Shouldering more than $500 million worth of hopes and dreams can get tiring, even if one is toned to the point of Greek godliness. Taylor Kitsch, a 31-year-old former junior-hockey player from Kelowna (and owner of the aforementioned shoulders), concedes that he is indeed exhausted. Fair enough-the actor’s been stockpiling frequent-flyer miles since November, when he started doing press for John Carter, the first film in a cinematic hat trick that includes May’s based-on-a-board-game Battleship and Oliver Stone’s latest, Savages, out this month. The triad will either secure Kitsch household-name status or ensure that nobody in the movie business will want to touch him with a ten-foot boom pole. The Summer of Taylor Kitsch is a calculated industrywide gamble. For the sake of his sanity, it’s a good thing the actual Taylor Kitsch isn’t keeping score.
“You can get yourself so worked up thinking what if, what if, what if. I’m proud of the work, and hopefully people enjoy it,” he says. This onward-and-upward attitude served him well after John Carter, a sci-fi action flick about a Civil War soldier who gets time-warped to Mars, was released in March and received far from favourable reviews, let alone box-office returns. Kitsch gets defensive when I refer to the movie as a flop (it was), though he recognizes that his idols-Sean Penn, Daniel Day-Lewis, Philip Seymour Hoffman-didn’t spend their early careers playing opposite a giant green screen. “When they were growing up, you would have movies like Savages financed several times a year. The game’s different now. These [big-budget blockbuster] movies are what’s being made, for the most part.”
The shift has a lot to do with the global nature of a once Hollywood-centric trade-lowbrow/high-profit franchises such as Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean now do boffo ticket sales in Asia and Europe. Directorial vanity projects-even if it’s an Oliver Stone vanity project-are risky endeavours. But there’s tremendous goodwill towards Savages. The fact that it was originally slated for a September release and has been moved up to July is a serious sign of confidence in the film (and Kitsch) on the part of the studio, Universal Pictures.
Only when compared with the rest of Kitsch’s resumé could this story of best-friend pot dealers whose shared girlfriend gets kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel seem at all low-key. Co-starring Blake Lively, John Travolta and Salma Hayek, the movie is an opportunity for the action man to show off his acting chops, which have gone largely unrecognized outside of his role in the biopic The Bang Bang Club (he played South African photojournalist Kevin Carter) and his career-launching turn as the beer-guzzling, lady-killing high-school football star Tim Riggins on TV’s critical darling Friday Night Lights.
He says he was drawn to Savages and his character, a former Navy SEAL, because “there was so much to dive into in terms of backstory. When you meet Chon, he’s just come back from Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s someone who became slowly jaded over time.” As for the whole shared-girlfriend plot point, Kitsch doesn’t think that would pan out so well in real life. Regarding his own romantic situation, he responds with an Artless Dodger of an answer: He’s currently married to his career.
Once the triple-decker media tour finally comes to a halt, Kitsch is heading right back to Austin, Texas, where he spent five years filming Friday Night Lights and where he’s currently building his dream house-a perfect place to escape the great expectations and to give those shoulders a rest.
The Quotable Kitsch
Alex Hopper, Battleship
“They’re right. All of the people who say it’s our job to sit there
and watch people die.” Kevin Carter, The Bang Bang Club
“If I learnt anything in my life, it’s this:
Always play the cards you’re dealt. My
name is Gambit…and I play for keeps.”
Remy Lebeau, X-Men Origins: Wolverine
“Mars? I’m on Mars…Good God, I’m on Mars.”
John Carter, John Carter
“You’re going to state, correct? Nothing is going to be bigger than that. Play it that way. Play it like it’s the last time you’re ever gonna lace up. Then let go and move on.” Tim Riggins, Friday Night Lights
(Photo: Robyn Bek/AFP/Getty)