In an era when brand recognition is key and superheroes (and Jedi) rule the roost, Olympus Has Fallen is an unexpected breakout franchise. The adventures of Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) may not be the most beloved with fans of high cinema, but something about the “Die Hard in the White House” concept and its loose approach to international relations has entertained audiences, with both entries making back their budget and then some. In fact, London Has Fallen actually made more than the first, so it wasn’t much of a surprise to learn a third sequel, Angel Has Fallen, had been greenlit.
The previous two movies saw Butler taking on terrorists of various settings to save the president from death and the world from destruction. Both times the leader of the free world, Benjamin Asher, was played by Aaron Eckhart, but fans shouldn’t expect him to return for more punishment a third time.
Speaking with Collider while promoting the Vinny Pazienza boxing biopic Bleed For This, Eckhart confirmed he won’t be back for the next movie, saying that his character has left the White House:
“The President is retired. He’s golfing and he’s amassing his library right now, so… [salutes].”
It’s worth remembering that the original announcement only mentioned Bulter’s return, so it was certainly suspected he might be protecting Air Force One (Angel is a common shorthand for the presidential aircraft) for a different leader.
At the moment it’s not entirely clear whether the character was written out or Eckhart simply took a pass on the role, but he’s certainly not hurting for work. Between Bleed For This and Sully, Eckhart may find himself back on the prestige map (he’s an outside chance for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nod for the latter), so it is perhaps past time for him to stop playing a supporting part that really only needs him to get beaten up.
While losing one of the headline stars could be seen as a knock for Millennium Films, from a plot standpoint this is pretty easy to wave away. The series has skirted away from presenting a fleshed-out political landscape, so it’s easy to hand-wave a new president being sworn in at the 2016 election.
Perhaps, fitting of how he’s only gone from strength-to-strength across the previous films, Banning himself could become POTUS, meaning he’ll be forced to save himself from the terrorists. It wouldn’t be the silliest thing in a series whose second entry featured a synchronised destruction of London’s monuments where world leaders all conveniently stood. More likely, however, is that Morgan Freeman’s Allan Trumbull will be promoted from vice president to the position he previously held in Deep Impact.
Angel Has Fallen is set for a 2018 release.