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A longtime actor in playwright Neil LaBute's stable, Aaron Eckhart first caught moviegoers' attention in his film debut as the unctuous businessman Chad in the wicked black comedy "In the Company of Men" (1997). Previously, Eckhart had been struggling to find his way on television - both in series and in commercials - as well as on the big screen. After collaborating again with LaBute on "Your Friends and Neighbors" (1998), Eckhart branched out on his own, first landing a small part in "Any Given Sunday" (1999), then gaining wider recognition in the award-winning hit, "Erin Brockovich" (2000). He continued to delve into richly varied characters under LaBute's direction, playing an insensitive thug in "Nurse Betty" (2000) before calmly shifting gears for a romantic lead in "Possession" (2002). Meanwhile, he captured the attention of top Hollywood talent, being cast by the likes of Sean Penn in "The Pledge" (2001) and Ron Howard in "The Missing" (2003), though he struggled to find that one defining role to propel him into his own. His opportunity finally arrived with a deviously enjoyable performance as an unapologetic spokesman for Big Tobacco in "Thank You For Smoking" (2005), which earned the...
A longtime actor in playwright Neil LaBute's stable, Aaron Eckhart first caught moviegoers' attention in his film debut as the unctuous businessman Chad in the wicked black comedy "In the Company of Men" (1997). Previously, Eckhart had been struggling to find his way on television - both in series and in commercials - as well as on the big screen. After collaborating again with LaBute on "Your Friends and Neighbors" (1998), Eckhart branched out on his own, first landing a small part in "Any Given Sunday" (1999), then gaining wider recognition in the award-winning hit, "Erin Brockovich" (2000). He continued to delve into richly varied characters under LaBute's direction, playing an insensitive thug in "Nurse Betty" (2000) before calmly shifting gears for a romantic lead in "Possession" (2002). Meanwhile, he captured the attention of top Hollywood talent, being cast by the likes of Sean Penn in "The Pledge" (2001) and Ron Howard in "The Missing" (2003), though he struggled to find that one defining role to propel him into his own. His opportunity finally arrived with a deviously enjoyable performance as an unapologetic spokesman for Big Tobacco in "Thank You For Smoking" (2005), which earned the talented actor the strongest praise of his career, leading to massive mainstream exposure with his portrayal of Batman's nemesis, Two Face, in "The Dark Knight" (2008). His appearance in the box office blockbuster was an accomplishment recognized by several critics, firmly placing Eckhart's name on the roster of contemporary A-list actors.
Born Mar. 12, 1968 in Cupertino, CA, Eckhart was raised in a Mormon home without the benefit of being part of the larger Mormon community in Utah. His father, James, was a computer executive and his mother, Mary, was an accomplished children's author and poet, giving Eckhart the foundation for his later creativity. When he was 13, his father's work moved the family to London, where the fish-out-of-water struggled to fit in. After discovering acting by way of playing Charlie Brown in a school production, Eckhart moved to Sydney, Australia for his senior year of high school, where he furthered development of his acting with more serious productions like "Waiting for Godot" at a small dramatic school. Starved for cash, he left the school before he could finish in order to take a job working at a mall movie theater. He eventually obtained his high school diploma via a correspondence course, then spent a couple of years living in France, Switzerland and Hawaii. Eckhart then made his way to Brigham Young University, where he joined the film program and met budding writer Neil LaBute, who cast the actor in several of his original plays, many of which had to be performed incognito because of the Mormon school's refusal to officially display the playwright's controversial work.
