‘Battle: Los Angeles': Creating A Realistic War Movie With Aliens

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battle los angeles movie1 Battle: Los Angeles: Creating A Realistic War Movie With Aliens

Battle: Los Angeles was a labor of love for star Aaron Eckhart and director Jonathan Liebesman. Liebesman spent months creating an impressive pitch package (including a trailer that Eckhart gave his time to act in) in order to secure the job. Their efforts were eventually rewarded, and the pair were able to create the film that they had envisioned.

Battle: LA opens this Friday, and we had the chance to talk with both Eckhart and Liebesman at the Los Angeles press junket about what inspired their passionate response to this material.

Each of the men experienced a moment when they say that they knew that they would die, or kill, respectively, to be a part of the project. For Liebesman the realization came the instant he was introduced to the initial concept:

When I saw a script that took a war movie and an alien film the way this one did, I knew that when I saw the trailer I would have killed to (have) directed that movie. I remember when I saw the trailer for ’28 Days Later,’ I thought ‘oh that was such a good take on the Zombie movie! This was pre ‘District 9′ and I thought oh this is going to be ’28 Days Laterwith aliens. I loved the world, I think it’s a great idea – a war movie that has aliens.

The director saw an opportunity to be a part of a fresh take on a beloved and oft-explored premise (aliens invade the Earth) and immediately decided to take action to secure the director’s chair position for himself. Liebesman had seen several of Neill Blomkamp’s short films and approached his fellow countrymen for technical advice on how to create the aliens for his initial pitch presentation. Blomkamp was “very generous” and with his recommendations, and the research he had done on his own, Liebesman began the process of building a concept that would be attractive enough to secure a name for the project – enter Aaron Eckhart.

The actor recalls that when he initially received the script, and it was an alien movie, he was less than enthused. But his agent insisted that he meet with Liebesman and hear his take on the project:

I met with Jonathon before he had the gig. He  had mocked up the aliens which were ‘very impressive,’ then at the end he showed me a page of YouTube and it was some marines going house to house through Fallujah…and it was both organized yet chaotic. These guys showed their training, and they showed their youth, and Jonathan said, ‘This is what the movie is going to look like.’ Right then and there I said ‘I’m in, I’ll die for this part,’ and I feel like through the filing, and through the final cut we achieved that goal. The goal was: ‘This is a war movie – a documentary style war movie with aliens in it.’

battle los angeles movie 41 Battle: Los Angeles: Creating A Realistic War Movie With Aliens

The most crucial aspect of the film for both Liebesman and Eckhart was to create a movie that delivered a gritty, grounded, and more “realistic” depiction of war. Military advisers were present throughout the various stages of production. Eckhart trained for months with the military in order to get into physical shape for the role, but also, into the headspace of what it is to be a soldier, calling the film a “love letter to the Marines.” He did research and experienced some of what it must be like to be a solider in combat, the connections that are created, and the damage the loss of said connections can do.

I went to Afghanistan and I was out with them way out in the mountains of Afghanistan 40 marines protecting a hill. Out in the middle of NOWHERE. There is no doubt that these guys are bonded in a very real way, they depend on each other for survival. I don’t think they can come back here and find that same bond…and it leaves them without a sense of identity.

Eventually, the entire cast went through a three-month boot camp together in what Eckhart describes as “hotter than hell, Louisiana.” The actors would eat in rank, and slowly began slipping very naturally into their divided military roles. Eckhart laughingly says he found it:

Interesting how far some actors would go, and how far they would buy into it and believe it – because sometimes we’re out there and I’m yelling at you in character and the guy is like ‘dude, I’m just an actor.’

For the director, the military advisers came into play in the development of both the human, and the alien military. “What was really interesting was creating an alien army,” Liebesman recalls:

Thinking ‘how you would you march into Santa Monica ‘Saving Private Ryan’ style?’ It was important to me that even though they come from outer space (that) we ground them so that they wouldn’t destroy us in four seconds. We tried to create something that you understand that even though they are more developed than us in certain ways, they are the same as us in other ways. (They are) a used-up army…probably fought a bunch of wars…probably exhausted.

