"This is the little boy dream," Eckhart said during an exclusive interview with RedEye. "When I first got into acting I did so because I wanted to feel something. And I still want that. I always want to be as close as I can to my characters. I remember the [costume] fitting for this movie. I put [on the uniform] and it makes you stand differently and everything … Every day I put it on I felt like a warrior."
A warrior he is. Eckhart plays Marine Staff Sgt. Michael Nance, who leads his men in a fight for survival against a gnarly band of aliens trying to destroy L.A. The film, which hits theaters Friday, is inspired by an alleged alien air raid that many at the time believe took place in L.A. in 1942.
The film has plenty of aliens, but Eckhart sees it more as a war film than a sci-fi thriller.
"It's interesting with this movie," he said. "There's a reason why, there are the conflicts and the contradictions and it all goes together in the same suit. It's an interesting little package."
Eckhart's the complete package. His resume—which includes films such as "Any Given Sunday," "Thank Your For Smoking," "Erin Brockovich" and "The Dark Knight," is as eclectic at the man himself. Born in California, Eckhart spent some time in England and Australia before returning to the states to study film at Brigham Young University in Utah.
Eckhart has gone back-and-forth from big budget flicks to indies throughout his career, but says that he often prefers the latter because they're more "intense" and spiritually fulfilling.
"In indies everyone is usually sacrificing to get the film made," said Eckhart, who turns 43 on Saturday. "The box-office movies are more of a job. The financial payoff is better but I will easily turn down all that and take no money for better material. I have to live with myself. When you're out there acting you still have to be truthful, you have to prepare."
Despite that opinion, Eckhart says he takes "this big popcorn movie" as seriously an independent film.
Part of his preparation for "Battle: Los Angeles" included six weeks of boot camp, which Eckhart enjoyed. "I love being physical," he said.
He also dug the fact that it's not a green-screen movie. They used rubber rounds in real firearms, they crashed helicopters, they blew things up. And yes, Eckhart really did get hurt. He broke his arm during shooting while attempting a "Michael Jordan-type" move during a battle scene.
But it was all for a movie he says he's very proud of. "I have great hopes for this film," he said. "I'm hoping that if it does do business that I'll be able to profit from that—not in terms of money but doing other films that I want to do. It's been a hard road." MIKI TURNER IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR
On reprising his role as Harvey Dent in Batman:
"I was just with [director] Chris [Nolan] two days ago. Apparently, they're already in production and I haven't gotten my call time! I said to him about a month ago that people are killing me [by asking] this. Am I coming back or not? He looked at me and said, 'No.' With Heath [Ledger] dying and everything, that was our movie and now Chris is going to create something else."
"I don't take part so much in all the benefits of movie stardom. I keep to myself and don't participate much in the Hollywood thing, so I probably deprive myself of a lot of interesting experiences. The worst thing about it is that sometimes—and this is true of other businesses—your drive to keep it alive deprives the other sides of your life. You sit there and say, 'Where did my 30s go? I was traveling, I was making movies.'"
"When I did 'Dark Knight,' I had never been to Chicago. I thought Chicago gets a bad rap because it's so cold and windy. We were there in the summer and omigod, it's beautiful. I did so much in Chicago outside of the film. I would go down to the lake and run and swim everyday. I'd take my camera—I'm an avid photographer—and I'd go deep, deep into wherever walking miles and miles, taking pictures of kids playing in the fire hydrants. I really got some good stuff. Mostly what I found charming about the city is the girls—not girls like being a devil—but there are tons of young people all around. I thought if I was a young dude needing a girlfriend, I would go to Chicago!"
"I think we'll all kill each other before something outside gets us! I think we need to be looking a little closer to home … I don't rule it out."