Once Eckhart left BYU with degree in hand, he moved to New York and began his acting career in earnest. Within days of landing his first agent, he was cast in a beer commercial. He then made his television debut as an extra on the original "Beverly Hills, 90210" (Fox, 1990-2000), which Eckhart quickly followed with a more substantial guest starring role on the short-lived adventure series, "Crossroads" (ABC, 1992-93). Following a turn as Samson in the documentary reenactment series, "Ancient Secrets of the Bible, Part II" (CBS, 1993), Eckhart landed parts in the forgettable television movie "Slaughter of the Innocents" (HBO, 1993) and the short-lived sitcom "Aliens in the Family" (ABC, 1995-96). Though not exactly off to an auspicious start, he was at least working. Then five years after parting ways at BYU, Eckhart was approached by LaBute to star in a film adaptation of his stage play, "In the Company of Men" (1997). LaBute had raised $30,000 to make the film and immediately thought of Eckhart for the role of alpha-male Chad, a white-collar guy frustrated with women, who hatches a plan with his nebbish buddy, Howard (Matt Malloy), to woo a deaf office worker (Stacy Edwards), gain her affections, then unexpectedly dump her. But when she falls in love with Chad, both men amp up their psychological games with her, as well as with each other.
Neither Eckhart nor LaBute ever thought the ultra-low budget film would ever see the light of day. But a rousing victory at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival propelled the film into art house success and made a name for both actor and director. The following year, Eckhart joined forces again with LaBute for "Your Friends and Neighbors" (1998), a searing dark comedy of manners centered around three men (Eckhart, Ben Stiller and Jason Patrick) doing battle with three women (Catherine Keener, Amy Brenneman and Nastassja Kinski) over their dysfunctional relationships. Eckhart was barely recognizable as Barry, an impotent, overweight man happier satisfying himself than his unhappy wife (Brenneman) - a role that prompted the actor to gain 45 pounds. Meanwhile, "Your Friends and Neighbors" became something of an art house hit, though the film earned scorn for its unflinching misogyny. After an appearance as an offensive coordinator in "Any Given Sunday" (1999), Oliver Stone's indictment of the corporate takeover of professional football, Eckhart landed a more conventional role in the heartwarming drama, "Molly" (1999), playing the brother of an autistic woman (Elizabeth Shue) released into his care after 26 years in an institution.
Eckhart gained his first wide exposure as the pony-tailed biker who eventually wins the heart of a rough-around-the-edges legal crusader (Julia Roberts) in "Erin Brockovich" (2000). In his first full-blown romantic role, Eckhart exhibited an affable, easygoing nature and magnetic screen charisma; an appealing contrast to Roberts' gruff, foul-mouthed exterior. Reuniting with LaBute, he delivered an amusing performance as a sleazy used car salesman who neglects his sweet-natured spouse (Renee Zellweger) in "Nurse Betty" (2000). Sean Penn then tapped Eckhart to play a young detective partnered with a grizzled veteran (Jack Nicholson) on the verge of retirement in "The Pledge" (2001), before the actor reunited a fourth time with LaBute for "Possession" (2002). In LaBute's first book-to-screen adaptation, he played an academic researcher attempting to reconstruct the relationship between two Victorian-era authors with a London-based expert (Gwyneth Paltrow), sparking a romance despite their apprehensions. Eckhart then portrayed a geophysicist who - along with Hilary Swank and Bruce Greenwood - tries to detonate a nuclear device in order to jumpstart the Earth's electromagnetic forces and save the world from destruction in the low-thrills sci-fi action flick, "The Core" (2003).
Having tasted some success in big features, Eckhart sought the right role to elevate him to A-list status. He was underutilized as Cate Blanchett's ranch hand-cum-lover in Ron Howard's unsatisfying Western "The Missing" (2003), then as Ben Affleck's mysterious employer in the forgettable action thriller, "Paycheck" (2003). After a recurring stint on the final episodes of "Frasier" (NBC, 1993-2004), playing the oblivious boyfriend of Dr. Crane's matchmaker love interest (Laura Linney) who openly befriends his rival, Eckhart took center stage in the big screen thriller "Suspect Zero" (2004) as a disgraced FBI agent tracking a serial killer who murders other serial killers. He next starred in the independently made "Conversations with Other Women" (2006), playing an unnamed man whose encounter with a seeming stranger (Helena Bonham Carter) leads to a sexually-charged battle of wits, revealing a deep-rooted passion and a two decades-old love affair. Eckhart was gleefully provocative in "Thank You for Smoking" (2006), playing a lobbyist for Big Tobacco who spins and schemes his way through a maze of overzealous health advocates and opportunistic politicians while defending the rights of smokers. Eckhart's brash performance in Jason Reitman's satire earned big laughs at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, generating enough buzz for a good showing in its limited theatrical release.
