In the sci-fi action-thriller Battle: Los Angeles, the possibility of UFOs landing on Earth becomes a terrifying reality when the world is attacked by unknown forces. When Los Angeles becomes the last stand for mankind, a battle arises between the aliens and a platoon of Marines, led by Second Lieutenant William Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez) and with veteran Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), who was on the brink of retirement before being called back into service. This group quickly becomes a family, as they take on an enemy unlike anything they’ve ever encountered before and search for a way to defend their lives and their loved ones.
At the film’s press day, actor Aaron Eckhart talked about his desire to do a war movie, breaking his arm during a stunt, how he’s had his own UFO experience, and how he enjoyed playing the hero. He also talked about how much he enjoyed working with Johnny Depp on The Rum Diary. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
AARON ECKHART: I got the script and thought, “An alien movie? I’m not sure.” My agent said, “Get in the room with Jonathan.” I got there and his presentation impressed me. He did all the aliens himself, on his own software with no money, and that was very impressive. I said, “You know what? I just want to make a war movie. I don’t care who the foe is.” I said, “I’ll do it.” That was at least a year before we shot it. With all due respect to our brave Marines and soldiers, I felt like we cinematically went to war, and I think it shows up on the screen. We did boot camp. We lived in rank, ate in rank, showered in rank and all that sort of stuff, which created an immense bonding process with the young guys. They all got to know what kind of girls they liked and what they drank, and all that sort of stuff, which I think helped immensely with the film.
So, this is the first war movie you’ve done?
ECKHART: Yes, but not my last, I hope. I loved it. I’ve not made a career of being physical in my movies, but I love sports. I’m a very physical guy. I just loved running around and pretending that things were firing on me. I wanted to do a war movie, a western and an alien movie. In reality, there are a lot of ugly things happening in the world. This is an alien film we can all get behind. It’s an entertaining movie. It’s not politically insensitive. It’s not nationalistic. It’s just a good, fun war movie that anybody can get behind, which I liked.
What were you looking at on set for the aliens?
ECKHART: We had Jonathan with a bullhorn, about two feet from us, saying, “They’re coming now. They’re loud.” We did have some guys running around in funny white suits with black dots on them. This is not a green screen movie. This was a movie where we shut down freeways, crashed helicopters, over-turned tanks and cars, and bombs were going off. We used real bullets without the rounds in them, so we were really shooting. We really learned our weapons, and they were loud. You put all that into the mix and you don’t need any aliens. You feel like you’re at war. We felt like it was real without having the actual enemy.
ECKHART: I broke my arm in this movie. We were doing a stunt and I slipped and I fell about seven feet, and flew right on my arm and my head, just barely missing some rocks, broke my arm, kept on going and finished the scene. I went to the doctor, but they didn’t put a cast on it, and we finished the movie. There was about two or three weeks still to go. I don’t think there was any make-up in the movie. People were getting their teeth knocked out because they had their weapons and were swinging them around. That was fun.
Was it important to make sure the more emotional scenes were so well done?
ECKHART: Yeah, that was important to me. Whenever you do an alien movie, it is a popcorn movie and an entertainment movie. You have to find the heart in these movies to really anchor the film.
What is your view on aliens and a possible invasion someday?
ECKHART: I think we’ll all kill each other before someone else gets to do that. I think we need to be looking a little closer to home. I can say I’ve had one of those experiences myself. I was out in the desert in New Mexico and I saw something weird. That’s all I know. I won’t go into detail, but something was moving fast. I don’t rule it out. What is interesting about the human psyche is that we always consider it to be malicious and threatening to us, as opposed to being something benevolent and useful. I think that’s human nature. We always feel threatened by things we don’t know. But, there are definitely some weird things going on.
How do you see this guy?
ECKHART: Staff Sergeant Nantz is stuck in his career. He’s got to go on and live the rest of his life. It’s all he’s known. I certainly feel that now. I’m an older guy in this business. I can say that I’m a veteran. I’ve been doing it for 15 years. I’ve made 30 movies, so now where do I go? Am I stuck? How do I reinvent myself? What am I going to do now? What if I retire? What if I do something else in my life? I feel those are very real questions that I ask myself.
ECKHART: Well, I’ll be 43 next month. I am at a different point. I look at these kids, and they’re 19 years old. I wasn’t smart enough to be in the movies at 19, like these kids are. Psychologically, that’s interesting for me.
Where did your passion for getting into acting come from, and has that passion changed at all?
ECKHART: No, I’m as hungry today as I’ve ever been. I feel like those 19-year-old kids that are still looking to get a job and prove themselves. I got into acting in high school when I was 14. I did Charlie Brown’s The Doctor Is In, and I played Charlie Brown. I haven’t looked back since. In fact, I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t an actor. But, I still have a lot of roles that I’d want to play. I like this kind of role. I like being a leader. I’m very proud of this movie because this is a family movie. There’s no sex in it, there’s no swearing and it’s not ultra-violent. There are themes in it that are important for kids to see, that people can learn something and feel good about. That was important to me. It was one of the reasons that I did the movie. This is the time for heroes, in the movie business. Any time you can do that, I think it’s good.
What was it like to work with Johnny Depp in The Rum Diary?
ECKHART: It was good. Everybody on the crew had done at least six movies with Johnny. I got to the set in Puerto Rico, on the first day, and Johnny was hugging the crew and talking about their kids. I thought, “Wow, he’s really friendly.” I’m always looking at other people and wondering, “How does Johnny do it? How does Nicole [Kidman] act on the set?” And then, I learned that Johnny just brings his family around. His crew is his family. He’s given these guys at least six jobs. He took them all to do Pirates with him. They did this movie. They love Johnny, and I learned to love Johnny. He was very good to me. We had a good time. We laughed a lot. He’s got a quirky sensibility about him. He chooses quirky material. He’s very passionate about Hunter S. Thompson. He was just a great guy.
Do you also have a passion for Hunter S. Thompson?
ECKHART: Not like Johnny. I had read some of Hunter’s stuff. I can’t tell you all the rituals Johnny did, to get into character before filming, but he definitely had Hunter’s spirit there on the set with him.
For video interviews with the cast of Battle: Los Angeles, click here.