President Aaron Eckhart Talks Two-Face, Dennis Rodman & ‘Olympus Has Fallen’

Adam Pockross
Movie Talk

Aaron Eckhart could easily have a career in politics. Aside from those movie star good looks and jutting jaw line, he's got an affable and engaging manner that makes you feel like you can really trust him.

Of course, since he's not a politician, we can see no reason not to trust him, especially as he opened up to us about his latest movie, "Olympus Has Fallen." Eckhart plays President Benjamin Asher, who is taken hostage after a group of heavily armed and highly trained North Korean terrorists take over the White House. Fortunately, Asher's former secret service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is even more well-trained.

While on the campaign trail, Eckhart spoke candidly about what role he's most recognized for (hint, it's not Two-Face), if Dennis Rodman will like this movie, and why we should vote for Eckhart instead of Jamie Foxx, who will also be playing the president soon (in "White House Down"). "Olympus Has Fallen" opens wide today.

[Related: Get Local Tickets & Showtimes for 'Olympus Has Fallen']

Adam Pockross: Mister President thank you for sitting down with Yahoo Movies.

Aaron Eckhart: You’re welcome.

AP: Did you get more gray hair serving as the president?

AE: No. I don’t know where my gray hair is. I just turned 45. I don’t have any gray hair. It’s because I have no kids.

No, I think they might have brought that up in the early stages, what with the responsibilities of the office and all that -- I mean, Obama is getting gray. Bush got gray. Yeah. I said no, let’s not do that.

AP: So, technically Ben Asher would be a first term president?

AE: Yeah, he’s a first term president.

AP: So, would you vote for Ben Asher for reelection?

AE: Yeah, I thought so. I thought that he was trustworthy, he had humility, love for his country, love for people. I felt like he was a servant of the people; he was there because of them. So, I felt like he was doing it for the betterment of the country.

AP: So he's an idealization?

AE: Exactly! He’s a total fabrication. Yeah, he’s the ideal. I mean he’s got the perfect wife, there's still the love, and he’s got a good kid and all that sort of stuff. So, yeah, it’s the movies.

AP: What do you think Dennis Rodman will think of this movie?

AE: We’ll definitely have him over to the White House, if I were the president. I think his going to love it. I think he’ll probably go show his new friend, you know what I mean? And maybe we can get an envoy and the movie can have a private screening over there.

AP: What do you think his new friend will think of it?

AE: Well, I think he’ll like it.

AP: Do you?

AE: Why wouldn’t he? He loves Hollywood movies, doesn’t he? That’s what I heard. I don’t know. I mean it depends if you could detach yourself from what’s going on in the world.

It’s funny because we made this film a year ago. What I’ve been saying to people is it’s getting darn difficult to choose a villain anymore in Hollywood movies because it always ends up coming true. Whether it’s something unfortunate that happens inside our borders or in our schools or across the globe.

It’s unfortunate but movies are a mirror of our time and certainly you can see that in "The Dark Knight" and that’s the way it is. It’s always been that way. You can't shy away from it.

AP: Speaking of "The Dark Knight," how is working with Antoine Fuqua different than working with Christopher Nolan?

AE: Well, I’ll tell you how they’re similar. Both have complete command of what they’re doing. Both are calm even under extraordinary circumstances. Both let their actors act, and let their actors bring something to the table. They’re both good friends on the set -- people you can talk to, who greet you in the morning with a smile, who are happy that you’re there, who appreciate you -- which is nice. They dress a little differently; Chris is always dressed in his three piece suit or a vest -- very much in the Alfred Hitchcock vain. Both are good friends and both make good movies, really great movies that I'm happy to be a part of.

AP: Is Two-Face probably the role that you get approached about most?

AE: Actually, the movie I think that I'm most appreciated for and approached for is "Thank You for Smoking." And that’s all over the world. I mean from young to old, people just absolutely love that movie.

AP: It holds up really well. And it's Jason Reitman’s first film, right?

AE: His first feature-length film, yeah. I'm pretty sure that’s true, and he hit it out of the park, and continues to. So, that's not to say that "The Dark Knight" isn't something I’m recognized for, but you got Heath heading that one up, and there are some bright stars in that. But people loved that movie for sure.

AP: And they love you in it, for good reason.

AE: Like Gerry’s movie "300". People go crazy for "300". So, I would say
"The Dark Knight" too is a good one. It did over a billion dollars of business.

AP: So, if Gerard Butler isn't in the secret service business and you can’t have him to protect you, which badass -- historical or otherwise -- would you want to be your guy?

AE: Well, first of all, if Gerry wasn’t there, I’d do it myself.

AP: Okay, I'll stay on eggshells then!

AE: Let me think about that... I'll take Robert Duvall as "The Great Santini" and have him come get me. He would just stare them down. Or I'd take Duvall in "Apocalypse Now". You know, "Charlie don't surf!" I'll take Duvall.

AP: There's another similarly themed movie coming out in a couple of months. I’m wondering if there’s something in the Zeitgeist?

AE: Oh, for sure.

AP: And what do you think it is?

AE: Well, it’s not exclusive to this film, it’s like Noah's Ark: Things come in pairs. And there is talk around town. You have that aspect of it.

And then you say, "What's going on?" The question we’ve been getting a lot is, "Why the White House has never been done before? Is there something out there now that makes the White House vulnerable?” Obviously, this is a work of fiction, but it is a very well-thought out work of fiction. Because of 9/11, if the White House was to be attacked, well, the Pentagon was attacked. I don’t think it's the forbidden target anymore. I think people feel like they can get to it.

AP: Why should the populous vote for you over Jamie Foxx?

AE: Oh, I don't know. Jamie is pretty tough man. Jamie is a hell of an actor and a good friend. We'll just do different terms! I'll do the first term, and he’ll do the second term. That's how we’ll do it, everybody wins.

AP: And where does Morgan Freeman fit in?

AE: That's right, Morgan becomes president. I knew when he walked in the door that he was going to be president. I should have given up the movie when Morgan walked in the oval office. I go, "I know, you're going to be president. I got it.”

This is my second movie with Morgan, and over the years, I’ve gotten to know him a little bit and it's always fun to work with him and see him. He’s so good-natured.

In our very short scene together, to spar with him -- of course when you’re making it, you’re taking all day to make it -- so, you get to fight with him the whole day. You know, not fight with him, but spar with him, and be an actor with him, and I appreciate that.

AP: Speaking of being an actor, you're a theater guy…

AE: Yeah, back in the day.

AP: Any aspirations to get back to that?

AE: I would love too. The last play I did was six years ago. It's been too long. It's difficult with movies as they all say. It's my fault. Neil LaBute offers me play a week.

AP: Really?

AE: Oh yeah. London, Broadway -- in fact he just offered me -- not offered me but wants to do a play in London; he wants to do "Glengarry Glen Ross" again. It’s a big commitment. I admire guys like Ralph Fiennes and Billy Crudup, who are out there doing it.

I feel like I will do it, I should it. I'd like to direct a movie next -- myself, and get that going for me. I feel like I've been acting for a long time and I‘d like to get on the other side and tell some stories.

AP: Direct yourself?

AE: Yeah. Like the only person in it! Yeah, tons of people in it, but I'll be all the characters! Yeah, that would be fun wouldn’t it?

No -- I'd like to be in it too. Because I love to act. I wouldn’t want to -- I mean, the thought of not acting is tough because I love it so much.

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See Aaron Eckhart in the theatrical trailer for "Olympus Has Fallen"...

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