The drama Savages, from three-time Oscar-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone, follows entrepreneurs Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch), and their shared girlfriend O (Blake Lively), who run a lucrative business raising some of the best marijuana ever developed. But, the legendary weed of these Laguna Beach heroes soon catches the interest of the Mexican Baja Cartel, headed by the merciless Elena “La Reina” (Salma Hayek). Along with her brutal enforcer Lado (Benicio Del Toro) and her head attorney Alex (Demian Bichir), Elena demands a partnership which she ensures by kidnapping that which they love most, and what was once a peaceful and easy lifestyle becomes a high-stakes battle of wills.
At the film’s press day, actor Taylor Kitsch talked about his reaction to director Oliver Stone wanting him for the role of Chon, how he prepared for the more intimate scenes in the film, what it was like to shoot his intense confrontation with John Travolta, the incredible attention to detail on set, how he felt about the ending, and his desire to stay away from projects with a lot of green screen for awhile. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
TAYLOR KITSCH: I just told Oliver how lucky he was. No. It’s just an amazing accomplishment. I hold a lot of pride within that. To have worked with these guys, it’s something that I’ll have for a long time. It was amazing!
Do you think it’s possible to share a girlfriend without any jealousy?
KITSCH: I think it’s more of a trust thing. For us, it was more of a brotherhood. It really does come down to the trust. That was such an integral part of the movie, just because we have barely any scenes with [Blake Lively], so you have to show this connection between three people and that they’ll literally die for each other, basically in one scene. That was more at stake than just showing we could do it and make it work.
KITSCH: A lot of sexual improv was going on there. No. We blocked it out with Oliver [Stone]. We had two weeks rehearsal, so we talked about it until we were about to pass out. I think I had known Blake for three or four days, before we shot [those scenes]. That was the first week of shooting. It was just about trusting Blake and Oliver, like you do on any set. I was just glad it was over with, to be honest. It’s very awkward to do. It’s such a big part of Chon and who he is. That’s how you meet him, so it’s a pretty intense reveal, no pun intended. It’s all part of it, but I was glad it was in the first week.
Considering the bond that Chon and Ben share with O, how do you reconcile Elena’s line that, “If they really loved her, they wouldn’t share her”?
KITSCH: I think it’s almost undebatable that you can tell how much we love O. It’s less about who loves her more than both of us dying for her, or doing whatever it takes. I think our actions speak a lot louder than us debating who loves her more.
KITSCH: Obviously, it’s John Travolta and you just respect a guy like that. He’s an icon, for a reason. I think it takes a special actor, which he is, just to give you that scene, in that way. I’ve worked with lesser actors that are more worried about how they’re going to come out of the scene than the scene itself. It just says so much to John that he was like, “Yeah, let’s make this scene incredibly memorable and let it just serve the script, and not selfishly our characters or ourselves.”
In an Oliver Stone film, there is incredible attention paid to the details. Did you notice that, on set?
KITSCH: I think you’re always conscious of that. That’s where the prep and rehearsal [comes in]. I shadowed a Navy SEAL in Texas, for a long time, so I felt quite set, even in rehearsals. I think prep is an enormous amount [of the work]. The rehearsals were quite intense. You felt quite good, on the day, because you had it out. So many of our questions were dealt with in rehearsal, and we could just go and play. Oliver would call you out when necessary, and you’d collaborate like anything else. I just love that he holds you accountable. I think that just gets the best out of you.
KITSCH: Chon says maybe two lines in the book. I definitely thought about it, and I love Chon in the book. Everyone does. I selfishly wish we had a couple of those scenes from the book, where he goes onto the sailboat and does what he does. But, I think it would be incredibly boring to watch me not say a word and not really do much, and then shoot the odd gun. One of my favorite scenes is in the car, after we switch cars and they take the money, because that’s just verbally where we’re both at. I love that scene. That’s really who Chon is to me.
Because Chon and Ben are so different from each other, where do you think they connect with each other, personally?
KITSCH: For me, it’s acceptance. I don’t think it made it in [the film], but Chon’s father beat the crap out of him a lot and they had some of that in there. With O and Ben, it’s more that they accept Chon for who he is. With any relationship, that’s everything. Ben is the one person who Chon will do anything for. To protect Ben and O is Chon’s purpose. His purpose is lost, being out of the war. Ben has given Chon purpose. For me, that was everything. That’s why he would do what he did to protect him.
KITSCH: I don’t have a preference about all of it. I think it just reveals so much, in different ways. That’s the beauty of it, to me. It’s quite intense, and we actually had a lot of fun shooting it. We were shooting in the middle of nowhere with all these guys, and we could just go for it. I had a lot of fun doing it.
After having done two big sci-films (John Carter and Battleship), were you attracted to Savages for the chance to do deeper character material?
KITSCH: Yeah, it was exciting. I kept pitching aliens to Oliver, but he wasn’t buying it. No. It’s back to just being mano y mano, and working with actors and not green screen. That was very refreshing. Both those films taught me an immense amount of patience, and I think I really brought that over to Savages. I really loved being on this set with these actors, and being a part of it. Not that I didn’t with the others, but just to make it as raw as this film is and to get back to what it is, going off another actors and really searching, creating and collaborating in that way is really refreshing, and I’ll stay on that track. There will be no more green screen for awhile.