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Lean, mean fighting machine


TORONTO — The lumbering, sewn-together corpse known as Frankenstein’s monster has been totally recreated for Aaron Eckhart’s latest film, the fantasy-action thriller, I, Frankenstein.

And if purists balk at the super-hero twists worked into the modern-day creature — who is more square-jawed than square-headed and surprisingly agile as he battles supernatural demons with martial arts flips and blows — the Thank You For Smoking star isn’t interested.

“I don’t care,” Eckhart says in a recent stop in Toronto. “This is Hollywood.”

Such flights into fancy are what movie-making is all about, he says, noting the new take also involves a world secretly populated by centuries-old warrior gargoyles and power-hungry demons.

“It’s a reimagining, it’s a reintroduction of the monster of Frankenstein into modern times and into a whole new universe,” says Eckhart, who read Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein as a kid.

“We decided to make it a little more active, a little more violent, dynamic, a lean, mean fighting machine, and give him some new challenges.”

Boris Karloff, step aside. You too, Fred Gwynne.

Eckhart’s unnatural monster is chiselled and buff, and he’s 200 years old.

Inspired by the graphic novel I, Frankenstein, the story here picks up with the death of the creature’s creator, Victor Frankenstein, and zooms ahead to modern-day times to find the man-made monster still alive and reluctantly drawn into a battle between heaven-sent gargoyles and evil demons from below.

Eckhart says he spent six months beefing up his physique and learning Kali stick fighting to convincingly carry out the numerous battle scenes.

But amid all that fighting, Frankenstein’s monster continues to face even greater demons internally, he notes.

“The core is there from Mary Shelley — he’s rejected by his father, he’s unwanted, unloved,” says Eckhart, also known for playing Harvey Dent/Two Face, in The Dark Knight.

“He’s created technologically, you could say, that’s very much there, which is sort of giving him new issues and he’s still looking for love, he’s looking for his purpose in life, he doesn’t know how to trust kindness so that’s there. But we’ve just given him a different environment.”

The heavy fantasy elements meant a lot of green-screen work for the 45-year-old actor, which Eckhart says isn’t as difficult as it’s sometimes made out to be.

“As an actor, that’s your job. In the theatre you have to create the fourth wall, you know, you have to create what’s out in the audience and all that sort of stuff so it really should be nothing new to actors.”

Performing since age 13, Eckhart says he’s learned to embrace every genre out there in order to build a diverse, life-long career.

That includes the weepy romance Love Happens, the high-octane blow-em-up Battle Los Angeles, his indie breakout In the Company of Men and the dense relationship drama Rabbit Hole.

“I made the decision early on to, at the end of my career, to look back at my career and say: ‘I made a lot of films. Some are good, some were bad but I had a lot of experiences, I challenged myself in different ways,”’ says Eckhart, who adds that he hopes to one day direct and produce.

“If you’re too precious in life you exclude yourself from certain experiences and you don’t know (what will happen).

“Moviemaking is such a crapshoot anyway. You could be working with (the) best director, best cinematographer and still, the movie sucks. So it’s better just to get out there and try new things and see what works.”

I, Frankenstein opens Friday.

 
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