If Nicole Kidman was the driving force behind the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Rabbit Hole getting made into movie after seeing a New York Times review and asking her producing partner to check it out, then her co-star Aaron Eckhart was the reason it actually happened.
“When we got Aaron, we got the money — you’re the money,” Kidman said to Eckhart, seated beside her at a TIFF presser for the movie, which opens Friday in Toronto.
“There wasn’t any money on this film to offer, other than the material, and the promise of an environment where he would be able to explore, and hope that he would feel very safe. And he just jumped in and was so committed and without him we wouldn’t have been able to make the film.”
Eckhart, a veteran of stage and screen and more recently known for his film roles in Thank You for Smoking and The Dark Knight, stars opposite Kidman in the film about a New York husband and wife grappling with the loss of their four-year-old son hit by a car eight months earlier.
Both actors recently received best actor/actress Spirit Award nominations for independent film along with best feature, screenplay and directing nods, and Kidman just got a Golden Globe nomination.
Eckhart said for his portrayal of a man hoping to keep the memory of his son alive while his wife wants to remove all evidence of him, he just kept the emotions “really close.
“Just love and the lost of love and hope — I feel like we were all right there, all the time, all the cast members, at all times could go either way,” said Eckhart. “The great thing about it is that everybody’s bursting with life in terms of their sense of humour, their grief, the crying, the anger, and so you had all these pistons firing up at the same time. And on the set, you really just didn’t know which was it was going to go.
“And the great thing about the script and the direction and the quality of actors in this movie is that they could any way, and everybody then could take it and fire back. So it was a very safe set that was, in ways, a very unpredictable set at the same time, and we were able to play with each other.”
Still, newcomer Miles Teller, who plays the teenager who accidentally kills the young boy but who Kidman’s character befriends, had a rough first day on set opposite Eckhart.
Director John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus), insisted the veteran actor get in Teller’s face and the newbie thespian admits he was “a little intimidated.”
“I remember telling Aaron to scare the s–t out of him, scare the nerves out of him,” said Mitchell. “And Aaron did it in a way that I wasn’t really expecting for the scene and it totally knocked Miles into place. I just remember about it all being off-camera too. Every one of these actors were here for each other.”
As was Mitchell who, along with the actors, moved into the rented Queens, N.Y., house in which the movie was shot.
“He had his cereal in the cupboard in the morning,” said Kidman with a laugh. “The cereal you see in the film is actually John’s breakfast. I had the daughter’s room and Aaron had the boy’s room. We were all living together and sharing a bathroom and it’s a great way to make a film.”