Aaron Eckhart plays Harvey Dent/Two-Face in The Dark Knight, a challenging role considering the multitude of layers the character involves and without ruining any part of the film I will simply say he pulls it off in quite the impressive fashion. Eckhart’s stock has been on the considerable rise since Thank You for Smoking in 2006 a role that perfectly led to his part here in The Dark Knight as the all-American man, only this time instead of a dark comedy we have a twisted tale of duality and one that is sure to fascinate audiences.
During the press junket for The Dark Knight I had the chance to sit down with Eckhart at a roundtable with several other journalists and you could see the excitement he had to talk about all facets of the film (outside of his make-up) and didn’t hold much back. You could see the genuine excitement he had when he tells us about reading the script for the first time, when talking about Heath Ledger and how intense the process was and how they kept things light on the set.
As the release of The Dark Knight grows closer I am happy to share this interview with you, with the promise of two more before the clock strikes midnight and the world gets ready to see one of the best comic book films ever made. Enjoy!
You heal well?!
Aaron Eckhart (AE): Yes, well, I have a good surgeon.
How much time did it take to get that prosthetic on you and time spent in the make-up chair every day?
AE: Um, like in minutes and seconds?
Well, was it a long drawn-out process or was it CG and you didn’t really have to do that?
AE: I’ll say this. I’m saying this to everybody. I would rather not talk about that because I feel it’s such a great thing for the audience to come there with no preconceived ideas of what it is.
How about more about the character evolution and how you worked through that and how you went from being a shining example of somebody that is less conflicted about justice to somebody that is much more conflicted… because that’s really powerful.
AE: Well, it’s interesting, there are so many dynamics going on in this movie. I really don’t know where to begin to start with that because the relationships of justice and crime-fighting, the love of Gotham City and the love a woman. Where we stand in all those… and one man who is not afraid to take on the cancer that is killing the city. People are afraid to walk the streets. No one’s going to work. The whole city is paralyzed with fear, and who’s going to stand up? It was interesting to play the character that would, it was fun to hold those press conferences, and to go into court with all those criminals, it gave you a sense of what it would feel like if you were actually doing that. People pinning their hopes on you. I liked playing Harvey Dent for those reasons.
I liked what Harvey felt about Batman, because we’re both crime-fighters, but we both do it in different ways. One is inside the law, one’s outside the law. One has tools and the other one doesn’t, the secrecy with Lieutenant Gordon in-between. There’s a lot of those issues that are going on today in our world. Decisions that have to be made and people are who standing up and are unpopular for those decisions. The issue people in the boat choosing whether or not they are going to kill themselves or other people. When I was watching this movie I found myself as an audience member going, ‘WHOA! LIKE YAY!!’ It’s a heavy movie in a lot of ways.
Another issue I found compelling was The Joker asking Batman to betray his one cardinal rule. What is the one thing that Batman could do to The Joker? Nothing else works but one thing and will the Batman do that? Will he go over the edge?
When Harvey “Two-Face” makes his transformation all bets are off, because there’s nothing greater, and, I think, more profound than love. This intense love was taken, ripped away from you unjustly. I think the whole game is changed. It’s interesting, the difference between Joker and Two Face, is that Joker seemingly, nihilistically, is a puppet of anarchy. He is without rhyme and reason doing this. Two Face is killing for a reason. He still has a sense of justice of, a very wide streak of justice inside of him and he has taken things into his own hands. So, I think it’s a little different, but it’s still bad.
What was your reaction when you first saw yourself as Two-Face?
AE: Well I thought Chris took his time in revealing Two-Face.
But what did you think of it?
AE: Oh, I was quite impressed with it. Chris showed me a sculpture of Two-Face and what he thought he looked like and what we’d be working on, and it was just beautiful. What I did like was the fact that we didn’t go over-the-top with it. I mean, yes, we have this, that and the other, but it wasn’t cartoonish in my opinion. It was pretty, I know it’s going to sound weird but, it’s pretty subtle. I thought, it went along with the other people in the movie, what The Joker looked like and what he was doing. And let’s not forget Batman has a suit on and all that, so we were in the ballpark and that was my main desire, to keep it in the ballpark.
Did you have any input to any of the costuming?
AE: Obviously you want it to be accurate for the fans, that was very important to me in terms of the suit and everything. The input I would have would be what I did with my face. [Mimicking] If I slobbered and how comic I went with it. Chris just said, ‘No, just go straight, you got other things to worry about instead of keeping your spit in your mouth.’ I thought that was good for me. I appreciated it, just kept it kind of real.
In your first read-through of the script at what point did it make the impression to you that, ‘Wow, this something special. This is beyond a typical comic book movie?’
AE: I went to Chris’ office and had a cup of tea with him and then he said, ‘Well, I’d like you to read the script.’ I said, ‘Well, where is it?’ and he says, ‘Somebody will bring it to you.’ So they did, and they waited outside my house in my driveway and I read it one day. Now I’ll preface that by saying I knew that The Joker was in the movie and I knew Heath was playing The Joker. So I thought, okay it’s The Joker’s movie, and I started reading the script, and I was like, ‘Wow. HARVEY. DENT. Great, wow!’ He does this and he kept on going and Harvey was such a great character. He did all these things. He was involved with Rachel Dawes, and with Bruce Wayne, and with Batman. I was inside my house going, ‘Yeah, this is great!’
