With Mary Shelley's 1818 novel Frankenstein, the English storyteller unleashed one of mankind's most memorable monsters. The reanimated corpse created by Victor Frankenstein made his film debut in 1910 in the 16-minute short "Frankenstein." Since then, this creature has appeared in a long list of feature films, portrayed by the likes of Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Peter Boyle, and Robert De Niro. Tomorrow, as I, Frankenstein hits theaters, the film's star Aaron Eckhart will join their ranks, and with a proud tradition of adding empathy to the tale of this misunderstood monster.
Based on the graphic novel by Underworld co-creator Kevin Grevioux, I, Frankenstein follows the monster's journey from an 18th century cemetery to a contemporary dystopia where two immortal clans are engaged in a brutal war that will determine the future--or lack thereof--of the human race. Eckhart was tasked with the tricky role of giving life to Adam, A.K.A. Frankenstein's monster. Last weekend in New York City, he sat down with me to discuss how he prepared for his contribution to Frankenstein's ever-expanding legacy and gave some hints as to what he has coming up next.
Eckhart shared that the rich history of Frankenstein didn't intimidate him, but energized him in this portrayal. "I don't know how the cinematic incarnation of Frankenstein came about with the bolts and the square head, " he told me, "In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, he's very sensitive; he's caring. He's cursed with this (gesturing to his face) and his upbringing. He's just a man looking for love, and life and his purpose. I really resonated with that. I think that's what we tried to dwell on with this script: a man looking for his purpose."
One of the more controversial aspects of this new interpretation of this classic horror story is just how un-atrocious I, Frankenstein's monster man appears. For Eckhart, the mellowed scars were a key part of the character. Asked about how the look for this modern monster came about, he explained:
"I was in the conversation. I wasn't certainly the final say. But we all got together. You know, he's a much more active, energetic, he's a dynamic character and we needed everything--his clothes, his makeup--everything to reflect that. He's a lean, mean fighting machine. So, we decided on the scars. He is the protagonist and so we wanted him to be presentable but also to show his history, where he comes from, how he came. So that was basically through the scarring and the stitching. I don't think he's ugly; I just think he's interesting. I think we did a pretty good job with that."
Of course, I, Frankenstein isn't the only horror story Eckhart has upcoming. Also set for 2014 is Incarnate, a thriller from horror impresario Jason Blum, who has produced such hits as Paranormal Activity, Insidious, and The Purge. Incarnate is a possession drama written by Passengers' scribe Ronnie Christensen. Pressed for details on the film, Eckhart revealed, "I play a wheelchair-bound alcoholic exorcist, which was a lot of fun I have to say. It was directed by Brad Peyton, good guy. I'm looking forward to that. It's going to be an interesting movie."
I, Frankenstein opens on January 24th. Learn more about the movie and Eckhart's co-star, Yvonne Strahovski, here. And look for our review of the movie and its use of 3D later this week.