Five Favorite Films

Five Favorite Films with Aaron Eckhart

Plus, The Rum Diary co-star on making the film, playing chaming bad guys, and staying in character -- and sober -- on set.

by | November 1, 2011 | Comments

You could set your watch to Aaron Eckhart’s handsomely chiseled features — but do so at your own peril. As he’s proved time and again on screen, Eckhart excels at portraying deceptively charming men: be they manipulative executives (his breakout In the Company of Men), big-tobacco spin doctors (Thank You For Smoking), or literally, physically duplicitous district attorneys (The Dark Knight). Which isn’t to say he won’t play nice, reasonably normal guys, of course, as his excellent (and strangely Oscar-overlooked) performance in last year’s Rabbit Hole attests. This week, however, Eckhart’s up to his smooth-talking tricks in The Rum Diary, playing against Johnny Depp as the impeccably-dressed but otherwise rather rapacious Sanderson — an American businessman out to turn postcard-perfect Puerto Rico into a lucrative tourist resort. We spoke with Eckhart recently, where he talked about the film, his thoughts on writer Hunter S. Thompson, and the art of playing the likeable bad guy. But first, he ran through his five favorite films.

Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)


My five favorite films? I have no memory, that’s my problem. [Laughs] Well one of them would be Apocalypse Now. I mean, you could tell that the movie was made in madness, as madness, and that, to me… someday I want to make a movie like that. Total consumption.

Five Easy Pieces (Bob Rafelson, 1970)



One of them would be… did I say Apocalypse Now? [Laughs] What other films are there? Have there been any other films? I would say Five Easy Pieces. Nicholson was a god. Is a god. Great movie. F—ing great movie.

The Getaway (Sam Peckinpah, 1972)



Then I’ll say — this is so easy, but I’ll say The Getaway, with McQueen. Just, you know, just raw power and action.

Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)



Bringing Up Baby, with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn — just because I grew up on those movies.

Midnight Express (Alan Parker, 1978)



And then I’m gonna say… What’s a modern movie that I’ve seen? How about… you know a great movie that I saw was… [extremely long pause] Oh, I got a movie — the one where he goes to the Turkish Prison. Midnight Express. There you go. That movie terrified me. [Laughs] Go to Turkey, but do your hash before.

Next, Eckhart on The Rum Diary, staying sober on set, and playing charming bad guys.

 

Did you have a good time on the film?

Aaron Eckhart: I did. I enjoyed working on a movie that Johnny’s in, and produced, and is so passionate about. And Hunter, you know — it was an opportunity to be a part of, I guess, Hunter’s legacy, in a way; Johnny’s sort of taking up that mantle. So it was a good time making the movie.

Bruce Robinson said you were his first and only choice for Sanderson.

Well I feel like it’s always an honor when people are thinking about you, especially when you don’t have any idea who they are, you know — in terms of, like, you don’t know that Bruce is thinking about you. Somebody who you’ve admired for years will say, “Oh I was thinking about you,” or “I’m gonna offer you a part,” and you say, “Well, I’d never think that you were thinking about me.” It’s always flattering, and it’s good to know. But I’d done these sorts of parts before, you know, where I play a sort of all-American businessman who’s unscrupulous — so I think Bruce felt like I could do it.

“Cruel beauty” was his description of you.

Cruel beauty, yeah. [Laughs]

It’s kind of a compliment.

Yeah. I think he’s talking about Sanderson. I think with Sanderson, you know, you’re developing paradise and you have a creative vision of how you’re gonna do that; you have to step on some toes and not everybody’s gonna like what you’re doing. I think that’s how the whole world’s been developed; some people love it and some people hate it. Plus, I mean the character’s written to define the protagonist, who’s Paul Kemp/Johnny, so my character was really set up to play the antithesis of Paul — in every way, from the way we dress, to our attitudes, and then have us come together and work together. So it’s sort of one of those characters where you’re set up to fail, but you’ve gotta play it with heart and soul.

Do you find it challenging to play that kind of character?

The challenge is that you have very little to work with, and you have to make him human and multidimensional — to make the audience conflicted and say, “Well, I like him, he’s charming, but I don’t like what he’s doing,” so they say, “Yeah, he’s the bad guy, but we like him anyway.” That’s probably the hardest thing about that. I think Giovanni [Ribisi] had the hardest part — he really had to put a lot of energy into that.

