• Tue, Jan 28 - 11:30 am ET

As A Mom Who Lost A Child, I Find Aaron Eckhart Faking A Dead Child Offensive

On The Set Of Univisions "Despierta America"Actor Aaron Eckhart pretended to lose a child in order to attend a bereavement support group meeting. All for the sake of his art. Eckhart, who has no children himself, made this revelation on the Howard Stern show last week. At the time, he was preparing for a role in 2010’s Rabbit Hole; a film also starring Nicole Kidman. The movie is about a couple dealing with the loss of their child.

Some might say that this was a smart way to prepare for a role. Method acting, if you will. For me, and others like me, it is more personal. As a bereaved mother of more than five years, I found it insensitive. My two bereavement support groups became a second family to me as I was grieving the loss of my baby boy. These groups are often a very tight circle. We share our most painful and intimate experiences of our losses. There are many tears and raw emotion.  I guess you could say I am very protective of my fellow bereaved parents. I definitely felt a sense of violation when learning of Eckhart’s actions. And I wasn’t even there.

After initial gasps by both Stern and his co-host Robin Quivers, laughter ensued. They were in admiration of how Eckhart handled himself. As if he got away with something. For us bereaved, it is nothing funny. However, I will admit he did indeed get away with something. He got to go home without the devastation of knowing what it was like to lose a child.

This being said, listening to the interview brought me back to the larger issue at hand: the taboo nature of our loss. The way our losses are handled and treated by other people in our lives. The huge disconnect that occurs in doing so. While being interviewed by Stern, Eckhart said that he being so engrossed in the experience that “you really believe that you just lost a child.” Method acting aside, this is where I really disagree with Eckhart. Unless you have experienced this horrendous loss yourself, you have no idea. Period.

It is possible Eckhart thought that by lying he was taking the easier route.  Maybe he felt he would have been unwelcomed otherwise. I, for one, would have preferred an honest approach.  What a lot of people don’t understand is that we love talking about our children. We often like to share our story with others. It is very therapeutic.  It is a way to keep our children’s memory alive. Would someone who hasn’t lost a child ever fully understand?  Never. But, they might gain some helpful tips on how to help a friend or family member who has suffered a loss. For us, it is also always helpful to gain some perspective from an outsider as well.  Or perhaps a new sense of compassion and respect for a community that has been overlooked for way too long.

This is a reader submission. 

(Image: getty images)

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  • Samantha Escobar

    This makes me so incredibly fucking angry. Violating that type of trust is invasive, disingenuous, rude, inconsiderate, selfish and approximately every other synonym of “shitty” that I can come up with.

    I get it, you’re an actor, but sometimes acting like a human being would be cool, too.

    • Momma425

      Pretty much sums up everything I was wanting to say.
      Look- if you haven’t lost a child and want to “get it”- fine. Be honest with everyone at the meeting and let them know why you are there.

  • Bethany Ramos

    Losing a child is my greatest nightmare, and thank you so much for sharing everything about your story. I think that what he did was the worst case scenario, but I can also imagine that anybody in a private support group, like AA, would be really upset if there was an impostor in there listening to all the private information just to learn something for his craft.

    • Garavriel

      Exactly, for tr substance abuse class in my psych program you’re required to go to an AA or NA meeting but you go and observe and just listen, you don’t fake an addiction.

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    jesus christ, words cannot begin to describe how sick this is.
    why not RESPECTFULLY ask to interview bereaved families?
    instead of lying about a dead child, surely grieving families would like some consideration and an accurate portrayal?
    Clearly sensitivity has no place in this scumbag’s heart.

    My heart goes out to you and your little boy.
    My greatest nightmare is something happening to one of my kids, You are incredibly strong for dealing with this loss and for having the courage to share it with us.

    Thank you for bringing a little sanity and thought into this discussion.

  • Guest

    That just feels icky. I could see if you asked to be in the group because you wanted more input and one on one with these people to try to accurately portray them in his role. Then it was on the table and they would know what was going on. Lying about losing a child just… no.

  • AmazingE

    What a dick. I can kind of understand wanting to better understand what a grieving parent feels, but he could have gone about it in a much more respectful way.

  • SA

    He should have been honest. Found a group that wouldn’t mind his presence and learn from that. I wouldn’t even want to chance the karma by pretending my child was dead.

