Giles Hardie June 24, 2012
Taylor Kitsch as John Carter
Widely and wildly maligned, John Carter was neither the box office nor filmic failure that it has been held out to be.
John Carter is an action-adventure that moves in location from the wild west of North America to Mars, known to its inhabitants as Barsoom. The title character, John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), is a war-weary, former military captain who’s inexplicably transported to Mars and reluctantly becomes embroiled in an epic conflict. It’s a world on the brink of collapse, and Carter rediscovers his humanity when he realizes the survival of Barsoom and its people rests in his hands.
With a production budget estimated at a quarter of a billion dollars, and the additional expectations of Disney positioning the film to help them break into an audience demographic they have always struggled to fill, the film always had a mountain to climb. A heavily criticised marketing campaign resulted in a weak North American box office return ($75 million) however internationally the film was a success making more than $200 million and earning a number of positive reviews.
Taylor Kitsch sat down with us to relive his experience in the title to promote the film's home entertainment release, which Disney hopes will gives the film a new reputation.
Taylor, what was it like to work on an epic project like John Carter?
Working on this movie was incredibly demanding, but it was also incredibly rewarding. I had tons of action scenes in the movie and it was exhausting because I had long, very physical days for four months straight. However, it was all worth it.
How would you describe your average day on the set of John Carter?
In the beginning, I’d start training at 4.30am in the morning before going to work on set all day and way into the night. Sometimes I’d get home at 10pm – but I’d be doing this all week. It was tough, but it was also fun. I feel like I had to put all of that energy into my character to portray what John Carter is like as a person because he’s a hero and a warrior. It’s amazing to see everything come to life in the finished film.
What went through your mind when you saw the finished movie for the first time?
I thought it was awesome! It’s tough to watch myself on the screen – but I’m very proud of this movie. I’m also proud of the movie’s director, Andrew Stanton. I’m proud of [co-star] Lynn Collins and everyone that’s been part of the movie. We’ve had so many great actors involved in the project, from Willem Dafoe to Dominic West, as well as an incredible crew and stunt team.
What was it like to work alongside Willem Dafoe?
I love Willem. He’s such a great guy. Listen, I’ve worked with lesser actors that have bigger egos. He is amazing.
What did you learn from him during your John Carter experience?
I learned that Willem Dafoe is a professional through and through. He was really committed to the project and he spent a lot of time on set even if he didn’t need to be there. I think that’s why he’s had such a great career. He makes anything he’s in better.
Do you hope people will say the same thing about you one day?
Definitely. I very much hope so. For me, it’s all about the work. I won’t be remembered for the magazine covers or the fame. Hopefully, I’ll be remembered by the work I’ve put in.
What do you think of your character’s costumes in John Carter?
I have about 15 different costumes in the movie, but people seem to comment a lot on the outfits where my character doesn’t wear too much. I knew what I was getting myself into when I signed up for the role, so I was fine with everything they gave me to wear. The wardrobe was great.
Do you feel flattered by the female fan attention you receive?
Sure, it’s very flattering. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great – but I don’t want to be remembered for the guy who takes his top off. I want to be remembered for playing a great role.
Did you have to adhere to a special diet in order to stay in shape for the role?
I had a very strict diet because the role was extremely physical, but I love the power you can have over your body and how you can manipulate it with nutrition. I’ve studied nutrition in the past because I wanted to become a nutritionist for kids. If I wasn’t an actor, that’s definitely what I’d like to be doing.
Why did you want to become a nutritionist for children?
Why kids? Because I love kids. I guess it’s that simple.
Are you conscious about what you eat?
I usually eat quite healthily – but at times I’m the first guy to hose down a pizza. I’m also a big breakfast guy. I love food. I’m always dining out and feasting on the good stuff.
John Carter is based on a series on sci-fi books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Did you read the books before you started work on the movie?
I did. When I started prepping for the role, I didn’t have the script, so I used the books to get into character and to find out about the guy I was going to play.
Would you recommend the books?
I like the books without a doubt. If you’re into epic stories, you’ll love the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
What books did you read when you were a teenager?
I didn’t read too many novels when I was 13. I was outside playing hockey and having fun.
What were you like as a teenager?
I had a very typical Canadian upbringing. I spent a lot of time playing hockey and heading outside with my friends. I didn’t have any video games and I didn’t hang out in front of the TV too much. I was outside using my imagination.
Why did you decide to become an actor?
When I was younger, I wanted to become a professional hockey player – but a knee injury stopped that dream. I enjoyed acting, so I thought I’d give it a go. However, I didn’t just move to Hollywood and immediately become a star. I had to work hard. I was homeless in LA and New York along the way – but thankfully all the hard work eventually paid off.
How do you keep your feet on the ground after being thrust into the spotlight in John Carter?
I guess it helps that I don’t live in Hollywood. I live in Texas where I have a very different life. I don’t go out in LA, I don’t date an actress and I don’t foresee me doing that in the future. I feel like I’ve got my feet on the ground and they are not going anywhere.
Will you ever move back to Hollywood?
I’m not sure about that because I’m very happy in Texas. Being out of LA makes you see a lot clearer. A lot of my friends are non-actors, so that helps a lot, and the actors that I am friends with, they’re very similar to what direction I’m going on as well. They are more about the work than about celebrity. I like that.
What advice would you give to aspiring actors that want to follow in your footsteps?
I would say, “Man, you’ve got to go for it.” Don’t be denied and never be outworked. This is a tough industry, but you can make it if you try hard.
John Carter is available on Disney Blu-ray and DVD from 4 July.