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INTERVIEW: Aaron Eckhart Talks Wander, Conspiracy, and Working With Another Two-Face

Aaron Eckhart as Arthur in Wander

Wander is the type of movie that you think you have figured out, but you’re never really sure. It’s based in the world of a conspiracy theorist named Arthur (Aaron Eckhart), who is convinced that the death of his daughter was not just some accident, and with the help of his friend Jimmy (Tommy Lee Jones), he starts to unpack the truth.

True to the nature of the film, my phone conversation with star Aaron Eckhart was filled with conspiracy theories, exploring Arthur as a character, and, well, trying to figure out how many faces two Two-Faces would have.

THE MARY SUE: I love movies that leave an overall ambiguity to the overall story and I think Wander does a very good job, especially towards the end, of leading you down a path where you’re not entirely sure what to believe and what not to believe. So as an actor and a performer, when you’re given a script like this, is that something that is easier to digest or do you just have to approach it from that specific character’s point of view?

AARON ECKHART: Yeah, I mean, you’re the character. For example, I knew that Jimmy was going to screw me because I read it in the script but I can’t think about that when I’m in a scene with Jimmy and we’re best friends. I read this script and I loved it, I loved the journey that Arthur takes, I love the conspiracy aspects of it. I love the relationships that go bad and the fact that he’s taking care of his wife. There’s so many great things about Arthur: his quest for truth and what he’s willing to give up for it. You know, in life, honestly, do we know, really, that we have the total loyalty of our friends and our family? Do we question sometimes people motives, etc.? So we get a little feeling of that.

And, you know, it’s surprising, especially when you have this much power and this much money at stake and this nefarious activity they’re doing with the nanochipping, people will turn on their family and friends for money and for power and we see that in this movie. And they get addicted to that money and that power and they lose feeling for humanity, for others. And that’s where Jimmy’s at. And we can see it in our daily lives with what’s going on in the news and that these people don’t have my best interest at heart and what am I willing to do about that. That’s what I liked about this movie, I like Arthur and the fact that everybody thought that he was crazy but, in the end, his conspiracy, actually, was true. I like the fact that he obeyed his instincts about this accident that killed his daughter and put his wife in the hospital. The fact that he knew that it wasn’t an organic accident, that it was manufactured, and he couldn’t get to the bottom of it and people thought he was crazy and thought he was paranoid and all that sort of stuff.

But at the end of the day, it wasn’t. And if we trust our instincts, we can get to the heart of the matter and the truth and there’s a lot to play in this character and I really enjoy it.

THE MARY SUE: I do want to talk about all of those relationships because I think they’re really interesting but I do have to say, as a nerd, I loved watching you and Tommy Lee Jones because I was like “Oh my god, it’s two Two-Faces” and the more I got into those characters, those relationships are so interesting to me because-

AARON ECKHART: [laughs] We make one face.

THE MARY SUE: Or, I said that to my co-worker when I was getting ready for this and she said “Four Faces”!

AARON ECKHART: No, wait a second. Yeah, four faces or one complete face. Or two complete faces? You’re smarter than I am, I can’t figure that out. You know, it’s funny about that, I don’t know if Tommy and I actually talked about that. Someone said it one time but we didn’t really talk about that.

THE MARY SUE: Well yeah, it’s just interesting because I’m a nerd and have all that knowledge somewhat and so I’m watching stuff and it’s like, “Hey, they were both Two-Face, they were both Harvey Dent, that’s cool.”

AARON ECKHART: There are only a few people in this world who have played Harvey Dent and two of them are in this movie. The great thing is that Tommy is a great actor and he can transform himself. I mean, he’s a world class actor and it was a pleasure to work with him and for him to be Jimmy because he’s so good at being stone cold, as he is in the end, so we had a lot of fun.

THE MARY SUE: That relationship is really interesting for me because you see these conspiracy theory YouTube channels or wherever they are and there’s always these two guys who are very interested in whatever they are talking about. But now looking at it from a standpoint of like “One of them is going to betray the other” now I’m like “I don’t trust any of these conspiracy theory pages now becuse I don’t know that one isn’t going to hurt the other.”

