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Updated: February 26, 2011 20:16 IST

Ready for the battle?

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Aaron Eckhart
AFP Aaron Eckhart

As World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles is set to hit the screens on March 11, its star Aaron Eckhart talks about the making of the film

In the new sci-fi action rollercoaster, World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles, Aaron Eckhart leads a ragtag group of marines to take on a merciless invading alien force. As Staff Sergeant Nantz, the actor certainly has his hands full on his latest outing, where a down and dirty battle for the City of Angels (seen as part of a global invasion) may hold the key to the survival of mankind itself.

With over 25 films to his credit, Eckhart first garnered international attention in 1997 for his breakthrough role in Neil LaBute's In the Company of Men. He's since starred in such diverse hits as The Dark Knight, Thank You for Smoking and most recently in Rabbit Hole. Here's what Eckhart has to say about the film:

World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles seems to be different from what you've done before.

It is. I've done a lot of independent films and a lot of dramas. This past year, I've had Rabbit Hole come out, I did a movie called The Rum Diary with Johnny Depp and then World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles. I always approach each movie the same way. I try to get to the reality of the character, of the story. In that sense, they're all the same to me. But in terms of what was expected of the character, in terms of the physicality, this was by far the hardest film I've ever acted in… I mean, this movie is just a kick-ass, full on adrenaline rush.

Tell us about who you play?

I play Staff Sergeant Nantz. I'm a retiring marine. At the beginning of the movie, I'm on my way out. I'm kind of like that salty, hardened warrior. And I have to go back in with a bunch of young marines who are inexperienced to go and fight a very potent force.

The supporting cast certainly has some familiar faces… And some interesting new ones.

Well, there's Michelle Rodriguez, who was great to work with. You know, she's so gung ho and loves to get down and dirty... Bridget Moynahan plays a civilian who gets caught behind enemy lines and we have to rescue her — she was also a great inspiration, always working hard, always in character. And then you have all these kids; for many of them, it could have been their first movie. Everybody gave their 100 per cent.

Were you familiar with up and coming director Jonathan Liebesman, before you signed on for the film?

No. I met Jonathan and heard about him for the first time at my agency. But I can't speak more highly of him. I've rarely worked with directors who are so enthusiastic and such hard workers and who believe so much in their material. Jonathan has a vision that I think is special in Hollywood in that he can tell a story and make it accessible to large audiences at the same time. He challenged me as an actor. Any time I was tired or hurt or discouraged, I'd just look at Jonathan and he'd give me the energy I needed.

How did you prepare for the role?

I'd done my own training with the Marines for a few months beforehand — weapons training, drills — and then we all got together down in Louisiana, three weeks before the film started and went through a boot camp. We had three Marines there training us. We put up a tent which we all slept in. We ate together, showered together, worked, all day, together. We started with a group of guys who didn't know each other and who by the end knew each other intimately. It gave us a real sense of camaraderie that comes through in the film.

You mentioned you filmed in Louisiana… Why Louisiana instead of Los Angeles?

Financially, it was more advantageous. This movie was just too big for Los Angeles. At one point, we shut down an actual freeway in Louisiana for three weeks to film one sequence. We had tanks on it, overturned cars… Louisiana, simply, gave us access to the city, to the streets, and that was necessary. We would shut down streets for weeks with the sets we had built, used, and that were completely destroyed (laughs)... They were very good to us in Louisiana.

You broke your arm while filming. What happened?

We were doing the climactic scene. I wanted to give the cameraman a better angle. So I went running off probably about a 7-or-8-foot rock, slipped and came down — luckily with my head a few inches away from another rock that would have killed me. But I also braced myself and that broke my upper arm. I wasn't aware of it. I knew it hurt. I think it was two days later that I went to the hospital and got x-rayed. I had broken it, but didn't put a cast on it. I just kept filming.

Weren't you worried at all?

I was more worried about missing work, actually (laughs). Fortunately, I didn't miss a minute of filming.

What was the biggest surprise for you on the film?

How much I loved my character. How much I loved making this movie. How intense it was. It's my favourite character that I've ever played. And I hope there's a sequel, because I absolutely loved playing this guy.

You seem to be on top of your game these days. What were your expectations like when you first started out?

Well, I had none. All I knew is I wanted to be an actor. I started acting in high school when I was 14. I didn't get my first job on screen until I was 27. I've always been interested primarily in acting, as opposed to being a movie star or a famous person. So I gravitated a bit more towards ‘acting' roles.

When you were cast for the film, In the Company of Men, your big-screen breakthrough, did you have an inkling that it was going to become the international sensation that it did?

Absolutely not, we didn't even think it would be released. We were absolutely flabbergasted when it went to Sundance and got such a good reaction there. My life changed literally overnight. The day before I couldn't get a job. I didn't have an agent. I had no money. The day after, I could get any agent I wanted. Every single day since then, I've had an amazing career. It's a storybook dream in that way.

But as you go along in your career, you expect more as you're given more. And so I feel like I'm as hungry today as I was when I started out.

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