role?
I’d done my own training with the Marines for a few months beforehand—weapons training, drills—and then we all got together down in Louisiana, three weeks before the film started and went through a boot camp. We had three Marines there training us. We put up a tent which we all slept in. We ate together. We showered together. We worked, all day, together. In short, we ran it as a real boot camp which in the end was invaluable. We started with a group of guys who didn’t know each other and who by the end had real relationships and knew each other intimately. It gave us a real sense of camaraderie that shows through in the film.
You mentioned you filmed in Louisiana...why Louisiana instead of Los Angeles?
Financially, it was more advantageous. But mostly, this movie was just too big for Los Angeles. At one point, we shut down an actual freeway in Louisiana for three weeks to film one sequence. We had tanks on it, overturned cars...Louisiana, simply, gave us access to the city, to the streets, and that was necessary. We would shut down streets for weeks with our sets that we had built, that we used, and that were completely destroyed...[laughs]. They were very good to us in Louisiana.
The aliens, as seen onscreen, were added digitally in postproduction. What was it like as an actor, ostensibly playing against nothing while filming?
With the aliens it came down to Jonathan and his vision of the movie; the movie that he had in his head. He would explain to us where the aliens were going to be, what kind of force they were going to have, along with the repercussions—and the concussions! You know....What did they sound like? What did they look like? Feel like? Jonathan was there speaking behind the camera into our ear the whole time. “Look here, right!” “It’s flying at this speed!”
What do the aliens actually look like?
Your guess is as good as mine (laughs)....But they’re going to be something like you’ve never seen before.
I understand you broke your arm while filming. What happened?
We were doing the final climactic scene, you know, ‘the big hurrah’. I wanted to give the cameraman a better angle. So I went running off probably about a 7- or 8-foot rock, slipped and came down—luckily with my head a few inches away from another rock that would have killed me. But I also braced myself and that broke my upper arm. I wasn’t aware of it. I knew it hurt. I think it was two days later that I went to the hospital, after hours, and got x-rayed. I had broken it, but didn’t put a cast on it. I just kept on filming.
Weren’t you worried at all?
I was more worried about missing work, actually (laughs). Fortunately, I didn’t miss a minute of filming.
What was the biggest challenge for you on set?
Giving a sense of believability in an alien movie. You know, raising the stakes so that people will believe [it]....And also, just physically, getting through the movie. Every single day, doing what was required of us, was incredibly hard.
By “believability,” do you mean giving audiences the feel of what a real alien invasion could be like?
It’s a little bit off from that. Not that this could happen, but that it is happening. That we were in that situation. When we we’re confronting an alien or being shot at, that it was really happening.
What was the biggest surprise for you on the film?
How much I loved my character. How much I loved making this movie. How intense it was. It’s my favorite character that I’ve ever played. And I hope there’s a sequel, because I absolutely loved playing this guy.
You seem to be on top of your game these days. What were your expectations like when you were first starting out?
Well, I had none. All I knew is that I wanted to be an actor. I started acting in high school when I was 14 and I didn’t get my first job onscreen until I was 27. I’ve always been interested primarily in acting, as opposed to being a movie star or a famous person. So I initially gravitated a little bit more toward those ‘acting’ roles.
When you were cast for the film In the Company of Men, your big-screen breakthrough, did you have an inkling that it was going to become the international sensation that it did?
Absolutely not, we didn’t even think it would be released. We were absolutely flabbergasted when it went to Sundance and got such a good reaction there. My life changed literally overnight. The day before I couldn’t get a job. I didn’t have an agent. I had no money. The day after, I could get any agent I wanted and I was being offered things. Every single day since then, I’ve had an amazing career in terms of my opportunities. It’s a storybook dream in that way. But as you go along in your career, you expect more as you’re given more. And so I feel like I’m as hungry today as I was when I was starting out.
No overriding sense of accomplishment, then?
Well, I would if I weren’t a complete nihilist (laughs)....I feel like I’m an embryo. I feel like I’m just at the conception of my career—that I do have a lot to accomplish and I’m just starting to find my feet and to find my own voice in this business. I feel like I have a lot to say and hopefully that I’ll be able to get myself into a position where I can make the movies that I want to make. That’s my ultimate goal.
You’ve mixed big films with smaller films over the years. Do you have a preference?
No. It’s interesting, I really don’t distinguish between the two. As an actor, you go out there and get in front of the camera. So for me, the process doesn’t change at all. In terms of the facilities, the amenities and the perks, it doesn’t affect my life too much either. All I care about is that the people that I work with are enthusiastic and excited about the material and that we all want to make a great movie. I don’t care how much money you have for that. To me it’s not about the money, it’s always about the experience and the result.