“People ask me, ‘Why aren’t you sweating?’ And I say, ‘Because I am making myself effortless.’ The physical is key.” – Aaron Eckhart
Like most well-known actors, Aaron Eckhart doesn’t have a career filmed with acclaimed movies. For every The Dark Knight and Sully, he’s also starred in Battle: Los Angeles and I, Frankenstein. He’s aware of his creative hits and misses, but he’s also learned a lot from both. Speaking with The Guardian, Eckhart speaks about the importance of physical presence in a role, how to be an effective supporting character, and why it’s important for actors to seek off-screen advice.
Eckhart points out that when it comes to acting getting the physical aspects of a role to come off naturally is important. He says, “You know, so much of this job is physical. So in Bleed for This, we see that my character has gained weight, he walks on the back of his heels, and these things tell us he’s tired, depressed, pissed off… I have a saying: ‘If you’re sweating you’re doing it wrong.’ You don’t need to sweat. When you sweat, you’re giving effort. And the goal is to do it with no effort. People ask me, ‘Why aren’t you sweating?’ And I say, ‘Because I am making myself effortless.’ The physical is key.”
He goes on to add that in many of today’s blockbusters where so much is left in the dark because of green screen and post-production effects, it makes it harder on the actor to be so physical. Eckhart continues, “In the movie made with green screen, where the director doesn’t actually know what’s behind you? Where they say, ‘Oh, we’re going to have aliens?’ Yes. It makes it hard to be specific. And being specific is where good acting comes from. Being disciplined, too. But there’s also what I call having balls. It takes balls to be disciplined. It makes people uncomfortable.”
Another aspect of acting that Eckhart touches upon is the importance of being a good supporting character. According to Eckhart, in supporting roles the main goal is to make the lead character look better. He explains, “In Sully, often I’m just listening, but I want Tom [Hanks] to know I’m completely engaged. My job is to define the hero for the audience. How do you do that? You are riveted by him. Let’s take the ugliest, most boring guy. He’s the hero of your movie, OK? But then take a woman. The smartest, wittiest woman. And she can’t take her eyes off him. She laughs at his jokes. She dotes on him. And sexually? She cannot get enough of him. Now, what does the audience think? … We’ve turned a toad into a prince! And that is the task of the supporting actor. Tom is no toad, but that’s the job in Sully. It’s the same with Miles [Teller] in Bleed for This.”
Eckhart also believes it is important to learn how to improve off-screen as well and to seek advice from actors with more star power than you how to handle the next levels of fame. He says, “In this business, with the fame and money, there are traps. You can start believing things about yourself that won’t do you any good. And there are conversations nobody had with me that I wish they had. So, on Sully, I took the chance to ask Tom – top pro – how he handles certain things. Because if you get those things wrong, it damages a career.”