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John Carter - Taylor Kitsch interview

Taylor Kitsch in John Carter

Interview by Rob Carnevale

TAYLOR Kitsch talks about some of the challenges of playing John Carter for director Andrew Stanton, including doing 95% of his own stunts and getting into physical shape.

He also reflects on his own rise to prominence since being homeless in New York just 10 years’ ago and why Hugh Jackman proved a big source of inspiration when they worked together.

Q. This is shaping up to be a really big year for you…
Taylor Kitsch: Yeah, it’s a subtle year [laughs].

Q. Are you prepared for the Taylor Kitsch explosion?
Taylor Kitsch: Yeah, I’m proud of the work. I really am. I’m proud of the journey that we had on this film and I think that the most thing that I’m proud of for this whole year is just how different these guys that you’re going to see… from John Carter to Chon in Savages with Oliver Stone. It’s a good ride, man. They’re very different guys. I mean this guy is an incredibly honourable guy that’s doing the right thing and paying the ultimate price at times for it. Then I go and shave my head and put a full body of tattoos and scars on and play this jaded Navy Seal. It’s pretty fun.

Q. Was John Carter first?
Taylor Kitsch: John Carter, Battleship, Savages… so the way they come out is the way they were filmed.

Q. What was the initial appeal of John Carter? Were you a fan of the Edgar Rice Burrough novels?
Taylor Kitsch: The initial appeal was just to work with Andrew Stanton. I think the script was phenomenal. It took me three full reads to really break it down. And the emotional aspect of it was the most fulfilling for me. The arc of this guy that’s this broken Civil War veteran that ends up being John Carter of Mars is a pretty incredible journey if you think about it. It’s one of those films, and I saw it again last night, that really just resonates with you because it’s so intricate.

Q. There’s a lot going on and it’s deceptive…
Taylor Kitsch: Absolutely…

Q. It has contemporary resonance, it’s got a deeply personal journey and he’s practically the first superhero as well…
Taylor Kitsch: Yeah, so no pressure then, right [laughs]? It was great. I loved being a part of it and to be this guy and breathe life into Andrew Stanton’s childhood dream. It was just a special feeling on set and this family that we have with this cast is very rare in any film or any workplace. But we truly do admire one another and that goes from Mark Strong to Willem Dafoe to Andrew Stanton to Lynn Collins. We’re all big fans of one another.

Q. Were there any nerves when first stepping onto the set and realising the enormity of the project?
Taylor Kitsch: There is now. It’s not out officially yet. I’m excited to share the journey and we’re proud of it. And I’m so close to it because my heart is in the film… I just want it to do well and hope people have that same feeling that we have.

Q. You gave of yourself 100%, suffering from exhaustion at the end…
Taylor Kitsch: Oh my God… I literally passed out from exhaustion while shooting, yeah. So, I don’t think I could have given more. It allows a bit more closure too, because the worst regret in life period is I should have, could have, would have… if I did this more, if I could have put more into it, and I don’t have one with this.

Q. You also did 95% of your own stunts…
Taylor Kitsch: Yeah.

John Carter

Q. What was the most dangerous?
Taylor Kitsch: There’s a moment where I was getting dropped 80ft with a freefall for a bit [for the scene with the white apes] and I had a high ankle sprain and I’m landing on a three-inch mat under sand and I was very adamant, maybe even reluctantly now, like ‘why Kitsch, you really needed to do everything?’… but I was up there and before there’s a 10-second countdown and during this countdown I was like: “One, I can’t believe they’re letting me do this; two, my ankle is going to go and we’re going to shut down a set…” But luckily enough we’re OK. But that one moment was like: “This isn’t good.”

Q. What kind of fitness regime did you undertake?
Taylor Kitsch: It’s called hell! That’s it. It was four months before and then seven during just to sustain that. And then it was 4.30am workouts six days a week. And then there was an insanely boring diet and then just the workouts in the morning and throughout the day to keep that physique.

Q. You have a good physique anyway…
Taylor Kitsch: But I ‘aint walkin’ around like that! I’ll tell you that much! I wish! I would be shirtless now if I looked like that all of the time, just for no reason [laughs].

Q. Did you allow yourself to binge afterwards?
Taylor Kitsch: Oh believe it! It was insane. I didn’t touch alcohol for a year and then the diet was incredibly boring. So, after that I had a case of beer to re-connect with mates and then pizza and then Mexican food in Austin, Texas.

Q. I gather you learned a lot about how to cope with the pressure of leading a big, potentially franchise film from hanging out with Hugh Jackman on the set of X-Men Origins: Wolverine?
Taylor Kitsch: Yeah, it was huge for me and he’s a dear friend still. I think there are so many things that I’ve taken from him but the best leaders to me are the ones that lead by example and I took that from him. I’m not a cheerleader on set. I’m more of a guy who is very gritty and who will outwork anyone and I took a huge piece of that from Hugh.

Q. Do you find that you’re becoming more confident and more of a cheerleader on-set as you’ve done three big films in a row now?
Taylor Kitsch: In press I have to be but not on set. I’m a very focused guy on-set. I’m not the guy who goes: “Hey, what’s going on?” It is what it is when we get to work and it’s about doing that justice.

Q. How would you describe your journey to this point because 10 years ago you were homeless in New York?
Taylor Kitsch: Yeah, very full circle. I think it just allows you to be in the moment and it allows you to laugh at the things you should laugh at. And not get caught up in it because you can totally see it a lot clearer. I’m just very proud of it and hopefully we can stay on this track o working with the best.

Q. So, it helps to keep you grounded…
Taylor Kitsch: Oh, without a doubt. To go back to Hugh [Jackman] we both were 30 when it really, truly started to go and to have that sense of self before it starts is everything.

Q. Having worked with the likes of Andrew Stanton, Peter Berg and Oliver Stone does that give you a hankering to get behind the camera too at some point in your career?
Taylor Kitsch: I will, absolutely. I went and did a documentary in Africa in November and I shot it, edited it, financed it, everything… It’s only a 10-minute piece but it will come out in a couple of months. I’m very proud of that, so I can’t wait. It won’t be a $250 million summer blockbuster though [laughs]!

Read our review of John Carter

Read our interview with Andrew Stanton