Aaron Eckhart is a man of many talents. He’s appeared in everything from Erin Brockovich to Olympus Has Fallen. His latest film, Erased, has him channeling his inner Jason Bourne. As Ben Logan, he and his daughter are forced to go on the run when his employer and everything connected to it, is wiped out. There’s no paper trail, no emails, no proof that any of it existed. ScreenCrave recently spoke to Eckhart about the conspiracy-filled Erased, as well as his upcoming horror flick, I, Frankenstein.
Everything Ben thought he knew was a lie. How did you feel about the rug being pulled out from under him like that?
Aaron Eckhart: I kind of thought about what if I went to the bank and they said, “We don’t have any records of you having an account here.” Or I went to my agency and [they] said, “You’re not our client here.” It’s so easy to do. Everything’s electronic these days. I’m sure people—their records have been wiped out and [they're] trying to tell a large corporation that they’re wrong. It’s impossible because they have too much weight. You’re just one person. Not only that, you’re one person in a strange town with a stranger who happens to be your daughter. I thought that was the compelling part about the movie. First of all, was the father-daughter relationship. This whole idea of a man who has worked away from home most of his life. And not seeing his daughter grow up and then having to live with her and trying to act normal because you’re fresh and blood. On the other hand, having no experience with a 15-year-old girl, having to live in close quarters together, then having to go out on the run and try to survive together while we get to know each other… I was more interested in the father-daughter aspects of the movie although I liked the action.
Do you have a clear idea of what Ben’s background is? Is that intentionally vague?
Aaron Eckhart: Yeah, I think they were being vague. I think it was more general classification. I think what they’re trying to sell with that is the fact that he’s a capable fighter. The past is on his back with the scars and certainly making the bombs and all that and eluding the bad guys. I think the world has an image that pops into people’s heads when they think about the CIA. They don’t think about the pencil pushers. They think about the guys out there doing the dirty stuff.
What did you think of the dynamic between Ben and his daughter?
Aaron Eckhart: In the beginning, she was like everybody else and didn’t believe what was going on. It’s really after the car accident, when we have the fight, and have to run across the road that she starts becoming in tune with what’s going on and helping me. She has this nice character arc. At the end of the movie she’s much more savvy about things. We were very cognizant of that while we were making it.
Did you channel your inner Jason Bourne?
Aaron Eckhart: A bit. We made this movie for significantly less… It’s a movie about car chases and running and fist fights and some guns, which was sort of what the ’70s was all about. Today, when you look at an action movie, you’re looking at — I just saw an ad for Fast & Furious 6 where a car comes out of a fuselage of airplane. I’m sitting here going, “Whoa. How much did that cost?!” I sort of like this idea of just relying on story and acting and directing and creating tension with the fundamentals.
Yeah, that goes back to good old fashioned intrigue.
Aaron Eckhart: If you look at Three Days to the Condor, which is one of the greatest little spy movies ever, there’s very little action in this movie. In the beginning, there’s a squad that comes in and kills everybody and then Redford’s on the run but Redford’s not fighting. It’s all about tension and creating tension and the threat of violence. The threat of violence will hold an audience in their seat today and till the end of time. It always has and that’s what I want to do with these movies. Rely on film structure, on story structure, on acting and performance. That’s where I would like to live.
The movie takes you down a rabbit hole. There are layers to this conspiracy. Was that a big draw for you?
Aaron Eckhart: Yeah. I liked that idea. I grew up in England. I went to high school in England during the Cold War in the early-80s that was right when the Kremlin and Washington and London and East Berlin all that sort of stuff, so I have this fascination with spies and the lies that they tell and the reasons they tell them. And you know spiriting people away in the middle of the night… I’ve always had a fascination about that. I love movies about that and I’ve always wanted to make one and to make it in Europe is doubly sweet.
Erased is very fast-paced. The sets were rarely used twice. How long did it take to shoot and were you actually in Belgium?
Aaron Eckhart: The shoot was a few months. We shot the first half in Montreal, Canada. I think that was mostly interiors. I think that was all because of money considerations. The people who financed the film really dictated where we shot. Then we shot in Belgium for the second half. That was mainly the exteriors with the great train stations and in the streets, driving around and that sort of thing. It was definitely fun for me in terms of getting around and seeing new places. I’ve never been an actor who likes to stay in a soundstage. I’d like to be—everyday go to a new place. It just makes filmmaking so much more fun.
How was it working with the director Phillipp Stolzl? He’s German, so were there any communication issues?
Aaron Eckhart: Well, I’ll tell ya he was perfectly fluent in English. He’s a great stage director in Germany. He’d just finished an opera so he has great theater experience and he brought his crew. His D.P. (director of photography) from his movies was there, so the film, interestingly enough was made my Canadians, Germans, Belgians, Americans, English… We all got along real well and the communication was perfect. You don’t need to speak the same language in the film world because you’re dealing with the technical things and there’s its own language. Everybody spoke very well. It was amazing because I think a European has a very different version of what an action movie is. I was raised on Rambo and Indiana Jones and Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis and Die Hards and that. I think they have a little different sensibility. I think that came through in the movie.
Can you clarify the setting of I, Frankenstein? Seems more supernatural horror than traditional.
Aaron Eckhart: It goes from the past to the present. It’s in a fantastic world. It’s a modern day world but it’s not a world that has a name. It’s the story of good and evil. It’s a story of a monster who was called an abortion by his father and kicked out of the house. He’s a man looking for his soul, looking for love and looking for his purpose in life. It involves gargoyles and demons so you have a whole different society in this movie on top of Frankenstein. He has all the scars. All the scars on his face and on his body. He’s patched together from I think 12 different corpses. It has the essential elements of Mary Shelley’s book but it’s been completely re-imagined.
Does your version of the monster speak?
Aaron Eckhart: Oh yeah. Yeah. And fairly well [laughs]. Even in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, he’s very intelligent. He’s very sensitive. He picks up things and he teaches himself things. When he’s outside in the barn at this farm and this family walks in and he observes this family for weeks. He actually falls in love with one of the girls. He’s in tune with what’s going on. One of the curses of Frankenstein is he’s here to roam the Earth for eternity so we figured that he picked up a few things along the way.
OK, that makes sense because at some point he would adapt and evolve.
Aaron Eckhart: Yeah, that’s the idea. I tried to do that the best I could in terms of the old Frankenstein and the new. So we’ll see. We’ll talk half a year from now and see what you think.
Erased opens in theaters May 17, while I, Frankenstein will be released January 24, 2014.