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Aaron Eckhart sees ‘London Has Fallen’ mirroring today’s threats

LOS ANGELES — In “London Has Fallen,” a sequel to the 2013 hit “Olympus Has Fallen,” terrorists again play a central role. The setup for this action film is the sudden and unexpected death of the British prime minister — causing most world leaders, including the U.S. president, to attend the state funeral in London.

For Aaron Eckhart, who returns as President Benjamin Asher, it was again fun to play the commander-in-chief. “After all, you get to wear fine clothes and ride in helicopters. But then the helicopters might explode — you never know!”

The actor admitted that making the movie was extremely demanding. “It was both intense because of all the carefully choreographed action and fight sequences we had to do, but also it was intense because the subject matter was intense. Given the state of the world today and the threat of terrorism that exists for real, we were constantly aware that something similar to what we were filming could happen — though we all pray it never does.

“But then, filmmaking is a mirror of our times. Though this is a very entertaining movie, it is a dangerous world out there, and we are reminded that we do need heroes to protect us and our way of life.”

This was Eckhart’s first sequel, and he noted that returning to a project that included so many of the cast and crew members from the original film “did put me into my comfort zone. I’ve never reprised a movie before. Usually, when you start on a film, that first day is very much like the first day of school. There are hundreds of people to meet, so it was nice to not have to do that here.

“Plus it was nice to not have to do all the research for the character. I was able to just slide back into President Asher.”

While Eckhart stressed that he did nowhere near as many stunts and action sequences as his co-star Gerard Butler (who is back as Secret Service agent and top presidential bodyguard Mike Banning), “just being part of this is dangerous. Everybody’s got to be perfect every single day. It’s highly choreographed and every move is very closely thought out. The so-called ‘dance’ has to come off perfectly, or someone’s going to get hurt.

“You have guns popping off right by your head. You have explosions. The cars are real, so when they put gunpowder into cars, ignite it and blow them up, you have things falling on you.

“You just have to be very careful and do exactly — and move exactly — as you’re being directed.”

In making “London Has Fallen,” Eckhart felt it important his character frequently talked about his son and family back in America. “I think that helps for the audience as well,” he added. “We can’t possibly relate to being president, because we have no idea of what that would really be like — especially on a 24-7 basis for four years or eight years.

“But we do have an idea of what it’s like to be part of a family or to be in danger, or have a family member be in danger. However you can personalize yourself to the audience, I think that adds emotional depth to any film.”