It was quite a performance. You’ve had experience in playing this kind of charming character — in Thank You For Smoking, for example; though he was far more likeable. Had Bruce and Johnny seen that?

Oh I’m sure, yeah. With Thank You, he was the protagonist, so he was given much more time. But in a role like this you don’t have that time; you have to get it across immediately. As soon as the audience sees you they have to be immediately able to form an opinion about you.

I think you did it pretty well.

Well, I did it. [Smiles]

Were you a fan of Hunter’s before doing the film?

Well, you know, I was familiar with Hunter. I certainly wasn’t an aficionado. I’d read some of his articles and his books early on when I went to college, [along with] Bukowski and all that, but I was refamiliarized through this movie — through reading the script and reading the book and then hearing stories from Johnny and listening to Bruce, and their research. So I am a fan of his. I’m intrigued by his lifestyle: how he managed to make it all work and be a professional at the same time.

It’s quite a feat, when you think about it.

Yeah. [Laughs] I mean, think about it yourself: trying to write, you know, and being completely bonko in this hotel room — and then trying to be coherent. Hunter had a pretty elite following, too — it’s not like he was writing for dummies. He was a very smart dude. I think everybody’s very intrigued by that lifestyle. And I think Johnny does it really well.

Johnny and Bruce spoke of Hunter being a “presence” on the set, having his chair and his bottle there every day. Did you feel he was around?

[Laughs] Oh yeah. I’m sure we made jokes about that. Bruce and Johnny had their morning ritual — I’m not sure if they told you about that?

Dabbing themselves with rum before the shoot?

Yeah.

Did you partake?

I didn’t.

Your character’s meant to be relatively sober, I suppose.

Yeah. [Laughs] Plus those guys, you know, when you’re the director and you’re number one and you’re the producer, it’s like — it’s almost like they had their own little club, you know. And that’s the way it should be, because they’re creating something — it’s a birth; they’re bringing life to something. I mean, I was there, but I enjoyed watching it. I thought it was a lot of fun. You don’t see that every day. Was it a bottle of Jack Daniels they had?

Chivas Regal.

Oh, Chivas Regal, yeah. Plus, I don’t drink.

Which is all good for your character, to a certain extent — you don’t want to be part of the clique.

No, you don’t want to be best friends with Johnny and his character, and all that sort of stuff. Although we had a really good time making the film. Like I said, you’re set up to go head-to-head. It’s an unlikely friendship that turns bad. You always find yourself, when you’re making movies — even if people say, “Well, I’m not a Method Actor” or whatever all that s— means — you always end up sort of playing your role in the movie. If you’re the bad guy, you’re the bad guy, you know what I mean? You naturally fall into those roles ’cause that’s what you’re hired to do. It sort of permeates your off time.


The Rum Diary is in theaters now.

