In the international thriller Erased, ex-CIA agent Ben Logan (Aaron Eckhart) discovers that he and his teenaged daughter (Liana Liberato) have been marked for termination as part of a wide-reaching conspiracy that he unknowingly ended up right in the middle of. Logan must outsmart their hunters and uncover the truth, all while still getting reacquainted with the daughter he hasn’t had much of a relationship with in years.
At the film’s press day, actor Aaron Eckhart spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about what attracted him to the film, why audiences like spy thrillers, the challenges of doing hand-to-hand combat, how tiring this film was to make, and the physical preparation he did ahead of time. He also talked about how hardcore the Kali stick fighting was that he had to learn for his role as the famous monster in I, Frankenstein, due out in theaters in January 2014. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
AARON ECKHART: Well, I liked the father-daughter thing. It’s a small action movie. I’ve always felt like you can really score with a modestly budgeted action movie that just relied on cars and fighting with fists and the old-school way to make a movie. That’s what people really love. And it had a solid relationship underneath it. I felt that that was a good fit for me. It also filmed in Europe, and I liked that. There were a lot of things I liked about making the movie. And Liana [Liberato] was fantastic. She was a great co-star, and just a good little actor. I like doing movies with kids in them, and you’re explaining things. They’re teaching you and you’re teaching them, and the audience can loop through that.
When you do a movie like this, that’s an international mystery thriller, do you always think about the shadow that the Bourne movies leave?
ECKHART: I’ve never seen the Bourne movies, so I don’t know. I think more about my childhood. My parents, when I was 13, transported me to England. I did my high school in England, and that was in the ‘80s, during the Cold War. So, this whole spy genre has a special place in my head because that’s when spies were spies, and there were the Russians, the Americans, the English and East Berlin. I’ve always loved Europe. I lived in Europe for most of my formative years. It was like going home, in that respect. People like the Bourne movies, and there’s a reason for that. With all those movies, there’s something about intrigue. It’s a license to fight and do cool things and have cool gadgets, and know things that nobody else knows. Whenever you’re going to do this genre, you’re always going to come up against the leaders of the genre, which Bourne is one of, for sure.
ECKHART: You’re getting close to your adversary. A true measure of strength is to use your hands to incapacitate somebody. The Bourne movies probably brought that back, but that’s ‘70s filmmaking, too. That’s Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood. Well, Clint Eastwood used big guns. I shoot a gun in this movie, but there’s the fighting in the car and the fighting on the street. I did all the fighting myself. Those were pretty complicated fight scenes, and we didn’t have tons of time to do it, so I was quite proud of that. It was tough. This movie is not a huge budget movie, so we had time constraints and all of that, which I think ends up working in your favor. You definitely have to learn something and move on.
From the first reveal in the story, this movie moves at a pretty frantic pass. Was that exhausting to keep up with?
ECKHART: Yeah. I was tired, after making this movie. I was very tired, every single day. I was wrung out. I did my best. Every bit of sweat in there is real sweat. It’s not spray-on sweat. I was running and wanted to make it as real as I possibly could. That’s important to me. I felt like I put everything I had into the movie.
ECKHART: I did three months of MMA jujitsu with a French Special Forces trainer. That was totally brutal, 100%. The stuff we were doing was great, but very hardcore. So, when I got there, because we didn’t have a lot of time, I knew the language already. I’ve been boxing for 15 years, so I know that stuff. The problem is when you get two actors together because actors aren’t fighters. They don’t know how to throw a punch, exactly in that spot for 10 takes. So, there’s a lot of hitting in the face. I ripped the ligaments in my thumb. There was a lot of bruising, and stuff like that. I’d much rather fight with a stuntman than another actor. I don’t like fighting with other actors because somebody always ends up getting hurt.
You recently had Olympus Has Fallen come out, up against GI Joe: Retaliation and Oblivion, but it still held its own at the box office. Did that feel really rewarding?
ECKHART: If it were my movie, it would. I’m a supporting player in it. But, it feels good. I feel happy for Gerry [Butler], and everybody that worked on the movie. I’m certainly happy for (director) Antoine [Fuqua]. It’s always good to be in a movie that people see. We traveled all over Europe with the movie, and went to South Africa and Moscow. People were really responding to it. The best thing about something like that is that, when you’re talking to people, they’re really like, “I liked this movie! I was gripped by this movie!” That movie becomes a part of their life, and it’s fun to be a part of something like that. Thank You For Smoking is like that for me, or The Dark Knight, or Erin Brockovich. Those are movies that people really get excited about, and it’s fun to be in movies like that. It’s cool. That doesn’t happen all that often, I have to say. It’s very rare, in an actor’s career, that people come out of themselves when they’re talking to you. They just can’t help themselves. I wish all my movies were like that, but movie-making is tough stuff. Sometimes you hit the mark, sometimes you’re off the mark, and sometimes you don’t even come close. You’ve gotta savor the ones that do hit the mark.
How was the experience of making I, Frankenstein?
ECKHART: Talk about a tough movie! Wow, that movie was hardcore! We did Kali stick fighting in the movie. It was serious. That’s coming out in January. It’s a movie about Frankenstein, so I had the scars all over my face and back. It’s a big action movie. He’s a Kali stick fighter. I had no idea it was going to be as hardcore as it was. I trained very hard for it, but we put everything into that movie. We’ll see what happens.
Erased opens in theaters on May 17th.