In his new thriller Suspect Zero (opening Friday), Aaron Eckhart takes on a different acting task: He plays a hero. That's quite a switch from Paycheck, where he played Ben Affleck's time-warping nemesis, or his downright despicable turn in Neil LaBute's In the Company of Men. Those guys were not so nice!

"I'm a good guy in this movie — I want to make that clear," laughs the 36-year-old actor, who portrays Zero's Thomas Mackelway, a well-meaning FBI agent. We can't help but wonder how the affable Eckhart ever fell into Hollywood's typecasting well of evil-doers.

"I guess I can just do it," he shrugs, then quickly adds, "but I don't like playing one-dimensional bad guys because it is boring [for me] and it is boring for the audience.

"I think that I am able, in some respect, to give dimensions to the bad guy. To make you feel like he had a mother and he liked to blow out his birthday candles and played with toys and had a Big Wheel and can also slit throats. I think that is important, but I don't want to make a career out of it."

By the way, Eckhart also wouldn't care to make a career of tangling with dangerous animals! While shooting Suspect Zero, he had a rather scary run-in with one wild creature. "I was running," he recalls. "[When] they cut, I was tired. I looked down, and I had a rattlesnake going through my legs and coiling on my foot. I said something and ran, and they caught it all on film.

"And the Native Americans [we were working with] won't kill a snake," he adds. "Even if it bites you, they won't kill [it], because it is lucky. They thought I was lucky, which was cool."