Eckhart, a USO supporter who has visited Kandahar and Kuwait, signed autographs and posed for pictures while touring the hangar and learning about Marine aviation.
The actor may have just wrapped a major Hollywood action flick, but Eckhart made hardly a mention of the film or his work while he peppered the Marines with questions about their jobs, service overseas and how aircraft like the MV-22 “Osprey” work.
Aaron Eckhart, star of "Battle: Los Angeles," asks about a new MV-22 "Osprey" at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., March 3. Lance Cpl. Lisa M. Tourtelot
The Marines of VMM-166 reflected Eckhart’s excitement.
“I felt motivated that we had a super star in our shop coming to visit,” said Cpl. Daniel Jenkins, a flight equipment technician with VMM-166. “I didn’t recognize him at first, without his ‘Two-Face’ make-up! He was really mellow and interested in everything we do.”
Eckhart emphasized his desire to learn about the Marines.
“Listening is my favorite part,” said Eckhart. “I take great pride in saying we have the greatest military in the world.”
In preparation for playing service members, Eckhart and his fellow cast members spent three weeks in a “boot camp” to familiarize themselves with Marine Corps terminology, ideology and basic combat skills.
“It was important to me to represent the Marines accurately and with respect,” said Eckhart, who plays a staff sergeant leading a ragtag band of Marines and civilians through Santa Monica - under siege by invading aliens, of course.
“We made ‘Battle: Los Angeles’ with strict adherence to the Marines’ code,” said Eckhart. “We trained very hard to be accurate and real. It’s a love letter to [the Marines].”
Aaron Eckhart, star of "Battle: Los Angeles," shows off his new patch at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., March 4. Eckhart toured Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166, where he signed autographs and posed for pictures with squadron members. Photo By Lance Cpl. Lisa M. Tourtelot
Eckhart himself trained so hard he broke his arm performing a stunt, and, according to fellow star Michelle Rodriguez, stayed a staff sergeant at all times until filming ended.
Eckhart explained that his brief stint as a Marine made his respect for the armed forces grow.
“I had a very good opinion of Marines to begin with, but I didn’t have any intimate knowledge of how Marines work,” said Eckhart. “The biggest thing I’ve gotten out of this is that the Marines have that extra sense of pride. They’re can-do guys and girls.”
The Marines of VMM-166 can add their pictures and autographs from the day to their memorabilia, and Eckhart now has a special place in his heart for Marines.