Disney’s sci-fi/fantasy epic John Carter opens in theaters this weekend. Based on the science-fiction series by Edgar Rice Burroughs that influenced multiple genres and enduring properties such as Superman, Star Wars and, ultimately, even Avatar, John Carter follows the story of a an embittered Civil War veteran who makes an unlikely journey to Barsoom (Mars) where the lovely and fierce Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) and the warrior Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) seek to enlist him to fight in a brutal planetary conflict.
We had the chance to sit down with the film’s star Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights, the upcoming Battleship) at the John Carter junket in gorgeous Comfort, AZ to talk about the fight training, and the physical and emotional marathon that was John Carter, as well as potential sequels.
Screen Rant: One of the elements that stands out in the film is the stunt work. There are some really fun moments that revolve around the conceit that you are less bound by the gravitational pull on Mars. Can you talk about some of the physical training you had to do for the film?
Taylor Kitsch: “A lot of sword training. I had a guy come into Austin while I was finishing the fourth season of ‘Friday Night Lights.’ Then it was just a diet regimen of an incredibly boring diet for eleven months. Four months before and seven during shooting. And then wire training. The whole shebang. And then, of course, the standard gym workouts to get to that certain aesthetic. It was more of a marathon, and that’s why it was so tough. To do it for that long takes a lot out of you. And plus, shooting six day weeks, and being in arguably every scene of the film, it took a lot to sustain it. That was the toughest part.”
SR: When Edgar Rice Burroughs initially published A Princess of Mars (the first in the Barsoom series) in 1917 it was fifty years after the American Civil War. Enough time for it to be somewhat fresh in the memory but also with enough distance to be more objective. Putting his character, John Carter, in the middle of the a civil war on Mars gave him the freedom to make parallels to what had happened here in the United States and to make a comment about war in general. With the movie coming out nearly a hundred years later, what do you feel like it’s linking to in our contemporary world?
TK: “I think he was just so ahead of his time. And how applicable those books are now is uncanny. From racism to religion, it’s kinda scary that they’re still very prevalent now, those issues. And then of course war with all the revolutions going on, and us being engaged with 50 of them. I think it’s incredible. I think he was truly ahead of his time.”
SR: One of the things that I thought was interesting about your character’s journey was that you begin by refusing to fight. You refuse to be a party to the goals of an army after what you suffered in the Civil War. But then, through the course of your time on Mars, you end up feeling as though a person should take a stand, even if it means you’re going to war.
TK: “I guess it was taking a stand, but, I mean, I think it was more for the love of his life. I think it was more for her and finding that purpose again. [In the Civil War] he paid the ultimate price for trying to do the right thing and leaving, going to war, to protect his family. By doing that, he lost them. And he carried that guilt with him. Hence, not wanting to reengage. And then, of course, a woman (Princess Dejah Thoris) comes into his life and turns that light back on, which I think only a woman could have done to him at that point.”
SR: You have a couple of intensely emotional scenes in flashbacks to the family John Carter lost in the Civil War. Can you talk about what it was like to shoot those?
TK: “I go back to it being such a marathon. That was one of the toughest days I’ve ever had as an actor. If I’m working on ‘Friday Night Lights,’ or even Kev Carter (in ‘The Bang Bang Club’) who was a suicidal drug addicted photo journalist, I go to rehearsal and I do two takes and I’m done for the day. You can do it in forty minutes, if that. And with Carter, it was like we got to do this whole flashback in one day, so for twelve hours you’re in that state of mind. So that was something that was really tough. And then just the importance of it. If those things don’t float, if they don’t work in the movie, the movie is just another movie, you know? And that’s everything to me. I wanted to latch in and take you guys through that. More than anything, the most important thing for me was to do those scenes justice.”
SR: You’ve spoken about wanting to do a variety of characters, films and genres. Are you contractually obligated to do sequels for ‘John Carter’ and ‘Battleship?’
TK: “I am. I’ve signed on for three for both.”
SR: And are they talking to you about that already?
TK: “I won’t listen to it. I hear things. You get so worked up about it. Only because I care so much, and I’d love to do it again with (Andrew) Stanton, the director of ‘John Carter,’ and Pete (Berg) the director of ‘Battleship.’ I haven’t heard much about ‘Battleship’ yet. I hear a lot about ‘John Carter’ in a good way, so we’ll see. It was just an amazing set. And we’re a family. We truly are. And it’s a rare thing in this business to have one mate from a job, let alone create a family within it. So yeah. I’d love to.”
Stay tuned for continued John Carter coverage and more from our conversation with Kitsch on Battleship, staying outside of the Tinseltown drama and his upcoming Oliver Stone film, Savages.
John Carter opens in theaters this Friday, March 9th.
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