Taylor Kitsch Talks JOHN CARTER OF MARS, BATTLESHIP and SAVAGES

     April 16, 2011

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At this weekend’s press day for the real-life indie drama The Bang Bang Club, about a group of four young combat photographers who risked their lives and used their camera lenses to show the brutality and violence associated with the first free elections in post-Apartheid South Africa in the early ‘90s, Collider got the opportunity to speak with actor Taylor Kitsch, best known for his work as Tim Riggins in the acclaimed television series Friday Night Lights, which ends its run this season, and for playing Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

While we will run the portion of the interview where he talked about playing the Pulitzer prize-winning photographer Kevin Carter closer to the film’s release date of April 22nd, we did want to post his updates on his other upcoming projects. During the interview, he talked about re-teaming with Peter Berg for the sci-fi/action flick Battleship, the crazy ride that his character goes on for the film, surprising audiences with the realness of the story, taking on the title role for John Carter of Mars and working opposite green screens for much of it, preparing to play pot grower Chon for Oliver Stone’s next feature Savages, and how proud he is of his work on Friday Night Lights, which he feels he owes so much of his career to now. Check out what he had to say after the jump:

savages-book-coverQuestion: When you do a small, intense role like in The Bang Bang Club, does that factor in to the type of role you want to choose to follow that up with, to help get you out of that head space?

TAYLOR KITSCH: Even this next role that I’m doing, Chon (in Savages), playing with Oliver Stone, I’ve got a great team behind me in this, supporting me an incredible amount, but they know how much it took (to play Kevin Carter). I had a lot of kidney problems playing Kev, through the diet and losing 30-something pounds. It was very tough. So, they’re like, “Just don’t go as far as you went with Kev for Chon.” We’re very conscious of it. And, they keep wanting me to do a comedy, but we haven’t found the right one yet.

What was it like to re-team with Peter Berg for Battleship?

KITSCH: I loved it! He’s a beast. I respect him. He’s a dear friend. I was living with him, at one point, in Hollywood. The trust is everything, on any set, and when you can go to set, knowing this guy has your back entirely, you can take risks that you probably normally wouldn’t take. That was a lot of fun. He pushes you and he doesn’t settle, and neither do I. I think you’ll definitely see that in the film. We have a very similar twisted, dry humor, and that’s definitely present there.

taylor-kitsch-battleship-set-photoWho are you playing in the film, and what will surprise audiences about this movie that’s based on a board game?

KITSCH: I want to give you so much. The arc of [Alex] Hopper is almost laughable. It’s obviously a film of that stature, with aliens and stuff, but you’re going to be tracking this guy throughout. From when you first meet him, to the guy that is in the last scene of that film, it’s quite ridiculous. There are moments in the film where it’s like, “Okay, really? This is the guy that’s going to help everyone and take over?” That’s what we want you saying. And, he’s very real.

Pete [Berg] is an incredible storyteller. It’s very honest. Just because it’s this big film doesn’t mean we can’t have a very, very intense moment, here or there, or have loss, or explore certain aspects of this guy. Let him be scared that he’s got this on his shoulders. Let him be freaking out, by himself. Let him be completely broken. I think that’s a big thing that people will be surprised about. It’s not just beat/beat/joke, beat/beat/joke, alien missile going.

If I’ve done my job, hopefully you’re going to track with him emotionally, as well. This is a good ride that this guy goes on. I don’t want to sign onto a big film and just phone it in. You’ve got to grow through each experience. They’re all different, but if there’s not a challenge or risk for me, why would I do it? I think you see that, hopefully, in the film.

john-carter-of-mars-imageWhat is it like to do films like The Bang Bang Club, that are scaled back and on a smaller budget, and then do something on a bigger scale like John Carter of Mars, where you’re the title character and you’re working with so many effects?

KITSCH: Well, I’m reacting with real people, and it’s face-to-face and incredibly gritty. There’s more room for error. [Andrew] Stanton has written a script for John Carter of Mars that is so intertwined and so incredibly intuitive and smart that every word and every sentence correlates to something maybe at the very last scene of the film. On its own, that’s something that I’m very excited to be involved with. I think we’ve done it. We’ve told the story, so that you have no idea what’s going to happen. Just to be a part of this guy’s mind-set and to play this title guy is amazing. This guy was 11 years old, wanting to do this film.

To have him at the helm, and for him to pen what he did, and to go and play that, that was special. I was looking at a 100-foot green screen and there was an X on it at the 75-foot mark, and that was supposed to be a ship that I’m blowing up. In situations like that, escapism is a lot harder, as an actor, and tests you in different ways. Making a light switch real to me, as something that’s going to kill me, and being able to just be present and react to someone are very different. With Bang Bang, I had a fucking child and a vulture. If you can’t put yourself in a present moment there, then you’ve got to go back to New York and study a bit more. It’s not hard.

taylor-kitsch-friday-night-lightsWhat was it like to have Friday Night Lights come to a close?

KITSCH: I think it was time, as an actor. You feel excited to take on new endeavors. I know I’ll be proud, 10 years from now, that I was a part of it. I know I’ll still be as proud as I am now. I think it was a special show, and I owe so much of my career to that, and growing as an actor, making mistakes, taking risks and asking why, all the time.

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