If you don’t know Taylor Kitsch from his role as the brooding high school football fullback on the hit television series Friday Night Lights, you will after his breakout role in the big-budget, big action sci-fi film John Carter. Kitsch plays the title character in the much hyped, much anticipated film from the master of animation movie writing and directing Andrew Stanton. John Carter is the story of a Civil War vet who is transplanted to Mars where he discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot-tall barbarians. Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to find a princess who is in desperate need of a savior. I sat down with Kitsch to talk about the film and taking on the iconic character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs over a century ago.
What is it like to portray a time-honored character that has existed for 100 years? No pressure…none whatsoever. I don’t know, I think it’s amazing that Edgar Rice Burroughs was so far ahead of his time, and that so much of his writing is still applicable today. No one put more pressure on me than myself to do it justice. Secondly just to breathe life into (director) Andy Stanton’s childhood dream, and that’s a big one for me. That’s an honor.
What is the thing you loved most about the story? Just to have the level and the depth of John Carter, the whole spectrum I was able to play in bringing life into him that was one of the biggest motivating factors for me in taking the role.
What did you have to do physically to prepare for the role? Insane amount of sword work along with wirework, and then just a crazy diet regimen and training for about 11 months.
How challenging was that? Honestly, no job will ever be as technical, as physical or exhausting, yet rewarding as this one and I can say that as truthfully as I possibly can. I’ve been tested in every level and then some from why I do this, to the physicality of it, to the arc of the character and emotional spectrum he has to keeping the endurance the whole time, but again it’s what you put in is hopefully what you get out. I feel it’s such a high-energy film you’re truly going to feel that on screen.
There’s obviously a lot of CG animation in the movie. How difficult is it to act against CG characters? It’s difficult in a sense that there are takes where I’m acting to nothing, but before we do those takes, I get to work with a Willem DeFoe portraying Tars Tarkas or Samantha Morton or Thomas Hayden Church; so, I had the pleasure of working with those guys when they were bringing their characters to life; so, it’s a lot of fun to act off those guys.
How do you keep the performance so natural when the actors are gone from the scene? Muscle memory, and I have to buy into it 180 percent in order to keep you in that journey with me; so, if I have self doubt, that’s not a good thing.
So, it’s a matter of buying into it as much as you possibly can.
Andrew Stanton is such an accomplished director, what was it like working with him in his first live action film? I loved it. Its very infectious, his vision and just his tenaciousness with getting it right and doing it, and he’s just brilliant. I hadn’t met, and I haven’t met anyone who prepped as much as he did, and I think it really is a testament to him as a person and how much he cares about this film, and I’d love to do it all over again.
You can get lost in space with John Carter when it opens in theatres nationwide this week. The film is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.