Eckhart continues:

We made a concerted effort to make these guys tactical, they have a similar way of fighting war. We led the audience to believe that it was equal forces, that they arrange their men in the same way, they attack in the same way, they outflank in the same way, they retreat in the same way. So that we could be in a real war movie, as opposed to them being so strong that they can just come and vaporize the town, because where’s the drama in that?

So why the science fiction aspect? Why introduce an alien species as the enemy force in a war movie? For Liebesman, the premise offered an opportunity to deliver a sense of  “shock and awe” to the audience without the danger of treading into real world socio-political divisions. It is a chance for viewers to “have a common enemy where we can all come together and fight the same thing and there are no politics.”

Eckhart agrees that the appeal of doing a hybrid alien-invasion/war movie is that:

This movie has a non-judgmental foe, a complete imaginary foe, and that works for us in this context because it is a war movie, and we are going to war and shooting and killing things – but we have no personal relationship other than our imagination…So it can be pure entertainment.

Battle Los Angeles TV spots and movie clips Battle: Los Angeles: Creating A Realistic War Movie With Aliens

Liebesman attests that the picture created in Battle: Los Angeles is just a snapshot of much larger tale, saying, “This is a search and rescue mission, there’s a whole world that hasn’t been touched on that hopefully can be.” The success of this first film will determine whether or not Battle: LA merits an expansion into a franchise, something the director unabashedly declares would be, “Awesome, every director’s dream — employment for years!” One thing is certain, however: if a sequel does come into play, star Aaron Eckhart is most enthusiastically on board.

I love it, I absolutely love it. In fact, this is the first character that I have ever had in my movie-making experience where on the last day I was sad. I really love this character as you can see. I mean, I usually wear green, I keep my hair short, I can’t wait if this movie has a sequel. I love the weaponry, the tanks, I love the bravado and the companionship; and I do love war movies. I mean every kid wants to do that. I’ve still got to do a Western in my career, I’ve done a kind of a war movie now. I’ve gotta play in a Poker movie. I always say an actor should be able to do three things: Shoot a gun, ride a horse, and play cards.

Battle: Los Angeles opens in theaters this Friday, March 11th.

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  1. This makes me like Eckhart as an actor even more. I can’t wait for this movie!

    • yeah cant wait either gonna see this in imax =)

  2. Nice comments from Eckhart!!! This movie feels better everytime I read something new about it! Can’t wait for this friday 😀

  3. sooo are the aliens robots or techno organic or what?? or are they wearing suitss?

    • I believe there is info on the aliens, their tech etc if you check out the movie’s site (or rather one of it’s “viral” sites). seem to remember a story a qhile back about it (though some digging is required.. meh personally i hate that type of marketing but to each his own I suppose)

  4. Beloved alien invasion films. Lol!
    Sorry but this interview clears up the film for me. And Eckhart sounds like a complete dimwitted hollywood tool. “I’d die to be in this movie”

    The director also comes off as a moron. Yeah I just wanna make battle la sequels for the rest of my life. Weee. “I’d kill to direct this”

    • totally agree with you, i’m only gonna watch this garbage if i find a copy of it online or can hire it cheap. not worth full price for a movie with a predictable plot, rip off ‘aliens’ with some decent ‘action’.

      • The buzz on this is pretty good so far from what I’ve heard. Cliched, but entertaining. I’ll be seeing it tonight.


  5. Well there’s a level of passion and devotion to the role that you don’t see very often. I’m glad these people are not the typical Hollywood snobs that act like they are entitled to everything…

  6. “MODEL A FORD AND A TANK FULL OF GAS…” ( Heartbreak Ridge reference…;) )

  7. He calls it a “love letter to the marines.”

    Is it just me, or does that just make it ten times as appealing?

