THE BLACK SHEEP INTERVIEW: AARON ECKHART (I, FRANKENSTEIN) THE MAKING OF A MAN
An interview with I, FRANKENSTEIN actor, Aaron Eckhart
I, FRANKENSTEIN is a modern spin on a classic monster movie. Good and evil collide as demons from the pits of hell take on gargoyles sworn to protect the human race in a centuries old war, and Frankenstein finds himself caught in the middle fighting solely for himself. Not only does this mess with the lore behind Mary Shelley’s timeless character but it also begs the question, is Frankenstein even a monster at all?
“Mary Shelley basically said, you’re animated, you’re a science experiment, but still, you’re a man. She made him a man, with all these complicated feelings. Society made him a monster, called him a monster,” says Aaron Eckhart, who plays Adam, Dr. Frankenstein’s creation, in this latest film incarnation. “He never felt like a monster, other than when that was reflected back to him from society. He felt like a human being.”
Eckhart may not be the first actor you would expect to appear in such a high concept, genre film, but after seeing I, FRANKENSTEIN, you will be glad he chose to take on this iconic character. Only an actor with his experience and depth would put this much thought into a character he could have so easily played the same way he’s been played time and time before. “I’m not a monster in the sense that I have a heart and soul and feelings, so I’m a human being,” Eckhart begins. “Think of all the people in life who are born deformed; how do they feel when they have to go out in public and have to assimilate while they’re being looked at like they’re Frankenstein. How must they feel inside when all they want to do is be loved when they’re so misunderstood and hated and bullied and teased?”
And don’t forget Frankenstein’s Daddy issues now. “If you go back to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, that’s all it is, this misunderstanding, this hatred for his father and not knowing why. He has such a wanton desire for love that he’s never fulfilled. Over time, that has just filled him with hatred for his father because his father doesn’t give him an explanation. He casts him out and tells him he wishes he was dead.” This idea of abuse and abandonment led Echkart to research the stories of abused children. This is what he brought to the role and you can it his face on screen … y’know, after you get past all the mass scarring.
Of course, for such an intense action picture, Eckhart also had a great deal of physical preparation to take on as well. He was already in good shape going into the film at age 44, but he had to work harder than he ever had in his life to pull this one off. “I got extremely fit for the movie. I did almost all of the stunts myself, all the fighting myself. I think there are only a couple of stunts I didn’t do but just because they didn’t let me. That really beat me up. Had I not done the preparation, there’s no way we would have the movie that we do.”
In case you forgot what Eckhart really looks like …
Being the great character actor that he is, even the physical training informed Eckhart’s character. “His body is reflective of his interior. He’s got to be hard, hardened. He’s got to be light and agile and quick and dynamic. He’s being pursued so he’s got to have skills. He’s lived for 200 years. All of that has to be reflected in the body.”
Ekhart, who stopped by the Shangri-La Hotel in Toronto to speak about I, FRANKENSTEIN just days before its release, is happy to be taking on so many action oriented films (OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, BATTLE: LOS ANGELES) at this point in his career, after so many years, 17 to be exact since his remarkable breakout in Neil LaBute’s IN THE COMPANY OF MEN, of working in drama and independent film. “Early on in my career, I was very much into independent movies. I wanted to work with my heroes. I was the brooding actor. It was very important that I stayed away from Hollywood. I did it very deliberately. And I’m glad I did because it made me who I am. As I’ve gotten more experience, I feel like I’ve filled that quotient and I can let myself have fun.”
It’s not that he doesn’t want to make more films like RABBIT HOLE or THANK YOU FOR SMOKING in the future, (in fact, he is thinking about directing movies just like these as well), it’s just that, uh, well I’ll let him explain it. “I’d gotten to a point where I would get scripts and it would just be page after page of monologue, monologue, monologue, and I was just like, I don’t want to say any more words. I’m sick of it. Why am I saying so much? I’ve got nothing to say. My ideal movie now is me on a train, just grunting.”
Besides all that though, there is one reason above all else that Eckhart favours action like I, FRANKENSTEIN at this point in his life. “I’m going to be dead soon. I wanted to be able to do at least one action movie before I die.”
I, FRANKENSTEIN is now playing in theatres everywhere.