Exclusive: Aaron Eckhart Talks About Humanity and Violence in 'I, Frankenstein'


Frankenstein [Aaron Eckhart] is the latest member to join the anti-hero club. The supernatural flick I, Frankenstein finds the lonely monster, now called Adam, searching for both a purpose in life and a companion. That personal journey becomes derailed when he gets dragged into a centuries-old war between good and evil, and must side with gargoyles in order to stop a demon army from destroying mankind.

Eckhart recently spoke to me about putting a fresh spin on the classic Universal monster and ramping up the action.

Will Adam be struggling with his humanity in “I, Frankenstein?”

In this film, we’re dealing with other issues such as good versus evil, and demons and gargoyles. This film goes in a little bit of a different direction. There’s a battle for immortality, but always through the lens of the monster and how people react to the monster. It’s interesting how people who feel a certain way gravitate towards others who feel the same way. In the beginning of the movie, we find the monster amongst his own kind, in a way. As he evolves, he finds himself with a different kind of people. It shows the progression of the monster. Now, just having scars on your face or your body…A lot of people get in accidents and have scars. It certainly doesn’t mean that you’re a monster. It’s how you come to relate to the outside world as they relate to you.

What is Adam’s weapon of choice against the demons?

It’s Kali stick fighting. He has to defend himself against this evil force, the demons. In our story, the curse that Victor Frankenstein put on his son, basically the Frankenstein monster, is immortality. The fact that Adam has to go through time never really finding joy and never fitting in and living forever… That’s really what Hell is all about. He has to defend himself against these people who want to figure out how he is living without a heart or a soul, so he’s picked up Kali stick fighting.

It was something I had no reference to before and then I was thrown into it and became pretty adept at it. The fighting sequences in the movie are all me doing my own stunts, along with the other actors. It’s pretty cool to see.

Is there any wirework in the fight choreography?

Yeah, there’s a lot of jumping over cars. When something ascends or is killed, it goes up to heaven. I was on the wire, as well as Yvonne <Strahovski> and other actors. Having done Underworld, the producers are very good at this sort of thing.

This seems to be your most physical role to date.

I would say so. From beginning to end, it was pretty hardcore in terms of the training and having to learn a martial art so quickly and intensely. Director Stuart Beattie wanted it where you’re not cutting to a professional and then cutting back to my face. It’s me doing everything. The shoot itself was very difficult with a lot of filming at night. Hopefully it’s all in the movie and pays off. It’s 3D and IMAX, so it should be exciting for the audience.

How do you feel about the current 3D trend?

I appreciate the audience is going to see it in a very visceral way. That’s cool. I’m getting old, so I just like a good story. A good story trumps everything. I do like the fact people are going to see it on an enormous screen and are going to see the action coming out at them. This is the perfect movie because you’re talking about two sticks flying towards their faces. The gargoyles and demons are going to be flying everywhere. I think viewers are going to get a pretty good ride.

What kind of villain is Bill Nighy’s character, Naberius?

He’s the evil genius and is trying to take over the world. Bill is a tremendous actor with a reservoir of emotion inside of him. When he unleashes it, it’s spectacular. He commands the demons and he’s after one thing and one thing only.

Can you talk about Adam’s relationship with Terra [Yvonne Strahovski]? Why was that dynamic so important in rounding out the character?

You are talking about a man who children literally flee from. Nobody would house him. He’s basically homeless living on the street. Now, here’s someone willing to look in his eyes and not run away, and who has warmth and kind words for him. It’s the first time he feels any sort of reciprocation. It’s an important revelation not only for Adam, but the audience, in order to see he’s capable of love and that he has these thoughts. The classic monster is he’s ugly, inside and out, and that he has no concept of love. That’s just not the case with Adam. He wants to love; he just has to find someone willing to accept him. He finally finds that in Terra.

Terra is a scientist who is summoned by Bill Nighy’s character, Naberius, to find immortality and be able to reanimate corpses. That’s her lifelong dream. When she meets Adam, Terra sees that it exists and it’s true and she can study Adam. It eventually helps him.

How has it been dealing with computer animation on this level?

For an actor, it helps to have theatre in your past because you really have to imagine it. You have to get real specific with the director and say, “What exactly am I seeing and where exactly is it?” They have to paint a specific picture. Otherwise, the eyes get too glossy and all the actors aren’t looking at the same spot. Stuart knows this world so well that it was never really a problem. But we did a lot of practical work too. I think where the CGI comes in is creating this other world. It’s really creating the backdrops and cityscapes.   

This is a new genre for you. What have you enjoyed about stepping into the supernatural world?

Just that anything goes. There’s never a “no.” Stuart came up with all these rules and how this world worked and what was permissible and what wasn’t and why. I find that interesting. There was how the demons go down and are killed. You’re talking about something that is pure imagination. There’s no precedence for this or prototype. This is all coming from Stuart’s imagination, which I think is fascinating as well.

The genre crowd is extremely vocal. What are you hoping they get out of this movie?

I’ll probably hear about it on twitter, the good and the bad. First and foremost, they have to be entertained. I hope that they feel like it’s a story well done. I hope they enjoy the thematics of it because Stuart really intertwined a lot of archetypal themes. Mostly, I just want them to be entertained.