AARON ECKHART: I mean, think about humanity. And think about how these two guys can look like they’re best friends but one guy is knowingly going to stab him in the back and taking advantage of him. It is interesting. You know, as I get older, the adage comes to mind “Trust no one.” You know? Trust no one. You always have to be looking over your back. And the only thing that you have in your back pocket is truth. And that’s true of Arthur. You know, even though they’re trying to kill him and they took away his family and they basically ostrachized him out into an airstream in the middle of the Mexican desert. He has no friends, he has no money, he has no income, no livelihood, he’s scraping around and the only thing he’s got is his dog and even his best friend is a shark. It’s a sad world.

THE MARY SUE: Yeah and from a performing, I really like the physicality you bring to Arthur. Like when he’s in Wander, there’s a different way he’s moving about the city and so when you’re doing something like that with a character like Arthur, can you talk a bit about that process?

AARON ECKHART: Yeah, Wander was a great city. We were in a…I don’t even know if it had a stoplight. We were in a very small town in the middle of the desert in New Mexico and that all plays on your mind. You know? All that is real stuff. All those people are locals. All those buildings and those trains that are going off into nowhere, the hot skies and the big thunder clouds, you know? And then you have the Native American element, the history of it, the ritual of it, and it all soaks into the film. It soaks into the crew, you know? It soaks into the drivers. So it bleeds into you and it’s very important that the movie be made in a place like this. It effects the acting and the actors and you just look around and you have nowhere to hide. You can go into your trailer but you can’t go into your trailer, you know? You’re out there with the dust and the wind and all the elements, that gets into your eyes, it gets into your skin.

I did not have hair or make-up, basically, on this movie whatsoever. I said, “No, I don’t want it.” I would just pick up, when I got to work, I would pick up a handful of New Mexican dirt and just put it in my hair. And just rub it in my hair and all over my face and that was my hair and make-up for the day. And it works, so I wanted Arthur to be as organic as he possibly could. I, myself, lived in a small house in the middle of the desert during this filming and April, the director, she made it possible for me to live that life as Arthur off-screen. You know, whenever Arthur sees the train and “TRAINNNNN,” that was something that came because the trains were all around us all the time. So I think Arthur loves trains but they’re scary to him. They frighten him, they’re part of that power that goes off into the distance, and so that incorporated itself into the movie and it was just all around us all the time.

You know, they wanted to do this movie in Toronto and I said, there’s no way. There’s no way we can make this movie in Toronto, this movie has to be made in New Mexico because New Mexico is the starring character in the movie.

THE MARY SUE: Like you just said, this movie is so key to that area especially with the conspiracy theory aspect of it because whenever we think of the not “California” west but the Arizona/Nevada/New Mexico area we think of all the different conspiracy theories that exist in that area and so is that, obviously it helped you get into the mind of the character but-

AARON ECKHART: Yeah, well, look at it. You have Area 51, so there’s aliens- I am convinced that when I was, I don’t know, I was 21 or 22, I was in a riverbed, 3 AM, in New Mexico, and I saw a flying saucer. And you can’t convince me I didn’t.

THE MARY SUE: Oh I will not. I love aliens so I’m incredibly invested in this now.

AARON ECKHART: I was in it with my friend and we rushed home because the thing was obviously thousands of miles away but we thought it was coming after us, right? So we rushed home and we called the airport and we said “Hey, do you see this thing in the sky” and they said yeah and we go “What is it” and they say “We don’t know.” [laughs] Yeah. So of course, all those things when you get out there with the flat ground and the heat and the stars and when you’re by yourself, it’s either very medicinal or it’s very scary. And it played a huge role.

And, you know, you have conspiracies but listen to this: When you have that many people seeing things out in the desert around a particular area, through decades, and they have all this documentation on it and then you have a government area where you’re not allowed in, that they fly the people in there, and nobody can talk about it, is it really a conspiracy theory? [laughs] Why are they hiding it? If there’s nothing out there, why are they hiding it? And that’s the thing you have to ask yourself about everything and that’s what Arthur does.

I always say, the words “conspiracy theory” is a great way to shut down the conversation. If you don’t want anyone to talk about it, you call someone a conspiracy theorist. Because right then, you’re ridiculing him and stopping the conversation. But if you continued that conversation with an open mind, you’d probably learn a lot of things you didn’t know before that turned out to be true. And that’s what Arthur is dealing with in the movie and it turns out to be true.

Wander is now available in theaters, digital and VOD.

(image: Saban Films)

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Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. A writer her whole life but professionally starting back in 2016 who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.