Battleship Star Taylor Kitsch
We caught up with John Carter himself to talk Battleship.
As part of the press schedule for the upcoming sci-fi actioner Battleship, we were lucky enough to head to a round-table interview with the star of the film, Taylor Kitsch. We were keen to talk to Taylor about the demands of the shoot, life post-John Carter and working with heavy CGI effects.
Are you enjoying all the buzz lately?
It’s exciting for sure, we’re very proud of it so it’s fun to finally show it.
How was the preparation for Battleship?
I had a lot of fun, it was very collaborative with Hopper, with who he is, living on his brother’s couch, and Pete and I boiled it down to a guy who was simply afraid of his own potential. He didn’t take the risks that you have to take in life to push yourself and succeed. He was that guy, everyone’s been in that position in their lives, and some don’t leave it, you know. It was his brother who was really fed up and pushed him into it. So it was a lot of fun to make that whole arc of who he was very drastic. Of who he is at the start, living on his brother’s couch to saving the world, it was a lot of fun.
And how about physical preparation?
Oh no, I’d just come back from John Carter so I could eat what I wanted and that kind of stuff, I didn’t need to be in anywhere near the shape I was for Carter.
You were a personal trainer weren’t you? Does that make it easier?
It’s still the same amount of discipline, still a lot of work. I know what I have to do, it’s a matter of applying that.
The movie reunites you with Peter (Berg), how do you find working with him, and what is it about his directing style that you particularly like?
I love working with him man, I think it’s very empowering as an actor, we’re friends first and foremost, and what comes with that is a lot of trust. That’s anything on any set, with Oliver Stone, Andrew Stanton or Pete Berg, it’s that. I needed to trust him even a bit more so in this film as a lot of it was put in in post-production, you’re make believing a lot more. So on that note, and who we are as people, we definitely love to push the envelope, and we push each other through that process so it’s great.
Coming to the actual shoot itself, how was that? How are your sea legs?
I had moments man! I didn’t actually succumb to them but I had moments where I had to sit down for a sec. What’s crazy was that I was actually better on the sea than when we were in the studio when the whole ship was on tracks, so they’d be saying “OK we just wanna give you a feel of what it’s like””, I’m like “whoa hold on!” That hit me harder than the actual ocean, which just goes to show you the effects and all that, it’s insane.
The opening scene is absolutely brilliant, it really sets the tone for the film with the humour, is that something you worked on with Peter to come up with? Was it born of experience at all?
(laughs) Oh no! I’ve never been tased thank God. But I think it is just such an endearing quality of that guy, and it gets everyone’s guard down right away and you can hopefully just enjoy the ride. We don’t take ourselves incredibly seriously, I mean sure there are moments when it happens but we also keep it light with that escape. I think it’s one of the best character openings you could ask for.
Was that a stunt guy falling through the roof then?
Yeah they wouldn’t let me do it! And rightfully so - I would have done it but I would have gotten hurt, I was standing there next to him but they literally wouldn’t let me do it.
What’s it like being in the middle of a film like this? It’s a huge picture.
I think it’s just a matter of keeping it simple. I tell myself everyday to worry about things that are under my control, who Hopper is and telling his story. I don’t have control over effects or other peoples performances, for the most part. It’s a matter of really trying to stay sort of myopic, because if I start worrying about all the variables, and all the things out of my control, you can be just fuckin’ lost.
What’s it like acting opposite Liam Neeson?
Oh man I love it, I’ve been so lucky this year to work with Willem Dafoe, Mark Strong, Benecio Del Toro, John Travolta, Oliver Stone, these guys. He’s just right up there with all those guys man, he gets the best out of you, when you know you’re going on set with a legend like that.
How was working with Rihanna?
Yeah good, I think it was a good call for her to come in and have a small supporting role and to work with Pete Berg. His process is like no other director, very inviting. Not saying that other directors aren’t inviting, but he’ll improve when it’s necessary and just get your guard down. His process is just more enabling that anything.
The movie shot on the USS Missouri with some real veterans how do those authentic elements help your personal performance?
On many levels, setting wise, a live setting is the best setting, any actor will tell you that, especially when you’re on such a legendary ship and to be in Pearl Harbour… That drive into Pearl Harbour was pretty cool, every morning when you’re working there, and walking and talking with these guys on the ship who had served, maybe not on the Missouri, but some had. Obviously you’re on Battleship row in Pearl Harbour, and a lot of them had served on some of those. It was cool to talk to them and just listen, you know? That’s a good time to shut up!
This has been an enormous couple of months for you, with some huge pictures coming out. Is there anything that you’d like to do next, or already on the horizon?