    • Guest

      Agreed. I would have happily spoken to him about it, and I know other bereaved parents that I think (I haven’t asked them, but I think) would too.

  • Kathleen Sullivan

    Thanks all for the feedback. And, yes, Bethany when I first read the story I couldn’t help but think of all the other support groups out there that are dealing with raw pain (AA, for one). It is really something to think about.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Just again, you are so awesome for sharing. xoxo

  • Elise

    I heard the interview on the day it aired. I was appalled at his actions and at his arrogance in sharing it, as if we were all supposed to marvel at his dedication to “the craft.” He never acknowledged any harm or wrongdoing, and remained smug and non-apologetic throughout the interview. The Stern show has a vast audience, and I’m wondering if this interview is part of the reason his “Frankenstein” movie bombed spectacularly the next weekend.

    I hope so.

    • Kathleen Sullivan

      Elise I agree! In doing research for the article, I listened to the full interview on youtube. His arrogance was unbelievable and laughed through much of the story. Not funny at all.

    • Elise

      Exactly. I heard that they interviewed Seth Rogen immediately afterward and apparently even he was taken aback by it. A young guy in his 20s, not even a parent, in the same profession – and he gets it. Something tells me Aaron’s PR team was not very happy after that interview, because even on other topics he came across like a class-A douche.

    • Elise

      sorry not Seth Rogen – Jonah Hill

  • A-nony-mous

    That’s sad and unnecessary. Whenever actors need/want to prep for a role, their agent or someone involved with the movie-to-be always seems to help set them up. Like for any war or action movies, celebrities are constantly going to army bootcamp or getting ex soldiers to personally train them. I know in other movies female actresses have gone and talked to escorts and even prostitutes if that’s going to be their role, etc. So if he needed to, I’m sure his agent/a producer could’ve set him up with something where everyone knew who he was and why he was there ahead of time without the deception.

  • Garavriel

    Yeah, that isn’t ok. I’ve seen Rabbit Hole performed as a play and it was amazing an powerful without any of the actors preparing by faking having a dead child.

  • TngldBlue

    Grief, addiction, and other support groups function because of the trust between everyone involved. What an absolute violation and a completely unnecessary one at that. I’m so sorry for your loss Kathleen and thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

  • Maria Guido

    That is just awful.

  • Kay_Sue

    How insensitive can you be? *shakes head*

  • Rachel Sea

    Probably comes easy, what with all the practice of pretending to be a decent human being.

    Outsiders with a desire to learn are regularly welcomed to support groups. He could have been honest.

  • As a mother whose only child is deceased I completely disagree. No one, not parents who experienced similar losses and not even my husband who lost the same child, understands what *I* went through so I really don’t care whether the person I’m talking to lost a child, didn’t lose a child, or even lied about it. Someone else’s loss being fake doesn’t make mine any less real.
    I also don’t feel any sort of “special bond” with other bereaved parents just because we share the loss of our children. Now if we actually have other things in common and become friends, there is a bond of friendship but it’s been rare that I’ve truly become friends with another woman that I initially met solely because she lost a child too.

  • Guest

    Also as a mother who lost a child, I TOTALLY FUCKING AGREE. This is not a fucking club you pretend to be in. I mean, it’s one thing to “pretend” in the context of your job in a movie, but a whole different level of YOU ARE A DRIPPING SCUMBAG to “pretend” in the context of being in a room of bereaved parents and lying to them.

  • SusannahJoy

    Yeah, that’s not ok. It feels so disrespectful to me. Like he’s using those people’s (my) pain for his gain. His “art.”

  • no

    I’ve never lost a child, thankfully, but this bothers me a
    lot. I think it’s that in a group like this, it’s about giving and taking… you
    give the other members a piece of you, to help them through a horrible time.
    Like, you take some of your strength and try to help them with it. Different situation
    entirely, but I’d be pissed as hell if I someone told me their house burned
    down and I let them sleep on my couch and gave them a bunch of my stuff to get
    started again and then it turned out they were lying to me just to see what it
    would feel like if their house actually burned down. I’d feel pretty cheated
    and violated. Surely he could have found a group that would be willing to let
    him observe, or he could have lurked on some of the many Internet message
    boards that people post to.

  • Katherine Handcock

    That is absolutely horrible. And utterly disrespectful to an experience that I still hope he never has to live through. Why on earth would you not just contact a group and say, “I am acting a role in which the character has lost a child. Could you please ask your group if I could come and sit in on a session?”

