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Why Hollywood Won't Cast Aaron Eckhart Anymore

Aaron Eckhart may have a familiar name and face, but he's never quite reached the same level of fame or acclaim enjoyed by some of his peers. The actor's dramatic turns in films like Erin Brockovich, Thank You for Smoking, and Rabbit Hole helped establish him, and he's also been part of some serious commercial successes in films like The Dark Knight and Sully. He's also been in his fair share of stinkers — and plagued by some potentially career-altering off-camera issues that, to his credit, he's completely willing to cop to.

In recent years, Hollywood has seemed to cool on Eckhart a bit. Although he has no trouble finding steady work, it's been awhile since we've seen him in the type of of prestige project that informed his earlier career, and his marquee draw also appears to be in severe decline. Why has Hollywood been giving Aaron Eckhart the cold shoulder? Let's take a look at some of the reasons his career has been so hit-or-miss lately.

Big budget bombs

Apart from The Dark Knight, which featured Eckhart in a supporting role as Harvey Dent, a.k.a. "Two-Face," Eckhart has been a central star in several action films that failed to impress. In 2003, he starred in The Core, a disaster film that was a spectacular failure with critics and ticket-buyers alike. The same year, he was also part of Paycheck, a sci-fi actioner that was overwhelmingly panned and fared little better with audiences. Although neither film rested squarely on his shoulders, the streak continued with Battle: Los Angeles, an alien invasion thriller that was also roundly panned by critics while barely making any money at the box office.

Even Olympus Has Fallen and its sequel London Has Fallen were only moderately successful at the ticket booth and certainly did nothing to raise Eckhart's Rotten Tomatoes average. Perhaps the most stinging rebuke of his bankability in the genre came in 2014 with his starring vehicle I, Frankenstein, which was absolutely torched in the reviews and made back less than a third of its production budget domestically. Eckhart might have action star looks, but despite several notable efforts, he's simply been unable to prove his blockbuster muster.

Carving out a film identity

As evidenced by his action struggles, Eckhart has had trouble pinning down a comfort zone in the movie industry. While some actors default to certain character types and only make forays into other genres once they've established themselves, Eckhart has been across the board with his role selections — from quirky indie films (Meet Bill) to sports dramas (My All-American) to romantic comedies (No Reservations) and biopics (Bleed for This), he's dabbled in a little bit of everything, and even Eckhart himself would call that a problem for his movie star momentum.

"I wouldn't trust me to make the right choice," he admitted to Newsweek. "I feel like I'm still going to make a lot of mistakes because I like to try different things and be diverse and challenge myself in different ways." His decades of experience in the business have helped to shape some of his decisions going forward — "I'm able to manage myself better, control my emotions and I think that will help me," he told the publication — but there are some other choices he's made to hinder his own progress along the way.

Rewriting a reputation

Eckhart openly says he's earned a reputation for being difficult to work with. The actor admitted to The Guardian that he once took out his professional frustrations on an extra, saying, "There was the quintessential lashing out. I was doing a monologue I was unsure about, and I've got an extra who was paid to be there ... he was falling asleep, and I said something. Because you think about the labor of so many people, and it's like: 'Can we maybe stay awake?'"

He insists he's since made an effort to forge a relationship with the extras he'll work with, but he's also admitted to having to control his behavior around more well-known co-stars. "I have a terrible reputation. I'm just too intense for people," he told The Telegraph, saying he's "competitive" with other actors and "[picks] them apart." He often finds the odd man out among peers. "I'm a loner," he explained. "I don't affiliate myself with groups."

Always the bridesmaid

Despite his conventional good looks — a strong jaw and a muscular form among his more traditionally handsome leading man attributes — and formidable screen skills, Aaron Eckhart has never quite been seen as boasting star power.