It’s also about professional corruption and comprise as a D.A.
AE: Yeah I was an internal affairs guy, which I say to Lieutenant Gordon. So yeah, you’re right.
So all this juicy stuff, I was very excited. I frankly could not believe I was going to do it. In fact, I didn’t have the movie at that time. So I read it and I called up to Chris and said, ‘Hey man, this is a pretty good script,’ and he goes, ‘Yeah.’ Well then I go, ‘Well, are you going to let me do it?!’ and he goes, ‘Yeah, will you be Harvey Dent?’ I said absolutely.
[I was] absolutely thrilled. I could not believe how dense and complex… the thing that struck me right away was the contemporary issues, the mirrors of our times. The things he was tackling. Although they weren’t outright comparisons he got everything in there, I thought, and I think why this movie will work on another level and be important to people either sub-consciously or consciously, I’m not sure which one. but they’ll appreciate this movie as more than just a comic book movie.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the scene in the hospital. That was a lot of fun. Can you talk about working with Heath?
AE: I just had great time with Heath. I don’t know Heath that well, but I really cherished my time that I had with him to work; to be in the make-up trailer with Heath while he was discovering his face and me discovering my face. Listening to him, and getting into character, and whistling and all this other kind of stuff. That was fun. I was getting into my character and looking at him and going ‘Okay, you know, what am I going to do with my face?’ Because he really created his look. That character Heath loved so much. You know, he really cared about The Joker and wanted to work on Joker.
We hadn’t rehearsed that scene in the hospital. I didn’t know what to expect that day, but I knew Heath was doing some amazing work. I had worked with him a little in the movie, but I was excited about it. I didn’t have that much to do that day in the bed. I just sort of sat there, and Heath did his thing. And once he started doing his thing, I was an actor in the scene, but I was a fan. I was looking at him and going, ‘Wow dude! That’s pretty good!! That’s pretty good stuff!!’
We’re doing it, and uh, I say, ‘Okay, man. I’m going to this. Heath, you do this. Put your hand… do this!’ We started working together and we came up with an energy there and the crew was electrified by Heath. That doesn’t always happen. Crews are usually blasÃ© about the moviemaking process but not with Heath. They wanted to be a part of it, they wanted to see what he was doing.
After that day was done Heath and I, really tired, I said ‘That’s why I’m an actor.’ Because to work with guys like Heath â€“ because Heath was the consummate actor.
Do you think it was hard for him to leave the character behind once filming stopped?
AE: No, this was a movie where kids were all around. Everybody was talking about kids. Everybody was showing pictures of their kids. I was the only one in the trailer that didn’t have kids. Heath showed me pictures and talked about it and would come in say, ‘She did this and she did that.’ Maggie just had her child, Gary has two kids, Chris just had a kid on the movie.
So you are just surrounded by kids…
AE: Yeah, talking about kids. That’s my experience, and Chris always kept it light on the set. The crew loved Chris.
The movie’s intense, though, so how do you keep it light?
AE: But yeah, you can’t keep it intense for seven months. You just can’t do it. You love your character and everything. If Chris were as intense as the movie for seven months he would be in a sanitarium, you know what I mean?
What did you guys do when you weren’t working?
AE: We’d talk about kids! We’d do crossword puzzles. We played music. We did people do, you know? Let’s not forget it’s a movie. I know everyone wants to know about Heath, and I don’t really have the answers, but I will say that Heath and I talked about photography, we both loved photography. I know he was making music videos and it’s an honor to have worked with him. I love talking about him in this movie, because he is so wonderful.
This movie is totally ahead of the audience. It doesn’t go through any of the clichÃ©s or the predictable routines of a typical screenplay. You must be thinking, ‘Wow, Harvey Dent is a very complex character.’ This film is quite different than any other comic book films we have seen.
AE: It takes a lot of guts for Chris to do that, really, and then to put that all on the screen. I mean everything that we shot, basically, except for you know cuts here and there, is on that screen. I mean, it’s the script that he wrote. Which in today’s filmmaking, by my experience, is insane.
I really liked the fact that the audience could get to know Harvey, could fall in love with Harvey or get to understand him so that when he becomes Two-Face, and makes that transformation, then you will know why or could understand why. When that’s ripped from him in the way it is, I think the audience can go ‘Okay, I can understand.’ That’s why I wouldn’t call Harvey an out-and-out villain in this movie. I think The Joker is a little different although he does have a heart… because… I’ll tell you why with my hypothesis here. Why would The Joker comment so many times on his face if that didn’t come from a very deep place of hurt? He might be lying about it, you know. But he’s trying to explain. He’s trying to find an audience. Just like Batman finds an audience with Alfred, self-examination and moments of self-doubt. Like Harvey does with Rachel. Everybody needs a sounding board in this movie, and that’s what’s special in this movie, too, there are moments of quiet and silence in reflection. My favorite part of the movie is when Alfred tells the story and in a moment of self-doubt Bruce Wayne goes, ‘Alfred, what happened to such-and-such?’ And Alfred’s response to that, I think you guys know what I’m talking about. That just hit me like a ton of bricks. Delivered so perfectly by Michael Caine.
Also, be sure to stay tuned for Gary Oldman and Christopher Nolan tomorrow. We also have a Dark Knight giveaway you can sign up for right here.