Olympus Has Fallen (2013) - Aaron Eckhart, Gerard Butler, Angela Bassett and Robert Forster
Olympus Has Fallen (2013) - President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), Secret Service Director Lynn Jacobs (Angela Bassett) and General Edward Clegg (Robert Forster) ©2013 Film District

In Antoine Fuqua’s new non-stop thriller Olympus Has Fallen, Aaron Eckhart portrays President Benjamin Asher. Usually playing the leader of the free world would be considered a power trip and fun. But in this movie the White House is overtaken by a terrorist organization, and President Asher is captured and, along with members of his staff, is seriously mistreated, while former Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) attempts to save them.

Aaron Eckhart spoke about the movie and his role at the press day in New York.

Do you think the movie’s scenario is possible?

Olympus Has Fallen (2013) - Aaron Eckhart
President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) ©2013 Film District

[The audience] is watching terrorists take the White House and we need them to believe that it is possible. We had great advisors and consultants on the film helping us to be as truthful as possible.

Antoine is so good with action, so I think the audience is going to get a real kick in the pants.

You’ve never played the President before, what was that experience like?

I was interested in making him a heroic character. Asher is a tough guy, even though in this film he is pretty badly abused. I love action movies, and this is just straight-up, full-on, full-tilt action, which I liked being a part of.

We wanted to establish that this was a youthful president, that he had a young family, that he had everything to look forward to in life. A JFK-type guy, who could be effortless and yet be commanding at the same time.

Did you like the fact that President Asher fights back?

Olympus Has Fallen (2013) - Aaron Eckhart and Ashley Judd
President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and Margaret Asher (Ashley Judd) ©2013 Film District

Antoine didn’t want a President that once he was captured would be a dead fish, he wanted somebody who was going to fight back.

Is that why there was a boxing scene between President Asher and Mike Banning at the beginning of the movie?

It’s a very important scene that establishes that and it gave me permission to be physical when I was captured. like the head-butt or being defiant, or taking a punch.

How hard was it to wear those handcuffs throughout the movie?

Olympus Has Fallen (2013) - Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart
Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) and President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) ©2013 Film District

To be immobilized and yet stay so connected was a challenge. As an actor you want to feel that you’re actually in the circumstances that they put you in, so I had to be in those cuffs for 8 hours a day, if not more. I didn’t [want] them to take them off me.

I would go home and my arms would be numb. But it was good, because then your imagination takes over and you start figuring out ways to make it work to your advantage, ‘What can I do with my legs?

Olympus Has Fallen (2013) - Rick Yune and Aaron Eckhart
Kang (Rick Yune) and President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) ©2013 Film District

I can head-butt him. ‘There’s a lot you can do. It was quite exciting coming up with ways to be vulnerable and to be strong at the same time.

We get hit and kicked around pretty good. It was important to me to maintain the integrity and strength of the office, while waiting for Gerry’s character to save the day.

Aaron’s character is shot in this movie. Click below to listen to his interesting anecdote about that scene and director Antoine Fuqua.

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Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.