TAYLOR KITSCH QUESTION-AND-ANSWER
Following is a Disney studio-provided question-and-answer
interview - January 1, 2012
with Taylor Kitsch, who stars in the lead
role in John Carter.
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John Carter has an amazing back-story. How did that inform you as an actor?
When I first read the script, I was drawn to
the character-driven story and the fact that it will benefit from being
a big studio movie. It gave the filmmakers a chance to make the film in
an amazing way. You get to know John Carter's background with his family,
the Civil War and everything. It's heavy to play but it gives me such a
base to draw from through the whole movie. For example, in one scene, you'll
see Carter playing with his rings and you'll know what that truly means
to him. It's great as an actor because it's something to really dive into.
What kind of character is John Carter?
Carter is a man who has lost everything he ever
cared about. He comes back from the Civil War to find his wife and child
dead. He basically goes into this recluse mode of living and is driven
to mine for gold. It's like a Band-Aid solution -- he's covering up what
he hasn't dealt with, the guilt and the loss of his family, whom he went
to war to protect.
He has a fear of taking responsibility again and
that's what he's fighting through the whole movie. He lands in the Civil
War between Helium and Zodanga. He's on Mars but their conflict is incredibly
relatable for him, so he just wants nothing to do with it. You have Dejah,
Tars and everyone reminding him or literally telling him that there's a
cause here and you have to be part of it whether you like it or not. He's
made that choice before and everything was just ripped from him, so obviously
there's that fear of actually engaging in that again. So that's what he's
always pushing away from.
This movie covers such an incredible
epic span from the Civil War era to Western America to Mars. How was the
epic adventure sense of it for you as an actor?
The grandeur and what Stanton's done and how
it works and how it's all intertwined is quite epic and I felt that as
an actor. My character is definitely on an epic adventure. We go from the
1800s on the streets of New York to the Arizona Territory in the West,
to the plains of Mars -- all in one movie. As an actor I experienced my
character John Carter in many different settings that had specific emotions
and needs that I had to evoke.
I can't recall any movie that's done it the way
we have. The ending brings the adventure full circle brilliantly, but you'll
have to see it to understand what I mean.
What do you think audiences are going
to love about this movie?
There's a lot. I keep saying that the great white
ape scene is worth the price of admission alone. Visually it's going to
be incredible. I think they'll like the characters; they're going to be
able to relate. It's not just a special effects movie with things blowing
up and basically one guy that you don't care about. You care about John
Carter and you care about his journey. You see an incredible arc of who
he is, his new beginning and rebirth, and although you have special effects,
you've also got the brilliant actors whom I've had the fortune of working
opposite as well.
Please talk about your character's relationship
with Lynn Collins' character, Dejah Thoris.
In the books it's almost love at first sight
and John would do anything for Dejah, but in the film you follow an arc
that happens with John and Dejah as their relationship develops. I love
the banter back and forth. We rib each other and we challenge each other
through different scenes and finally the truth just comes out. It's a love
story with everything else going on but it means so much to the film. It's
quite the backbone of it.
Our characters' relationship at first is about
pushing each other's buttons to see how we'll each react. That changes
as we grow and she stops trying to test him and begins to see the real
John, the part he can't even see himself.
But through the relationship, Dejah and John have
so much going on that those moments become very special and, in a sense,
earned. It would be unreal just to play that relationship as it is in the
moment. You have to understand that the stakes are always so high, so you
have to create these small moments that are earned and not just like, Oh,
you're pretty today. You definitely have to work and earn those moments,
which make them that much more special in the film.
Did you enjoy working with Lynn Collins?
Working with Lynn is fiery, which I love. Lynn
has a great balance of fire and beauty and has done an amazing job with
her character Dejah. She's just a ton of fun. In every scene I play with
her the stakes are quite high because she's on such a driven path. Just
to be in those scenes with her has been great. We work really well with
one another. Trust is everything and as an actor and as a good friend I
trust her immensely. It's been great to work with her.
How did director Andrew Stanton convey
his vision to you?
