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

Pride Month Shudder Esquire Emmys CMT The CW Christmas Amazon Prime Grammys CBS All Access tv talk 20th Century Fox stand-up comedy series Acorn TV politics based on movie dramedy Comedy Central Ghostbusters Super Bowl ESPN BBC America hist foreign Shondaland Epix comics Vudu Spring TV NBC crime thriller Disney+ Disney Plus nature Chernobyl Nickelodeon what to watch Amazon Prime Video Peacock Pop blockbuster thriller talk show Oscars USA Network Photos book Syfy unscripted aliens Infographic CBS TV Land Character Guide HBO Max halloween cinemax transformers Fall TV batman Classic Film RT21 BET YouTube Red 2018 Set visit Animation Watching Series green book Cosplay theme song Elton John Netflix Christmas movies HBO CW Seed 2020 crime Dark Horse Comics renewed TV shows Walt Disney Pictures Pirates true crime comic Ovation TCM Netflix Thanksgiving ABC Family revenge TIFF war Paramount Network TV dc Western 2019 The Arrangement award winner ABC elevated horror Ellie Kemper Mary Poppins Returns Box Office Musicals Disney streaming service spanish language anime Tarantino DC streaming service Columbia Pictures Apple TV+ blaxploitation RT History Apple TV Plus SDCC spy thriller richard e. Grant cartoon disaster Kids & Family versus jamie lee curtis cats OWN Cannes Universal spider-man TNT 21st Century Fox Turner Classic Movies Rock Horror psycho Opinion historical drama hispanic MCU game show cancelled TV series police drama First Look Country 24 frames LGBT christmas movies television El Rey zero dark thirty serial killer Starz cancelled TV shows Nominations Film Festival SundanceTV Film Biopics cults golden globes Apple Mary poppins Toys A&E Fantasy President IFC Trivia 2016 natural history GIFs GoT WarnerMedia Lionsgate children's TV Hulu medical drama Creative Arts Emmys A24 Quiz Musical Adult Swim DC Universe SXSW canceled Emmy Nominations TruTV romance FXX 71st Emmy Awards singing competition kids docudrama Action E3 game of thrones TCA vampires romantic comedy PaleyFest Binge Guide DC Comics zombie cooking ghosts Drama Marvel Television CNN toy story PBS Interview Stephen King San Diego Comic-Con Song of Ice and Fire Heroines Rocketman Star Wars Premiere Dates streaming Mystery ITV Martial Arts Hallmark psychological thriller boxoffice DGA TLC BBC Extras quibi Tomatazos MSNBC indie Lifetime video Mindy Kaling anthology Podcast TCA 2017 Amazon crime drama Rocky 007 Countdown Teen Arrowverse Awards Tour comiccon Tumblr Warner Bros. latino festivals harry potter spinoff History movies National Geographic Winter TV Pixar YouTube crossover Anna Paquin strong female leads The Purge Sneak Peek zombies Writers Guild of America USA Best and Worst Star Trek finale Marathons mockumentary Crackle Trailer The Walking Dead Captain marvel Holiday Comics on TV Sci-Fi slashers spain Cartoon Network sitcom facebook Logo Sundance Now Certified Fresh political drama cancelled Valentine's Day Comic Book FOX IFC Films Comedy Paramount Trophy Talk E! VH1 Holidays YA canceled TV shows Fox News 45 composers Reality sequel Summer VICE ratings Superheroe period drama MTV screenings Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Lucasfilm Masterpiece WGN First Reviews robots Black Mirror technology Chilling Adventures of Sabrina social media mutant space Sundance Marvel rotten movies we love Election Nat Geo Mudbound New York Comic Con DirecTV teaser NYCC Rom-Com independent Hallmark Christmas movies joker FX adaptation animated See It Skip It free movies biography Turner Awards south america TBS LGBTQ Disney Britbox Music Mary Tyler Moore Sony Pictures GLAAD travel Food Network cancelled television Year in Review Showtime Red Carpet TV renewals Winners Pet Sematary Freeform Women's History Month Spike diversity sports dragons Television Academy doctor who cops American Society of Cinematographers werewolf Crunchyroll Family Brie Larson Bravo Schedule Disney Plus science fiction adventure X-Men Polls and Games cars The Witch Calendar APB casting AMC 2017 breaking bad Disney Channel binge dceu YouTube Premium Reality Competition Video Games miniseries justice league Spectrum Originals witnail Lifetime Christmas movies discovery Superheroes supernatural 2015 Marvel Studios