In the action thriller starring Gerard Butler and directed by Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day"), a group of terrorists attacks and takes over the White House. When Eckhart's President Asher is taken hostage in the bunker by a ruthless North Korean rogue operative named Kang (Rick Yune), the only man who can save him and prevent all-out war is a disgraced Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Butler).
Moviefone recently chatted with Eckhart about his maverick character, which president he modeled Asher after, and what he's planning next in his career.
The movie is just non-stop action -- did you get that sense while you were filming it? We were in a room -- I don't know how many weeks we were in that room -- tied up to a rail, but we made it as tense and as hardcore as we could to keep the energy up, so I knew the movie was going to be just to the wall and entertaining. Then you have to look at Antoine. Antoine is so good at this sort of stuff. Not only can he do character, he can do action.
Was working with Antoine the main draw of the movie for you? Antoine definitely, yeah, his idea of what the film was going to be about. Playing a president and getting taken hostage, you're well, like [shrugs]. But how he explained it to me was: Young president. Physical president. Can take care of himself. Was a boxer. Boxed with the Secret Service.
You don't want your president in this situation to just get tied up and be sort of a rag doll. You want him to fight back and have some gumption and have some spirit. And that was really what attracted me to it, because Gerry is just charging the whole movie, and you don't want to flip back to the president and have dead space. So I wanted to have equal energy there.
President Asher is a bit of a maverick. He does some stuff he's not "supposed" to do, like take the South Korean prime minister down to the bunker. He's a bit too compassionate that way.You're right, he thinks out of the box. You know, we're going to make mistakes, we do our best, we try to take care of everyone the best we can. Everybody's a human being of equal value and he tries to run the country like that. But it was a mistake, I have to say [laughs]. But it made for a good movie.
How did you prepare to play the president? We've been so inundated with presidency for years, ever since CNN started ... I think all Americans and maybe all the Western world understands, on a superficial level, who the president is and what he's like professionally and personally. We're so involved in their lives, so I didn't have to go far.
Now, what president do you want to model after? Like you said, he's a maverick ... Antoine started talking about JFK and the youthfulness and the effortlessness he had, the charisma, this magical quality about him, but on the other hand, had to deal with some serious issues, like Cuba and Russia.
What's interesting is that Rick Yune's character, Kang, doesn't come across as just a one-dimensional villain. That's the danger. That comes with his perception of the character and with Antoine's perception of the story. We all have the challenge of not being one-dimensional -- if you look at Dylan [McDermott]'s character, or my character, Melissa [Leo]'s. You have limited screen time, you have to a) entertain the audience, but also to further the story and to be representative of whoever you are fully.
You have had such a varied career, and you've been in indies and blockbusters. What do you want to do next? Now I'm looking to direct movies and produce my own movies. I think I could be more fulfilled if I become more involved in the movies that I do. I have a lot of ideas and I love actors, I want to work with actors, I want to direct actors. I want to direct those performances that you want to see, that you talk about with your friends.