Tag Cloud

DirecTV comiccon international 2020 Exclusive Video DC streaming service BBC America stoner Fox News video on demand discovery historical drama Britbox Disney Channel Country Amazon Prime Video finale GIFs boxoffice Peacock 2017 hispanic thriller See It Skip It blaxploitation television YouTube Red spain animated SXSW Walt Disney Pictures Universal critics indie jurassic park cinemax worst movies laika The Purge Emmys supernatural classics TV One Columbia Pictures archives boxing RT History cats Syfy 93rd Oscars DGA TCA 2017 Schedule dragons CMT ratings PlayStation nbcuniversal biography reboot Sundance TV Black Mirror Crunchyroll DC Comics batman Pop TV streaming movies First Look slashers popular Marvel Television worst Musicals festivals cancelled TV series nature OneApp El Rey BBC One diversity Sneak Peek facebook TLC Premiere Dates transformers Year in Review Sundance Disney+ Disney Plus Podcast superhero RT21 Summer new star wars movies BAFTA black news Biopics Endgame Nominations Photos Best and Worst Mystery hollywood TV renewals ghosts Teen DC Universe ABC Family canceled Creative Arts Emmys Tubi screen actors guild The Witch documentary Superheroes Music MSNBC Netflix Christmas movies Food Network Song of Ice and Fire stop motion scorecard TruTV movie joker crime thriller 2021 Amazon razzies Toys screenings Paramount Network Television Academy FX Elton John Fantasy sag awards rt archives FX on Hulu Red Carpet movies Awards Tour Trailer HBO Legendary ID true crime monster movies stand-up comedy richard e. Grant rotten 90s mockumentary NYCC NBA SDCC The Academy cops Quiz Apple TV+ CW Seed USA YouTube Premium VOD History prank Showtime comedies Rocketman Polls and Games FOX composers Image Comics Television Critics Association spinoff james bond Oscars sports know your critic Epix asian-american PaleyFest TCA marvel cinematic universe Tumblr pirates of the caribbean Nat Geo singing competition aliens nfl Box Office superman spider-man canceled TV shows mission: impossible remakes Holidays Lionsgate hist E3 Apple emmy awards Anna Paquin breaking bad Grammys new zealand harry potter GoT YA Pop NBC directors cartoon Bravo criterion TCA Awards book teaser 21st Century Fox docuseries cars spy thriller Classic Film politics doctor who ESPN fresh The Walt Disney Company Tarantino latino a nightmare on elm street witnail TV Land Action comic books MTV Video Games Trophy Talk high school werewolf Rom-Com romance Family A24 2015 cancelled television Winners The Arrangement Rocky Marvel Reality Competition hidden camera Paramount Interview rotten movies we love Emmy Nominations Musical Funimation Shondaland anime Fall TV 4/20 Mindy Kaling 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards legend Mary Tyler Moore ABC Signature comic green book live action BBC LGBT Extras Pet Sematary TCM Comedy Central Watching Series Disney Plus Arrowverse Calendar Heroines 007 Pacific Islander Comedy HBO Go zero dark thirty YouTube Broadway obituary adventure japan Comics on TV Western name the review Dark Horse Comics kong romantic comedy blockbuster LGBTQ kaiju toronto Baby Yoda Avengers women Spike Opinion Binge Guide Discovery Channel serial killer robots Warner Bros. Disney SundanceTV Sci-Fi Cannes crime drama suspense Acorn TV Infographic BET talk show The CW AMC President Shudder Brie Larson PBS anthology cancelled TV shows Super Bowl dceu zombie CNN Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Rock Ellie Kemper Sundance Now festival Pride Month unscripted Animation Star Trek chucky Academy Awards franchise scary movies space Crackle streaming TNT miniseries die hard IFC Spring TV Mudbound docudrama south america X-Men Amazon Prime documentaries Drama TBS Pixar king kong VICE Certified Fresh venice 45 BET Awards ViacomCBS reviews toy story Spectrum Originals APB golden globes crossover french police drama golden globe awards universal monsters Thanksgiving 99% Amazon Studios saw concert Reality satire Trivia adenture child's play spanish technology theme song cults adaptation Esquire Countdown Turner HBO Max Sony Pictures Set visit ABC Captain marvel japanese twilight series Vudu free movies basketball kids game show Mary Poppins Returns target Lifetime medical drama dogs Awards VH1 psycho Logo cancelled strong female leads 2018 social media book adaptation all-time versus christmas movies Fox Searchlight Starz Cartoon Network what to watch binge 2016 1990s halloween tv godzilla telelvision award winner Election IFC Films dc Christmas New York Comic Con Marvel Studios TCA Winter 2020 sitcom science fiction Masterpiece Wes Anderson E! National Geographic 24 frames new york films best quibi Valentine's Day Ovation spanish language Mary poppins Star Wars Women's History Month Adult Swim video 72 Emmy Awards foreign Holiday Hallmark Stephen King 20th Century Fox WGN disaster jamie lee curtis casting MCU American Society of Cinematographers Netflix Ghostbusters Film Apple TV Plus Comic Book deadpool trailers rom-coms dramedy TV movies Comic-Con@Home 2021 scene in color Winter TV game of thrones Alien Cosplay Hear Us Out sequel Chilling Adventures of Sabrina dark parents Hulu San Diego Comic-Con independent children's TV Turner Classic Movies justice league GLAAD Martial Arts elevated horror Writers Guild of America 2019 Travel Channel Tomatazos Character Guide period drama 71st Emmy Awards Black History Month Horror Nickelodeon CBS Superheroe indiana jones Tokyo Olympics blockbusters revenge Lucasfilm mutant cooking natural history Hallmark Christmas movies lord of the rings based on movie war australia sequels political drama WarnerMedia CBS All Access Paramount Plus psychological thriller Freeform comics olympics A&E tv talk Disney streaming service zombies Pirates Kids & Family The Walking Dead crime TIFF heist movie FXX vampires First Reviews ITV fast and furious Chernobyl travel USA Network Film Festival Lifetime Christmas movies aapi italian renewed TV shows OWN TV football halloween Marathons