  8. Hasn’t Eckhart already done a western. You know that one with Cate Blanchette and Tommy Lee Jones I think it’s called The Missing or something like that?

  9. TankD, I thought it was pretty clear that these aliens are a warring species that a lot like us.

    If they were interdimensional aliens, well that wouldn’t be very entertaining. According to the Eckhart.

    This film sounds like Black Hawk Down/ Indepedence Day. Couldn’t have a bigger dolt starring then Eckhart. (Imo)

    • they have similar battle strategies as in they fight like us because it wouldnt be entertaining to watch us get pulverized. and i dont think it ses anything about them being related to us . and exra demensional beings would be way awsome and for an alien to come to our planet anyways probably would have to be extra demensional if they had the technology to travel space and time then they would have to travel through demensions. warp drives blakc holes they all open up rift in space and time and what lies in it is unknown.

      • and im talking about if theyre robots? i cant get a clear answer i dont think anyone knows .

    • Oh snap! Not only is his number “trademarked” but it has a cool symbol for a zero too! :-0

  10. Ive been looking forward to this since I saw the trailer at the theater. I like Eckhart, and just knowing he and the director have this much enthusiasm behind it Im definitely going to catch this at the show.

  11. This movie is sounding more and more awesome all the time. I’m psyched to see this on Friday. I like Eckhart a lot as an actor, and to hear what he and the director attempted to bring to this film makes it sound really promising.

  12. TankD, did you skip past this part?,,,

    “We tried to create something that you understand that even though they are more developed than us in certain ways, THEY ARE THE SAME AS US IN OTHER WAYS. (They are) a used-up army…probably fought a bunch of wars…probably exhausted.” ^
    Note military advisors were brought in to help create the aliens.

    LOL!!!!! Ah that’s sooo fitting.

    • its talking about theyre milatary tactics not theyre species its saying theyre army is used up and tired out therefore making them equal to us(in the film) for combat it ses nothing about what they are and what kind of aliens they are re read it carefully.

      • eh military* i don’t reread my posts most of the time. hah

  13. I’ll be seeing this tomorrow night – hope it’s good!


    • The fate of originality depends on it!!

      • Youre lucky Vic!!

        • I’ll only see it a couple of days ahead of you. :)


  14. Vic, $10bucks says it ends on a cliffhanger,,,

  15. I’d love to see an alien invasion film start off with scenes from a movie theatre. Long lines on a hot saturday summer, any town. The film, (insert alien invasion title here) is the huge draw of the weekend,,,,
    Out of nowhere the power goes out and huge crafts appear hovering over the cities.
    Then,,,,,, ?

  16. Don’t you just hate me Ken?
    All this time I thought the bp oil spill got ya. :)

  17. TankD, you just made my point. I wasn’t trying to write the screenplay only pointing out the similarities between our forces via these alien (so called) conventional military tactics.

  18. This one really looks good! It could be the new surprise hit of the year!

  19. Looks OK but I’m approaching with caution

  20. Oh boy! It’s not doing well on RT; currently at 40%.

  21. And Red Riding Hood is even worse at 8%. But it is Twilight-esque, so they may still see some prophet.

  22. Will it be as good as it looks? Yes.

  23. As much as I bag on this, I’m prob gonna see it tomorrow during the daytime.

    This way I can write it off as a work expense. :)

    • Good call. Maybe you should ask for a receipt, and call the popcorn and soda a “business lunch”. Haha.

  24. Haahaaaa,,,,

    Popcorn and soda? That stuff will kill you.

    • Yeah, and that Jack Daniel’s in your hand is just great for the liver. 😀

  25. @Kahless, I don’t drink the hard stuff.

    Like you with your bloodwine and gagh. :)

  26. Sequel: Battle Shanghai; Battle Sankt Petersburg; Battle: Nice; Battle: London; Battle: Tokio; Battle Hamburg ; Battle Mumbai; Battle Istanbul, Battle Rio Janeiro; the cities near sea who are defended by rest of top 10 armies of the world