Andrew Stanton's vision was very infectious.
He's just brilliant and you just have to go along with it. You have to
believe in it because it's such an incredible vision that if you don't,
you're not doing the story and the character justice. Our first meeting
was great. I was so excited because I am a huge fan of Wall-E and,
come to find out, he's a fan of Friday Night Lights. It's just been
a great relationship from the get-go and trust has been there from day
one. It was great to be able to have him explain his vision and then to
become part of it.
Where did the story of John Carter come
It comes from Edgar Rice Burroughs, who
created the character of John Carter. 2012 is the 100th anniversary of
the creation of the character. Burroughs wrote a whole series of books
based on him.
I think Edgar Rice Burroughs was way ahead of
his time, especially for his first science- fiction novel. It relates to
what we're living and doing right now -- the lack of natural resources,
the energy problems, the wars going on from racism to religion. He was
hitting it all almost 100 years ago.
And even in the film we address all those things.
What Stanton has done is taken the base of John Carter from Burroughs and
definitely gone into more depth of who John Carter really is and where
he comes from.
Stanton has given me so much more to dive into
with the character that wasn't realized in the books. It's been really
great, script wise, to draw from that.
How does John Carter wind up on Mars?
It's actually quite brilliant. Edgar Rice Burroughs
didn't really address it in the book, in which he just wakes up on Mars.
Andrew Stanton's John Carter goes into a cave on Earth where he tries to
escape the Apaches. The cave has become a Thern way station where Therns
transport back and forth from Mars. Carter gets accidentally transported
to Mars when he comes into possession of a medallion.
What makes the character of John Carter
What's made him so interesting for me to play,
and why I feel grounded in John, is the sense that he's real. And I think
that will appeal to audiences, too. Carter's sense of loss, his regaining
his humanity and his honor and finding love again are all appealing human
themes that play out in this character on the screen.
Does John Carter have powers on Mars?
I don't like to call them powers because then
he's going into a superhero realm, which this is not. His enhanced strength
and ability to jump are based on the different gravity of Mars. He learns
that there's a lack of gravity on Mars and he has to adjust to it. At first
he doesn't realize his enhanced strength, but when he does, he starts to
figure out how to use that to his benefit.
Despite the serious underlying themes
of the movie, it's got a lot of wit and levity to it, too. Correct?
Absolutely. It's something that Stanton's worked
on from the beginning, with the script and in the filming. John Carter
has a lot of funny things happen to him and engages in some witty conversation
with Dejah, Tars and even Woola, his canine-like protector. Even his gestures
become moments of levity, such as the shrug of his shoulders in the White
Ape scene. It's very situational comedy.
Can you talk about Woola, Carter's dog-like
I'm telling you, Woola will steal this movie.
That's how brilliantly he's worked into the story line. Of course, he saves
my butt a few times, which is really great.
At the beginning, I hate him for blowing my cover
in the Thark camp. And, annoyingly, he finds me wherever I go. He's always
able to find me at the right time and sometimes the wrong. He's loud and
awkward, like a puppy in a sense. If anyone has an animal or has had an
animal growing up, they know that there are so many things that you do
with an animal that you don't do in a relationship with another human.
Eventually, John lets his guard down quite a bit and I love that because
it makes those moments with Woola quite great.
Can you address the lengths to which
the production and Andrew Stanton have gone to in order to get the right
We were on location in Utah even though we could
have easily done those whole sequences around green screen. Every location,
whether it was in Utah or in London, was researched and chosen very carefully.
In doing so, Andrew's made an incredible effort to keep it real. It's always
been performance before technicality. The focus is on getting the performance
and being on location helps with that enormously.
What was it like working with the Thark
actors in their motion capture suits?
Kitsch: The actors were dressed in, like, gray
pajamas with dots all over them and headgear. It all goes back to making
it real, because the actual actors were dressed in the suits instead of
Stanton brought in an incredible group of actors
to bring these characters alive. There's a moment in the film where I do
really look at Tars closely and there's only one way you can do it. And
by Willem Dafoe actually being there on stilts, I can connect with him
and his face and with the character. It helped me so much.
