Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart star in the film “Rabbit Hole,” directed by John Cameron Mitchell. The drama, based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play by the same title, was originally written by David Lindsay-Abaire. Eckhart and Mitchell came to Denver for the 33rd Denver Film Festival to discuss the production and answered some of the CU Independent’s questions.
With much of this film centering around grief, Eckhart explained his experience of getting prepared to portray Howie Corbett.
“Life is all about imagination,” Eckhart said. “Life is taking whatever is similar to the action and getting as close to that as possible.”
He said that research on the Internet and finding people who used daily blogs to share their grief helped him define his role.
“I found people who were raw, who had just lost a family member and would tape themselves over years,” Eckhart said. “You would see their grief and their transitions from absolute despair to hysteria. After seeing that, you don’t have to go very far to imagine what this is like.”
It is a large priority for a director to make the environment for actors as comfortable as possible to elicit the most authentic performance. Director of “Rabbit Hole,” John Cameron Mitchell, described how he accomplished this by not yelling ‘Action!’
“I find the word ‘action’ to be the same as saying ‘okay tense up’,” Mitchell said. “When I was an actor and I heard someone say rolling and then action, my entire body froze.”
Eckhart said he had a similar view on the word “action.”
“I see creation and acting as a little bird and you spend three months before you are making the movie, getting to know this little bird,” Eckhart said. “You try getting that little bird to fly off the tree into your hand. That morning you talk to the bird, ‘come down, come down.’ Finally the cute bird lands in your hand. Then somebody yells, ‘Action!’ Then the bird flies away.”
Mitchell said he wants to strangle the people who shout that because the process of acting is a delicate thing. He said he sees other directors making the mistake of not relating to their actors.
“There is a generation of directors who are terrified of actors,” Mitchell said. “Actors get scared or defensive with directors. I love actors, and you have to be there with them literally right behind camera. You can’t yell a note, it’s a personal thing.”
The film was reported to have been shot in 27 days. Eckhart said he preferred that the schedule was accelerated.
“You’re doing five to six pages a day and it is much better this way because you are always busy,” Eckhart said. “The schedule allowed the actors and the crew to stay together on set. There were no trailers so everyone would just go upstairs in their bedroom. John even stayed at the house overnight.”
Eckhart said his co-star, Nicole Kidman, was encouraging and helped get the story on film.
“You’re talking about Nicole Kidman, who is a top star in the world who has every amenity available to her,” Eckhart said. “She was making sacrifices, which was encouraging for John, for me and all the crew.”
Eckhart said there was strong communication between the cast and the crew in the making of ‘Rabbit Hole.’
“I felt every single day, when Nicole comes to play and if you’re not ready for her, she’ll tear you apart,” Eckhart said.
With the high standards of the film, Eckhart said it inspired him to be at his best.
“Some films don’t demand that you come to play to that level every day,” Eckhart said. “Seeing Nicole, the material and John’s pedigree make you have to be prepared for that situation.”
The journey in becoming a part of this film was something Mitchell said was especially important.
“My little brother passed away when I was a teenager and all of those feelings came up right away,” Mitchell said. “The film felt like something I was able to do to bring catharsis. Directing felt necessary.”
Read the CU Independent’s review of the film “Rabbit Hole.”
Contact CU Independent Copy Editor Ben Macaluso at Ben.email@example.com.