Aaron Eckhart: “I still have a lot to say”The serious-minded actor explains how living the simple life gives him a greater sense of self.
At the age of 48, Aaron Eckhart has built a career playing good men on the edge of darkness. This fall, the California-born actor co-stars in two biopics: In Sully (in theaters this month), he plays Jeffrey Skiles, the co-pilot who assisted Captain Chesley Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) in the emergency landing of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, and in Bleed for This (out November 4), he portrays Kevin Rooney, the trainer of professional boxer Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller), who returned to the ring 13 months after breaking his neck in a near-fatal car crash.
Both are challenging, intense roles in which Eckhart faces the heavy responsibility of playing men who hold the fate of other people’s lives in their hands. But in reality he is naturally Zen, a trait he attributes to his maturity and the quiet life he leads outside the spotlight.
THE RED BULLETIN: You once said, “The simpler life is for me, the better life is for me.” Why is that?
AARON ECKHART: I am a simple man in the sense that I don’t have a big life. As you become older, the most important thing is to know thyself. Earlier in my career, I would try to be everything to everybody. I don’t do that anymore; I’m just me. Having a ranch in Montana helps me do that.
When I get there, I just stare at the water in the creek for hours. I move rocks, I clear the brush, I make fires, I look at the clouds. It obviously has a very soothing effect on a person, and it makes all the bullshit go away. I’m happy just leading my life and being an easy, simple person.
Do you feel satisfied with what you’ve accomplished?
No. I feel I still have a lot to say, and I need to say it in a different way. I’m very blessed to have had this career, but it’s not enough yet. I need to say more, and it needs to come from me. I have to take more control of my message and who I am.
Who do you look up to?
I’m a huge Sean Penn apologist. He’s got courage, he’s got convictions and he’s willing to put his money where his mouth is.
He’s also an activist. Do you have a political message?
I look at things more as a whole. When I do movies, I want to see how we all come together instead of how we’re all different. That is where my energies immediately go, whether it’s race or religion or politics. I don’t like all the fighting. I like the message that we’re all the same.
Has there been any role where you felt the power of that message?
[Long pause.] No. [Laughs.]
But there’s still time!
Hey, I’m not dead yet. I think after this interview, I’ll maybe have two years left to live.