Aaron Eckhart Tried To Portray Controversial ‘Towelhead’ Character As A ‘Human Being’

Plus: 'Dark Knight' actor isn't in favor of recasting Joker for future Batman flicks.

It’s somewhat ironic that Aaron Eckhart’s latest film, “Towelhead,” is being attacked by some groups for its title. The title may very well be one of the least incendiary things about the flick, which was written and directed by Alan Ball and follows a 13-year-old Arab girl who is raped by her older neighbor.

That the film itself manages to be sweet and poignant is surely a testament to Eckhart, who plays the vile neighbor, Mr. Vuoso, with a Two-Face -esque mixture of evil and confusion. Eckhart recently chatted with MTV News to give us some insight on playing a pedophile and filming sex scenes with an underage girl. He also gave us lots and lots on “The Dark Knight,” including his thoughts on the themes of this summer’s highest-grossing movie .

MTV: Actors are famous for saying that they never judge their characters. This is the part of the interview where I’ll allow you to judge your character.

Aaron Eckhart: [Laughs.] Well, they say it for a reason. I think it behooves an actor to love their character and only judge in retrospect. Therefore, you allow the audience to judge them as a human being.

MTV: You’re not judging, so do you think in some messed-up way that Mr. Vuoso actually loves Jasira?

Eckhart: Yes.

MTV: He truly wants to be with a 13-year-old girl?

Eckhart: Yes. And I think that is less messed-up than the other way, because if you play him just as a predator, then [his actions] would just be malicious and demented. But I think because he has such a dead-end life at home with his wife and his kid and his job that Jasira awakens the inner child in him. That makes it more palatable because then age doesn’t really play as big a role in it. If you can believe that he fell in love with her, you would say, “OK, I can understand that.” The other way is just incomprehensible.

MTV: The sex scenes in this movie are quite powerful but not erotic — how did you navigate that line?

Eckhart: Those were difficult times for me. The way I did it was to really trust Alan. It was in the words. I really trusted Summer [Bishil, who plays Jasira], and I tried to get her to trust me, to build a relationship when we were doing physical scenes. We’d really rehearse them mechanically, and I’d say, “OK, I’m going to put my hand here, I’m going to do this.” She was so good-humored about the whole thing and well-adjusted. I think I found it more difficult.

MTV: Is there a lesson to her story? This is one of the few instances I’ve ever seen in any sort of fiction where the character becomes empowered through this type of tragedy.

Eckhart: Yeah, that’s a good point. I don’t know. I’m not great at messages. I always flunked thematic poetry in school. [Laughs.] But I think the lesson is that we can get through it.

MTV: One more thematic question for you …

Eckhart: You’re gonna flunk me!

MTV: No, you’re going to pass with flying colors! I want to ask about “The Dark Knight.” There’s been a lot of talk about the subtextual themes of the film — that it’s supporting fascism somehow because Batman uses extraordinary rendition and sonar devices and wiretapping. Is that a subtextual message you agree with?

Eckhart: Oh my goodness! Well, I agree with you in a way. I mean, if you break “The Dark Knight” down, it’s vigilantism. You’re talking about a guy who takes the law into his own hands and [uses] extraordinary means to control crime in the city. You know, I just think it makes for good drama. You need to stop reading those message boards!

MTV: I can’t help myself.

Eckhart: My dad tells me about all these discussions that are going on about the characters and the subtext and stuff. It’s fun.

MTV: But you don’t see any of that?

Eckhart: Well, of course I see a lot of it. When I read “Dark Knight” for the first time, I saw a lot of political issues . Obviously today’s culture seeped in. I mean, it’s a mirror of our time. But I don’t think there was any conscious effort by [director Christopher Nolan] to tackle any contemporary issues or problems.

MTV: So to the message-board posters saying “Batman is a Republican” …

Eckhart: I don’t think Chris would agree. That wasn’t the intention.

MTV: Do you think at this point, based on the end of the film, that Batman can find redemption? Would you like to see a third movie?

Eckhart: Of course! I mean, there’s gonna be many more. You’re talking to a person who knows nothing about it or has no power whatsoever, but I do think Chris and his brother have more to say. I mean, people love the movie. Um, Harvey, I’m sure, is dead . Unfortunately, we are not going to see the Joker again.

MTV: So you would be against recasting that role?

Eckhart: [Sighs.] Oh, God, I never even heard of that one. I think that Heath [Ledger] did such a great job. There are so many other characters that you [could] go with.

Check out everything we’ve got on “Towelhead.”

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