In a chat with Vanity Fair, he pointed to his non-mainstream status as the reason he's lost some roles that he wanted. "If you can't get on the covers of magazines, and they don't know your name, then you're not offered the movies that you really want to do," he said. "There are movies out there that I want to do, that I'm just not able to do. [...] I've had top guys say it: 'Aaron, I would put you in anything, but, you know, it's my job to go out there and move that needle.'" 

Of course, there are deep-seated reasons he hasn't been gunning for the A-list. As he explained it, "I could have a much better career than I do right now if I were more of a people person. Those things just don't come naturally to me. So I have to challenge myself more in those ways — I'm not happy with my career. I feel like I have much more to give, and I feel like I need to have more courage, and to get out there and take more chances."

A deceptive look

Eckhart's talent has never been in doubt. In fact, he's been so convincing in his debonair bad-guy roles that it's been hard to break away from that image. Eckhart was booed by audiences at a question and answer series for one of his earliest films, 1997's In the Company of Men, because they were upset by his performance as a cruel corporate boss who schemes to emotionally torment a deaf woman just for kicks. "People hated me," he told The Herald of the role. "I took a lot of heat for that movie. Still do."

His performance as a schmoozy tobacco industry lobbyist in Thank You for Smoking was similarly convincing — to the point that some felt he was the only actor who could portray such a loathsome character with such bitterly charming results. Even his well-received performance as Harvey Dent was marked with an arc toward villainy.

 In other words, Eckhart may look like he's made to be the hero, but he seems to get a much better critical response to roles with a devious bent. Those parts don't come around every day, and he's also actively trying to avoid typecasting himself. "I don't like playing bad guys," he told The Guardian. "I've got more to offer than just playing the bad guy."

Getting into the game

Aaron Eckhart's lack of recent magazine covers has a lot to do with the fact that his personal life isn't terribly paparazzi-friendly. There was that one time he was rumored to be dating Jennifer Aniston, but for the most part, he doesn't court a lot of attention with his off-camera activities.

For Eckhart, navigating the critical and such commercial elements of the business has been particularly tricky, but he's learning to adjust his approach "I have such a greater appreciation now for what it takes to be in this position in terms of having a critically acclaimed movie and a movie that performs in the box office, and so I'm just relishing it," he told The Los Angeles Times in late 2016. "I'm just having fun with it. I'm looking on Twitter. I would have never done that before." Put simply, Eckhart may have resisted the personal promotion aspects of the profession in the past, to the potential detriment of his marquee status, but he does seem ready to take a more active role in shaping his career.

Promising projects

Eckhart's time in the spotlight is nowhere near done, and he has quite a few things lined up that could finally allow him to capitalize on his potential to become a household name — including a prominent role in Matthew Weiner's new anthology series The Romanoffs, which features a bevy of top actors in a zany dramedy about the hopeful heirs of the once-royal Romanov lineage.

He'll also star in Roland Emmerich's next big feature — in the midst of another talent-heavy cast — about the Battle of Midway in World War II, and he's expected to star in a gritty police thriller called Live!, which will feature him as an officer racing the clock to save his boss' daughter after he eliminates her captor. The concept might seem well-worn on its face, but there's a catch that might help distinguish this film from others: the movie is expected to present its events with a real-time pace to ratchet up the suspense of the story.

A new path forward?

On top of the film and TV gigs Aaron Eckhart has on deck, he's also eyeing a few other projects. For starters, he's expressed an interest in returning to the stage. "The guys that I admire are going between big, small, and theater," he told Vanity Fair. "I think my new resolution is [that] I've gotta get back to New York and I've gotta start doing more theater."

More recently, he's also expressed an interest in stepping behind the lens. After working with some of his idols — namely, Tom Hanks and director Clint Eastwood for Sully — he's ready to see what he can do as a storyteller. "I'm trying to find something to direct," he told The Independent. "I want to see if I can impress myself. I'm 48, I've had a good education and I've learned so much from these great directors and actors that I want to see if I can tell a story." He may have weathered his share of career setbacks over the years, but fans should stay tuned for what's next — Aaron Eckhart is far from finished trying new things.