    Artists may have to go beyond what’s socially standard to produce meaningful work, but there are ways and means to do it. This is not one of them.

    • Louise

      Because it doesn’t really work that way. Read a bit about method acting and you might understand.

    • Katherine Handcock

      Actually, I do know about method acting, but that’s not what this is. In method acting, you are attempting to understand, in full, the psychology behind a character. To do that, yes, you research in great detail. Which means that, yes, you speak to people who have been through similar experiences. And yes, some actors do maintain character even while between scenes etc. (although that’s not strictly a part of the original method.)
      But this wasn’t while he was acting; this was research for a role. Nothing about learning how people who have genuinely lost a child required him to pretend to have lost one. He wasn’t acting; he was learning. He wasn’t keeping in character; he was developing a character.
      If you’ve never been to this kind of support group, it’s hard to understand just how raw and vulnerable people are when they are attending. It’s critical to feel safe in these groups, so that you can express whatever emotions you’re feeling. If he had asked them if he could attend, he would still have seen their genuine emotions and learned about their grief.
      I think the best analogy I’ve thought of is this: if your method actor significant other told you he/she had cheated on you and was leaving you for someone else, started moving out, etc., and then told you later, “Oh, I was researching for a role,” would you feel that was okay? I know I wouldn’t.

    • louise

      You are wrong. You live the character. Which is was he did. It’s controversial, yes. I understand that people feel violated. But the whole reason for it was to be able to honestly portray the feelings of the folks who have lived it. I haven’t seen the movie, so I don’t know if he succeeded. Some parents who have lost children may have found some comfort or a way forward from it. Creating art isn’t always pretty.

  • Abbe

    This makes me sick. What the hell is wrong with people?

  • C.J.

    We have friends that lost a child a year ago this Friday. I can’t imagine their pain. I will do anything I can to support them but I know I can’t understand their pain. I don’t want to ever understand that pain. I don’t know how anyone can look a parent who has lost a child in the eye and pretend to have lost one too. It just doesn’t seem right.

  • Kelly

    This story is actually so old.

    But I really have to say that after he already admits his guilt, not to mention is humble enough to admit this in the first place knowing how controversial it is, it really says something about the characters of the posters that chose to continue to flame him after the fact.

    • Elise

      1: How is this story old? It happened less than two weeks ago (although I realize that is obsolete to “the kids” these days, what with those limited/damaged attention spans and all).
      2: Unless I missed some official statement where he came out after the HS interview and apologized, admitting that what he did was selfish and insensitive, he did NOT show humility at all. He merely acknowledged that it was a bit extreme. He brought this up to be shocking and memorable, and to show how Method he is – not to be humble.

    • Kelly

      There are many other articles on this that were posted about a week ago and also he admitted to this years ago when the movie first came out.

    • Elise

      “Admitted” is not “apologized”; and the story we’re talking about is the Howard Stern interview, along with Eckhart’s demeanor and behavior throughout. Sure, he admitted it, and seemed pretty proud of it, too. That’s what most people find appalling.

    • Kelly

      He wasn’t proud of it at al. Read the many other articles that were printed. This is one mothers biased opinion.

    • Elise

      Sigh. For the last time – we are referring to the Howard Stern interview, during which he did not sound at all sorry and came across and very arrogant and entitled. I don’t care how he sounded in other media. And taken in the context of timing versus his movie opening, my point was, did that PARTICULAR INTERVIEW have any effect? We’ll never know.
      Also: don’t look for unbiased “mother’s” opinions when it comes to the discussion of losing a child on Mommyish.
      And I’m done with this exercise in futility.

    • Kelly17

      So you’d rather be ignorant than open your mind? In order to get the actual facts before judging him it’s best to listen to the whole interview or follow up ones to get his whole point of view.

  • Jayamama

    Obviously, it’s horrible that he would betray the trust of the others in the group. But why, oh WHY, would you admit it on national television and then laugh about it? That’s what bothers me the most.

  • Louise

    Ok I get how it’s upsetting. However, this is what acting is about. It’s about what all art is about. Perhaps it would have been better if he had been honest about what he was doing, “hey I’m working on a role and I wondered if you would mind me being here and hearing your experiences.” However, he made the call as an actor to try to understand on a personal level. As hard as it might feel to you personally, that’s admirable.