I think it's going to be an incredible trip to
see the actual Tars Tarkas up there and me acting to these guys. We've
done everything possible to make that real. Willem really brought Tars
to life. He is incredibly professional and a lot funnier than people give
him credit for. It's a lot of fun to watch him. He is so great to work
off ofâ€¦all of them are. Sam Morton, Church, all these
guys. It's been great.
How important was it that Andrew Stanton
create a somewhat believable world?
It's very important. The film actually takes
place in the late 1800s, so it's not set in the future. It's real time
on Mars, too. So Andrew Stanton created this real world that people can
believe in, not a bunch of people running around in robot suits. I think
it's pretty amazing that we've created such a realistic world.
The key to everything is making it so you can
relate and you can say, Wow, you know, I bet that world exists. And he's
done such a brilliant job with that.
Can you talk about the scope of the
The grandeur and what Stanton's done, and how
it works and how it's all intertwined, is quite epic. Of course, we've
got these wonderful landscapes and all the amazing shots too, which add
to the scope.
I don't have a clue as to the actual scale of
the film, but it feels like an epic to me. We go from the 1800s on the
streets of New York to the Arizona Territory in the West, to the plains
of Mars -- all in one movie.
This is Andrew Stanton's first live-action
film. What makes him the perfect director for John Carter?
It's quite simple. He's a brilliant writer and
he'll tell a story like no other. What we needed first and foremost was
an incredible character-driven story, which he delivered. He's going to
keep the audience on their toes through the whole movie. There's no way
they will figure out the ending.
Andrew Stanton is different from everyone else
that I've worked with before. He directs me differently from the way he'll
direct William [Dafoe] or Samantha [Morton]. And that's the trick. He knows
what is going to work for you and you only. And that's the difference of
his direction compared to a lot of other directors I've worked with.
When did you know you wanted to be an
actor and how did you get into it?
There were things that kind of spoke to me while
I was growing up, such as performances that changed my point of view. I
love telling a story. I love bringing people into a performance. I love
the kind of escapism that it brings.
I enjoy working with brilliant actors. I've had
the pleasure to do so and hopefully it will continue. There's no better
art form that I've ever come across where you learn more about yourself.
I always want to keep growing and becoming a better actor and everything
that goes with that as well.
Do you enjoy seeing this type of science-fiction
adventure in theaters?
I love going to a good film in theaters
just as much as the next guy. It's all about escapism and enjoying the
arc and the wild ride and wondering where the next scene is going to lead
and what's going to happen. Just being a part of it and creating it makes
it that much more special to me. I love movies that take you right into
And I think we'll take you right into Mars and
hopefully you feel it when I'm in the cave and when Dejah is fighting and
when we're surrounded by Tharks. And when we're in the gladiator arena,
I hope you're right there with us.
Did you enjoy your stay in London and
working for so long abroad?
Unfortunately, I didn't really get to see a lot
of London. But what I saw I loved. I worked so much that all I did was
sleep and work.
I love being away from home, though. I've worked
from South Africa to Australia, to London. Ironically, I've only worked
for two weeks in Vancouver, where I'm from. I love being away, as it keeps
me a lot more focused than when I'm home where other variables can come
into play to detour me from work.
You did your own wirework and even worked
with the second unit sometimes doing your own stunt work. How physically
demanding was this role?
Honestly, no job will ever be as physical and
exhausting, yet rewarding, as this one. I've been tested on every level
and then some. The pure physicality of it, to the arc of the character,
to the emotional spectrum he has. I've had to keep up my endurance this
whole time, but again what you put in is what you hopefully get out. And
I think that will be very specific to this role.
Did you have fun doing any of the physical
I love doing the fight scenes. The Great White
Ape scene was probably something I'll never forget. The energy in that
arena was really great. I knew early on from the screen test that this
scene was going to be epic. The stakes are incredibly high and I love that.