Actor Taylor Kitsch
Taylor Kitsch carved out a niche for himself in “Friday Night Lights” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” In “John Carter,” he stars as the title character in a fantasy world. Kitsch spoke to The Daily Aztec about the boredom associated with fitness, the problems with talking at clouds and why jet lag is no joke.
The Daily Aztec: What does it mean to you to portray a character that has existed for a century?
Taylor Kitsch: I don’t know, I don’t think you’re going to put more pressure on it because it’s existed. I think that’s a lot of the outside pressure trying to come in. But no one is going to put more pressure on it more than I will. You know, I think the most pressure I’ve truly had was probably playing a guy that’s lived and has passed on in Kevin Carter. But I’m not going to prep more because it’s Edgar Rice Burroughs’ vision or anything like that. But, I mean, it’s very flattering to be a part of it. And I think that scope of it all is quite cool to be a part of it as well. And I think to breathe life into — (Andrew) Stanton, who directed it — his childhood dream. I think that’s a pretty amazing thing to do and be a part of.
DA: What were the physical challenges of the role? It seems as though there were a lot of scenes that you were pushed to your physical limits. How did you prepare?
TK: I think I battled exhaustion throughout, just because you’re in so much of it and you’re working six-day weeks and all that kind of stuff. But the diet is everything. It’s the most boring diet you can think of ever. Really. And just like surrounding all the meals with protein and I was on it for around 11 months. And then just the aesthetic part of John. You wake up at 4:30 in the morning every day and you train and it goes back to boxing, to a lot of the core stuff of the wire work, and then the sword training. And man, I can bore you guys all day with what I ate. But I‘ll just leave it at it was incredibly boring.
DA: After your work on “Friday Night Lights” and “The Bang Bang Club,” was it strange to be reacting to creatures and objects that weren’t really there?
TK: Yes. Next question. (Laughs) Uh, no. I mean, yeah. It’s a good question, just because it’s tough, man. What was tough, I think why I was so exhausted too, is if it was a scene with me and him.
Once we get the scene on John Carter, we have to do it another 10 takes plus. For the effects people, for them to get it right to make sure we can get through all that. That’s just so exhausting. And I think when you’re acting to nothing, it’s tough, man. I’ve got big speeches in this film where you’re looking at clouds, and it’s tough to really connect to anything. So it just kind of demands that much more of you.
DA: How hectic is the promotional period before a movie is released?
TK: Oh man, I can go on a tangent right now, where the studio would probably just hang up. (Laughs) This is cool what we’re doing here … but it’s beyond exhausting, man.
I mean just put it this way. I spent the last 20 hours in my home in Austin, Texas. That was the first time in a month that I’ve had that. And I won’t get to go back for another month plus. And jet lag is no joke, by the way. It is no joke. You lose a job here or there because of lack of availability and that’s the last thing you want to lose a job for.
But I’ll put the violin away. You just stay focused, you get through it and helps when you love the movie and you love the work that you put into it.
Director Andrew Stanton
Pixar director Andrew Stanton helmed two of the most successful films of the last decade with “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-E.” Stanton recently made the jump to live-action adventure filmmaking with an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ sprawling fantasy series “John Carter.” Stanton spoke to The Daily Aztec about the challenges of live-action filmmaking, the relevance of “John Carter” to modern audiences, and why he hates cliff-hangers.
The Daily Aztec: How is directing a live-action film different from directing an animated film?
Andrew Stanton: It’s actually not that different. People think that when you work on an animated film, it’s as if I’m talking to a bunch of computers my whole life. I actually talk to 200 people every day, 200 people that have different jobs, like how to do the lighting, the camera, the costume work. So it’s very similar actually in live action. I’m talking to people that do the camera, the costumes, you know, the actors and it’s just that you’re doing it outside instead of inside. And you’re doing it under a very, very tight schedule whereas you have a lot more sort of bankers’ hours when you’re doing animation. So, the big difference is just physical stamina. I know that’s not sexy, but that’s the truth of it.
DA: Did your experience at Pixar help with the CGI on the film?
AS: My experience at Pixar was tremendously helpful. I don’t think I could have done this had I not. I mean making “John Carter” was basically making two movies. Almost literally two different film productions. One was the live-action side that took almost a year to do and then the computer graphic side. Because half my main characters are completely CG and half the world is CG. And that was another year and a half of work and that happened after I shot the live action. So I kind of was in this live-action world with all the sort of production rules and pipelines. And then I moved onto animation and I worked in the same kind of pipeline that I would work and production flow that I would work on for a Pixar movie. And I knew that half of it really well and I was working with people I hadn’t worked with before but it was fun. I think they really enjoyed working with a director who actually knew and cared about animation.
DA: Did you approach the film and the story differently than you would if it were an animated film?
AS: I didn’t approach the story any differently. I mean to be honest, I think that’s the misconception about animation is that we don’t approach our stories any differently … we just treat every character like an actor is going to play it. And that we’re going to have a real set. And we’re going to have real locations, and we’re going to do all this stuff. We have since day one on “Toy Story.” So to me there is no difference. It’s only when you get into the practical aspect of how you’re going to execute it that you have to think differently. But everything else is for dramatic reasons.
And we have, you know, I do have the luxury in animation that if I decide that we should suddenly go to a whole new city, maybe we have much more options of being able to actually build that city and do it, whereas it might be too costly in live action to go there. But to be honest, there’s a budget in animation just as much as there is in live action. And everything has a cost to it. So we get sort of our hands slapped and told we can’t do things with animation all the time. People have this myth that just because you can do anything, means you can afford to do anything, and you can’t. Everything has a budget and a schedule. So it’s just a different kind of restriction.
DA: What is the relevance of “John Carter” to a modern audience? And what message would you hope the film sends to the audience?
AS: I don’t really consider those things. I’ve had a lot of those kind of questions when I was doing “Wall-E,” because it seemed to be so appropriate to the times of concern about the environment and things. But they’re all just ingredients for me for what’s the drama of the story. My interest was what’s the timeless human aspect about the character and the story that will always speak to me, no matter what’s going on in the world. And having a person that discovers that they think their purpose in life is over and was misguided to begin with, suddenly find where they really do fit in, I think that’s what all of us are searching to do. Heck, that’s why you’re all in college, right? You’re all trying to figure out where do I fit in and what’s my true calling. And that’s what this person is dealing with. And I think I used anything I could, even if it was subject matter that might compare to the day of if, you know, if it didn’t. That would help tell that dramatic drive. And that was it.
DA: Burroughs’s original novel was the first part in an enormous series. Can we expect sequels or other content beyond “John Carter”?
AS: That’s me knocking on wood. I sure hope so. We actually got the rights to the first three books, and we planned all three movies together so that we knew where they were all going. But I also hated movies that had these unnecessary cliff-hangers that suddenly just leave you hanging, as there is this sort of vain assumption that there is going to be another movie. I didn’t want to jinx that either, so we made sure each movie finished in a very satisfying way when we wrote them. Even though there might be these meta-issues that could keep going. It’s like having a good conclusion to a television season.
And maybe you’ll get picked up for the next year, maybe you won’t, but at least you know there’s closure in the small for what you were dealing with for that season. So we did that with this movie and we planned it that way for the others.