Like a lot of Hollywood stars, Aaron Eckhart's been around. No, not that way. We mean he's worked and lived, well, just about everywhere. "I've shot films in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Seattle..." he says, then lists half a dozen more locations. "And I've lived in California, Utah, England, Australia, France, and Switzerland." Wherever he is, he makes time to ski, surf, fish, and hike, all of which more than qualifies him as this year's guest expert for our annual Best Towns feature. Just don't ask him to pick his favorite spot. We tried, and he settled on 11.
There are two places I want to be. One is Montana. My whole family's from Montana, and I'm building a cabin outside of Big Timber as we speak. Or I'd like to move to Paris. My formative years were in Europe, and I miss it. I miss the slow, kind of languid lifestyle in the south of France, especially in Aix-en-Provence. I lived there for four months, and it's my favorite place in France. I also have a love affair with Switzerland and would love to have a place there to ski. The problem with the movie business, like the sports business, is that you can't afford to hurt yourself, so I don't snowboard as much as I used to. I went to college at Brigham Young, in Salt Lake City, and skied a lot, mostly at Snowbird. I think St. George, Utah, is a cool little town. While I was a student at BYU, I lived for two semesters on the western shore of Oahu. I owned a 1972 Plymouth Valiant that we bought for $125. It was infested with cockroaches and geckos it was its own little ecosystem. I surfed every day. It was the perfect life. I have a place in Santa Barbara now, too. It's a dilapidated old barn, really, but it's close to some very good surf. One of my brothers lives in L.A., and whenever I'm in town we surf there as much as we can. What other towns do I dig? Well, I was just in Seattle for the first time. The air of adventure there is impressive. If I could live in any town right now, it might be Mendocino, California. I went on a road trip there last year and just fell in love with the northern coast. It's so beautiful, and there's surf, horses, bikes, everything. But if I'm going to put in my vote for best town, I'm going to say Bozeman. I'm going to stick with that. It always makes me feel at home, and the outdoor potential is absolutely incredible. It's also a college town and a farming community with a rich history. It's a gateway to Yellowstone.... I can understand being in a big city when you're younger, but there's something special about being in a smaller place, where people take it a little bit slower. The older I get, the more I'm thinking about making a permanent move to Montana. It's in my blood. We'll see. I might go there and hate it, but I don't think I will.