Devout Eckhart Prays His New Film Is a Hit

LOS ANGELES--It's not Amish and the City, exactly. But A Mormon in Hollywood would likely describe the life of the faith-inspired leading man of Suspect Zero, who is, or was, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"Ah, let me see. I think you're always Mormon," said Aaron Eckhart with a small smile when the Straight recently asked him for clarification of his religious status. "But I'm, you know, in and out. I'm vulnerable and mean at the same time."

That self-description meshes with a career that's seen the wiry, 36-year-old actor inhabit such diverse, secular roles as In the Company of Men's manipulative louse, Nurse Betty's abusive husband, Erin Brockovich's sensitive biker boyfriend/babysitter, and Gwyneth Paltrow's intellectual swain in the swoony Possession.

In his new film, which opens in Vancouver on Friday (August 27), the Brigham Young University film graduate plays FBI agent Thomas Mackelway, an aspirin-gobbling head case tormented by a botched past investigation. With costar Carrie-Anne Moss, Eckhart's character is embroiled in tracking a killer, played by Sir Ben Kingsley, who appears to be hunting other serial murderers by using a psychic process called remote viewing. Suspect Zero coscreenwriter Billy Ray has described the investigative technique of remote viewing as "the harnessing of psychic abilities in the brain to locate nonlocal targets". The scientific and clairvoyant elements of the film sound like the antithesis of many religious perspectives on life, but Eckhart says his spirituality helped him get into the role.

"Maybe for me, it's not that it clashes, but it complements. I mean, if you have any sort of faith, if you have any sort of belief in beyond, or another dimension, or whatever it is, or an energy, then this is very compatible with that theory of God, with mathematics, with inspiration, intuition, with the spirit. Anything like that. I've said before that no matter is created or destroyed. That's science. Well, I mean, I believe that....It just goes to another place. And remote viewing is able to access that energy and bring it back in another form."

Eckhart said he does believe that remote viewing works. Although he wouldn't divulge whether or not he himself has had a psychic experience, the actor allowed that he feels that if he needs to know something, the answer will come to him.

"And I don't think that that's an out-there concept. I look at a painter; how does he know what he's going to paint? Any great person in their field, from athletics to art to mathematics, receives inspiration."

Does Eckhart pray?

"Do I pray?"

I'm serious.

"No, I'm serious too. I pray that this movie's a big hit." He grinned. Then stopped. "I believe in God. I'll just say that."

As to what he'd like to see if he had a capacity for remote viewing, Eckhart's not as altruistic as one might assume.

"I guess it would have to be money. It's very selfish and superficial and all that, but it has everything to do with money. Am I going to be eating and comfortable when I'm in my later years? I'd like to say world peace and all that sort of stuff, but I'll leave that to somebody else. I would just see if I'm happy or not."

Having shot The Pledge, The Core, and Paycheck in our neck of the woods, Eckhart heads back to our city at the end of September to star in the feature Neverwas opposite Sir Ian McKellen and Nick Nolte, playing a troubled psychiatrist "who has a lot of the same problems as Mackelway".

As for the extracurricular activities he looks forward to taking up once he's back on the West Coast, Eckhart's answer might surprise everyone but Donny and Marie.

"I'm thinking of starting a family there," he said. "I just have to find the girl."

Once a Mormon, always a Mormon. Ladies, take a number.