Picks and Pans Review: Aaron Eckhart

UPDATED 04/17/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 04/17/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT

BUTTS IN

Eckhart, 38, has played Julia Roberts's nice-guy boyfriend (in Erin Brockovich)—and a lot of jerks. As a Big Tobacco spin doctor in Thank You for Smoking, he turns on both the charm and the smarm.

ON THE ART OF THE SPIN I don't like spin because it gets away from truth. But I can spin my characters. I've played some that are not so likable and I can always spin them to be likable guys. If you're actually good at it, you can convince yourself that you believe it.

ON QUITTING SMOKING COLD TURKEY I love to play sports, so I quit because I was huffing and puffing. When it doesn't fulfill you the way it once did, it's time to give it up. Now I see someone take a drag, I have a visceral reaction, like "Don't do that."

ON HIS COMIC SEX SCENE WITH KATIE HOLMES When the public hears about a Katie Holmes love scene, their imaginations are running wild and thinking it's hot and heavy. This is not one of those scenes.

ON HIS SELF-IMPOSED NEWS BLACKOUT I'm not au courant right now. I don't really have a TV. I have no Internet connection. I'm going the whole way and not even looking at newspapers. It's liberating. I overheard somebody say something, and I had to go to my friends and ask, "Did Milosevic just die?"

ON PLAYING A CHEF IN HIS NOW-SHOOTING ROMANTIC DRAMA WITH CATHERINE ZETA-JONES I learned how to make gnocchi and Dover sole and sea bass. It's more than I knew before. That I even know the names of those is good.

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