At the Comic-Con Lionsgate Panel, the big news may have been about Hunger Games 2: Catching Fire, but there was also a few updates on next year’s horror/sci-fi project I, Frankenstein. Written and directed by Stuart Beattie, the film is based on a graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux. Star Aaron Eckhart, who stars as the monster—who is named Adam in this version—gave an in-depth interview to IMDb.
IMDb: …so this role seems like the complete opposite from what I’d expect you to play.
Eckhart: It’s all the same stuff which is story. If I broke this down, it’s the same way I broke down Chad (In the Company of Men)or any other characters. It’s about a man who is unwanted, unloved, and unneeded. A man who is hated by his father and hated by society. If we wrote this down, it would be an independent film. Adam has to roam the Earth eternally with this curse and he has to find his purpose in life. That could be any number of a million films that have ever been made. And so it’s an archetypal, universal journey and that’s what attracted me to this role.
And now you put the dressing around it. We are in a dystopic world, there are gargoyles and demons, and good and evil. He’s a Kali stick fighter and he has no soul. But essentially it’s a story about a man who is trying to find love in life. Just like you and your husband or me and whoever I end up with.
I approach the way I look at a film and how I attack a film in the same way. I’m not trying to be a movie star. I’m trying to go in there and if somebody dies, I try to treat that death as it’s meant to be treated. If I’m in love, or if I’m being hunted, I’m trying to make it as real as possible to me because that’s the only way I know how to do it. And it’s probably killed my career, but that’s just the way I see it.
IMDb: Approaching a character in that way, Adam is a character who is composed of eight different corpses. Do you take in account all the factors of those identities to make this one man? Or do you just look at that body as a shell?
Eckhart: That’s an interesting question. I address that underneath subtextually but the script doesn’t address it in the way you are talking out it. Not that way that this corpse had a particular DNA and the hand does this but the face does this. That would get too complicated and that’s not a story point. So for me to tackle that, it would be confusing for the audience.
I learned that lesson in filming. Even if you do shoot it, while the movie is in production there are dailies. But when the editor takes it and the edited version comes out, this scene came before that one, and something gets cut out, and all of a sudden you look weird because your hand is doing something and it’s never explained.
It’s happened to me. One time in a movie I was supposed to be claustrophobic. And so I did it, but then that fact didn’t make it into the movie. So in the rest of movie, I was freaking out in certain scenes and people didn’t know why. So I learned a lesson. You don’t deal with that shit. You stick to the basics, stick to what the story is about so that people understand the story.
IMDb: This was a very physical role. What type of training did you do?
Eckhart: I did six months hardcore Kali stick fighting and core training to get myself in really good shape. I had to look like I was born with two sticks in my hands. So I really trained hard for that, and I had great instruction. I also got the crap beat out of me a lot. Not bad for a 45 year old dude. I’m proud of the effort, and I’m proud of the fact that we did it. We put in the work.
IMDb: Frankenstein is such an old story that everyone knows. What makes I, Frankenstein different?
Eckhart: Well, it takes place in the modern today. It’s basically the next chapter of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It takes on a whole different life. The thematics are the same of a man looking for his soul, looking for love, but it’s done in this European metropolis any city with high-vaulted ceilings and alley ways. It’s more of a Gothic story. It’s a completely different story but Frankenstein remains the same. Adam is the Monster.
IMDb: But with no bolts?
Eckhart: Sans bolts.
IMDb: Did you miss the bolts? Was there a part of you that wanted bolts?
Eckhart: I tried to get the bolts in there but I wanted them to come out of my forehead instead. I said the neck thing is done, let them come out of my ears. Or have it come right out of his nose, or even make his nose a bolt.
IMDb: Did you ever think you would fight demons when you first started acting?
Eckhart: No. I thought I’d fight the mob. I thought I would do cowboys and Indians type of stuff. But movie-making is, every single day, a different deal. I’ve always just wanted to be an actor that fought my wife and loved my wife, and loved my kids and fought my kids. Just do movies about domestic dynamics and being a father, that kind of stuff. I never really saw myself in any other way. Of course I grew up watching Harrison Ford, Steve McQueen, and Robert Redford and I always loved those movies. It’s changed. In the movie industry, you are looking at a worldwide audience so the considerations are totally different and money is coming from different places. Domestic box office is no longer the driving force behind material. And then television is sometimes better material. All the directors and actors are going to television. And all the money is in television now.
IMDb: Are you considering a shift to television?
Eckhart: Oh, I have been heavily offered that. I just turned down some stuff. You know, look, if it’s the right thing and I am the creator of it, which I’m looking to do, I will consider it. But I grew up in film. I’m a photographer, I still shoot film. And so, I just hate to see it go away. And I hate to see drama go away.
IMDb: You started in indie film and so many of the great TV shows are created by indie filmmakers such as Alan Ball and Michael Cuesta.
Eckhart: Well, taste doesn’t change. It’s not like you are going to go into television and have worse taste.
IMDb: They are still just telling a story.
Eckhart: Even if you go into genre. I did Towelhead with Alan. And then he’s got “True Blood”. They are totally two different genres. If you have good taste and you’re a good writer, that’s going to bridge any gap. I don’t know how I feel about. Television is going to go away soon too. Most people will be watching on their computer screen. I do it.
It’s taking a little longer for me to come to terms with it. I am in the Seventies watching Steve McQueen and watching Three Days of the Condor. I admire “Game of Thrones” and they have taken over here at Comic-Con. And movies are the ugly step-child now. Or almost.
I just had a huge meeting with a studio about television, and they’re saying it’s basically a 90-hour movie, and you really need to get in there. But I still think there’s magic about film. There’s magic about being in a dark room with other people. And I don’t think television can compete with that. Because I can get up and go to the kitchen and maybe come back. But in a movie theater, I am there. And I’m allowing myself to eat popcorn and Milk Duds and drink Coke. It’s a license to fantasize. You just don’t have that in TV. I’m a believer, and I’m not giving up.