This weekend, Antoine Fuqua’S White House action movie Olympus Has Fallen opens. The film stars Gerard Butler as a former Secret Service agent called back to duty when terrorists take control of the White House and abduct the President (Aaron Eckhart). The film also stars Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Ashley Judd, Melissa Leo, Robert Forster, Dylan McDermott, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, and Rick Yune. The film is rated R for graphic violence and it features Butler fighting.
Aaron Eckhart was interviewed and he spoke about the making of Olympus Has Fallen, the cast, the violence and how he became an actor.
What do you typically do when you’re getting ready for a role? How early on are you looking at the script and breaking it down, figuring it out. Some actors I know do it immediately and some are doing it at the last second so it’s as fresh as possible. Do you mind talking about this?
No, I don’t mind talking about it. You need as much time as you possibly can with that script. You can’t have enough time. I guess there are two schools of thought.
Always curious as to what side you’re on.
I think you need to put [that script] into a syringe and inject it into your veins. I think you need to bathe in it, you need to cook it, you need to drink it, you need to eat it. You need to put it in your way while you’re walking so you step over it. Look at a page, paste it up places, make pictures, draw it, you know? Do everything you possibly can to infuse it into your body. Now, that being said, the way movies work, sometimes you don’t have that time.
When you get a role very close to filming…
Yeah, not only when you have the role. For example, sometimes you’re given the words the morning of. The speech that I gave at the end [of Olympus Has Fallen], I read those words for the first time that morning. So, you know, you do your best. The thing that helps is that when you do infuse it and get it into your bones is that you’re now not worried about words, you’re talking about character and behavior. Words are just an extension of images from the character’s mind. So words aren’t as important as they were. If you’re just doing something where you’re spewing words all the time then it becomes an act of memorization. But when you’re getting to know your character, and becoming one with your character, or whatever, then words just come out of you and they’re the words you’re supposed to use. Often I’ll go through a script and I’ll answer what the character before me says and then I’ll answer the character…I’ll do every part. So I’ll just, off my head, read the line and then I’ll say the answer but in my head and it’s usually the answer that’s in the script. You see what I’m saying? I didn’t explain that very well. You gotta get it inside of you. The second way is…
Speaking about number of takes though, some actors prefer the Clint Eastwood method of two takes and some love the David Fincher method of fifty.
It depends. I’m not against either. It’s about “When did you get it? Why is Fincher doing it? Why is your director asking you [for] more? Are you getting better? Are you finding new things?” If it’s sadistic or masochistic then I am not so into it. However, if I get it in two then I get it in two. I can get it in one. I can move on, too. But you gotta then ask yourself, “where do you see the best performances?” They’re usually in Fincher’s movies. I mean Fincher’s movies are seamless. Actors you see in Fincher’s movies, you see people do work that they haven’t done before. There’s a reason for that.