After a cameo in LaBute's forgettable stab at horror, "The Wicker Man" (2006), Eckhart starred in "The Black Dahlia" (2006), Brian De Palma's take on James Ellroy's complicated and richly-textured noir thriller about two hard-edged cops (Eckhart and Josh Hartnett) who descend into obsession, corruption and sexual degeneracy as they investigate the brutal murder of would-be actress Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner), who was found tortured and vivisected in a vacant lot in Los Angeles. Though Eckhart gave a strong performance as an ex-pugilist-turned-homicide detective nicknamed Mr. Fire, audiences were left cold by De Palma's empty direction. After an easily dismissed turn as a freewheeling chef working for a no-nonsense master (Catherine Zeta-Jones) with whom he falls in love in "No Reservations" (2007), Eckhart appeared in Alan Ball's directorial debut, "Towelhead" (2008), an adaptation of Alicia Erian's novel about a 13-year-old Arab-American girl coping with alienation, paternal oppression, and her own emerging sexuality while growing up in Texas during the first Gulf War. That same year, Eckhart joined Batman's rogues' gallery in director Christopher Nolan's genre-shaking superhero sequel, "The Dark Knight" (2008), as Gotham City D.A. Harvey Dent, who, after being horribly disfigured in a brutal attack, becomes the schizophrenic madman, Two Face. Although overshadowed by the late Heath Ledger's terrifying, iconic embodiment of the Joker, Eckhart arguably delivered a more restrained and nuanced performance as the psychologically tormented crusader for justice-turned-cold-blooded killer.
In a departure from the grim violence of "The Dark Knight," Eckhart co-starred with Jennifer Aniston in the romantic drama "Love Happens" (2009), playing a motivational guru unsuccessfully coping with the recent loss of his beloved wife. The cliché-ridden tale of moving on with one's life failed to inspire critics and audiences, however, leaving theaters shortly after its arrival. Eckhart next returned to the theme of loss, although with a more somber tone and higher-caliber material, in the heart-wrenching drama, "Rabbit Hole" (2010), based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire, and directed by John Cameron Mitchell. For his role as a husband dealing with the aftermath of his son's death in a very different manner from that of his emotionally restrained wife (Nicole Kidman), Eckhart was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead. Switching gears once again, Eckhart next appeared as a Marine platoon leader defending the City of Angels from an alien invasion in the blockbuster sci-fi adventure "Battle: Los Angeles" (2011).
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CAST: (feature film)
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"We both like to explore the darker side of humanity. I have no interest in doing 'Touched By an Angel.' I like it when guys are down and out and fighting against life and they don't always make it."---Eckhart on his affinity with Neil LaBute, to the San Francisco Chronicle, August 16, 1998.
"I don't think it's impossible to have a relationship. I think it's complicated. I think we never reach our human potential to love. I think the need for sex overrides the capacity to love. I feel like as long as that happens, we're doomed. Love is what we should be after, instead of this physical gyration."---Eckhart to Cindy Pearlman of the Chicago Sun-Times, August 16, 1998.
"I just want to do what it takes to embody a character in a way that is different from what I did last time. I mean, why play the same guy?"---Aaron Eckhart quoted in W, March 2000.
"I'm not good at auditioning. I'm not a good salesman."---Eckhart to Movieline, October 2000.
"My life right now is my dog and my job. I know that one day the rest will follow."---Eckhart to People, September 9, 2002.
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