Interview: Taylor Kitsch
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John Carter is an action-adventure set on the wild and mysterious planet of Barssom (Mars) with its unfamiliar inhabitants: the warring Red Men of Zodonga and Helium, the savage Tharks and the manipulative and all-powerful Therns. When a war-weary American Civil War veteran John Carter is unexpectedly transported from a remote cave in Arizona to the red planet, the power balance is tipped and he finds himself drawn into a mission of heroic proportions. The survival of Princess Dejah, of Helium, and the entire planet of Barsoom rest in the hands of one man - John Carter.
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John Carter this is the first of two very big films for you this year.
Yeah, I have this, Battleship (directed by Peter Berg), and then we finish the year with a bang with Oliver Stone's film Savages. So yeah, a big year, and I am very excited for all of the characters that you will get to see me play.
It is a very similar situation to the one that Sam Worthington was in three years ago. He had Terminator Salvation and Avatar, and then after that he kind of fell off our radars. Are you afraid that your career going the same way?
Well first of all, I am not Sam Worthington, I do not think that I am similar to Sam Worthington, and it is not something that I am afraid of. I am just excited about the future. I am already re-engaging with another director, so I am just looking forward to the next project. At the end of the day it is longevity that you want, that is the ultimate compliment for an actor, and I am in this for the long-term.
How did you prepare for the role of John Carter?
Achieving the right aesthetic and physicality was an eleven month start-to-finish regiment of dieting and training, and then I was working out on set. As for the actual character, I studied and immersed myself in the Civil War. I live in Austin, Texas, so I studied with historians there - reading letters that were written by soldiers, reading novels - I attached a lot of John Carter to that. It was so important to do because the backstory to the character is everything, the guilt that he carries with him from the war forms so much of who he is. And working with the script gave me such a great platform, it gave me so much to dive into, and I think as a result the audience has a better ride as well.
Your physical regiment prior to shooting sounds incredibly intense. Was there a sense of sacrifice that came with that level of preparation?
Not really. I think it was a case of the cliché ‘what you put in, is what you get out.’ The preparation was rigorous in terms of diet, exercise and exhaustion, I mean, I didn’t have a drop of booze for a whole year! Now, I’m not an alcoholic or anything, but I do like to have a good time with the best of them. But even with that I didn’t feel that I was missing out on anything because I found it all so fulfilling. In the end, this really is the kind of opportunity that comes along once in a lifetime, and I was just trying to make the best of it.
Your character is involved in several huge action sequences in the film. Did you get to do all of your own stunts?
Yeah, I did; almost to a fault in retrospect. I ended up doing like 90% of my stunts in the film. I think that a lot of the character of John Carter comes out through the action, so I was adamant that that was what I wanted to do. And it changes the way that you can shoot the fight sequences – you can shoot them way more intimately. But there was a moment when I was 80 feet up in the air, on wires; waiting for a 10-second countdown for me to freefall and land on a mat that was three-inches thick and buried beneath the sand; all this when I had a pretty bad high-ankle sprain, and I suddenly thought, ‘I can’t believe they are letting me do this.’ In the end I was lucky, it was all fine: the injury didn’t get any worse, and we didn’t have to shut down shooting, but it was a big risk to take.
It sounds like you are a very determined guy. Is that an attitude to work that you have had your whole life?
Yeah, I guess so. I grew up in a small town in Canada, the youngest of three brothers, so I have always been the underdog, it’s all I know. And because of that I just won’t be denied; I won’t let anything fail within myself. I really feel that I have out-worked my way to get where I am. My advice to actors is: do not let yourself be outworked, and you will be fine. It's a matter of who wants it more in my opinion.
So how did you go from a small town boy in Canada to sitting here promoting a film in London?
Well, I played hockey growing up (as you do in Canada) and that was my first passion; that was number one for me. But then I injured my knee, and so that was it for my hockey career. After that I ended up moving to New York and I struggled to become an actor there for a bit. It was rough. I was homeless and literally sleeping in the subway in the city. Then moved and struggled for a bit in Los Angeles. It was a real struggle because I had no visa, and I couldn't legally work in the Sates, so I ran out of money quick, especially in New York. Eventually, I completely run out of money and I had to move back up to Vancouver. When I was back home, the first reading I had was for Snakes on a Plane, and I got a tiny supporting role in that. Literally ever since then it's been a rollercoaster.