Yeah I’m excited about Savages, because like you said they’ve been such hugemovies, and the scope is just enormous, and obviously it’s flattering to be the lead in those type of films. But I love getting gritty, and I love working with these guys to play entirely different characters, and to button the year with this character will be great. Then I’ll go and work on Lone Survivor in September, it’s this beyond gritty war film, a true story which enhances everything.
How was it to play soccer instead of (American) Football?
(laughs) yeah it was good! He phones me It wasn’t in the script originally, he phoned me while I was in Austin, while we kept analysing the beginning scene and he said “Oh yeah, can you play soccer?” and I was like “Yeah man, I’m actually decent you know, I played for like 15 years growing up” so he just says “Good, ‘cause it’s in the movie now, we’re gonna do Soccer at RIMPAC.” I just thought, sweet, it’s one of those things in you past which facilitated that moment.
How long did you shoot that scene for?
Three days I think, it was fun.
Do you think you could hit a penalty past Alexander Skarsgard?
I never shot on Skarsgard! They had a legit goalie in there, the goalie that Hopper misses entirely on, we did a real shootout in between takes, and I won! It was good. It’s the little moments apparently…
When you were shooting the actual Battleship (Game) sequence, was that a lot of fun? Did you get any games in between takes?
I didn’t play the game no, I mean you’re obviously focused, but it was fun, I like that it’s (a nod) to the game but it actually breaks it down and is a cool concept to think of that. So yeah it was fun to shoot, and Pete, the way he cut that shit man, the tension really works well. We were sitting in a CIC, but I was nothing but a green screen, I hadn’t actually seen any of the effects, so to finally see the finally product…
What was it like working with the actors who were the aliens, without the effects?
They’d have a big mask, like a helmet, and grey pyjamas. The guy was like 6 foot 8, he was great. It goes back to the guy who played Woola, they take it so seriously so it helps you, you know. It helps that you’re running away from a guy who’s 6 8, even if he’s in pyjamas – he’s still a big boy.
How was the process for you of embodying the character?
Well you prep, an emotional arc is everything to any character I play, so It’s just a matter of that prep yeah. It’s just a matter of doing your homework being open to that process on the day. If you’ve done your homework you should be just fine.
You’ve mentioned Savages a couple of times, how was working with Oliver Stone?
I loved it man, you know it’s just a beautiful thing to work with all these amazing people. He’s definitely an icon for a reason. He pushes you, if you look back at a lot of the actors he’s worked with, who are the best of the best, it’s their best performance out of his films. He just pushes tand you’d better be prepared. If you’re not you won’t do well on any film set, let alone Oliver Stone’s, you know, but he’s great yeah.
Coming back to the prep work, there must have been a lot to take in, with all the naval lingo etc?
Yeah, that was tough for me, it’s one thing to learn it, but another to understand it, to know know what you’re saying. I wanted to do both, and it kind of surprised me, it’s very tough to wrap your head around if you’re foreign to it, it’s beyond repetition, with them explaining what it means so I can say it like I mean it. Not just repeat the lines off screen, which I hate. It was an insane amount of prep, of repetition, and of understanding the concept of just what the hell was going on!
The chemistry you have with Tadanobu Asano is great, can you explain that bond you had, how was it working together? Did you have to worry about a sensitivity with the rivalry and all?
Oh man you’d have to ask Tad! I improved a lot with him… First of all I tip my hat to him, Ii’s likr me going to Japan and do a film in Japanese, that’s absurd I couldn’t do it. So for him to come over to a film of this size you know? It was great for me because the relationship was very black and white. The arc was very strong in the script, and especially on the day. He was such a supporting guy, and man it was just so fun because we really just pushed. I mean there’s shit that I would improve off camera, that wouldn’t be in this film for a reason! It was fun and he was open to it. He just reacted to it really well. Obviously when you’re in the middle of the ocean and Pete’s 40 yards away on a loudspeaker trying to give direction or tell Tad what’s going on, Tad wouldn’t be able to understand a lot of it. So he would tell me and I would put it into sort of layman’s terms to tell him what Pete wants. So on that we connected quite quickly because he had to trust me in terms of relaying the messages. I love that guy, I mean he’s such a good guy, came super-prepped, and I mean he had to work twice as hard, to break it down in English.
Is he looking to do more Hollywood stuff?
I think so yeah, I know he’d love to do another Battleship!
Do you enjoy working with CGI type productions?
You have moments for sure, at times yeah, I never got into it to just work off to nothing, a pink X or a fan or something. But it’s worth it when you know you can trust these great directors to make it come to life. It’s definitely a learning experience for me. But at the end of the day, I want to work off another guy, another actor, that’s what I love doing. I’ll get back to that now, I won’t be doing another CGI film unless it’s another Battleship.