Interview: Taylor Kitsch Talks 'Battleship' & Oliver Stone's 'Savages'

battleship trailer taylor kitsch

Taylor Kitsch can be seen this weekend as the titular character in Disney's John Carter but that is just the first in a series of releases that the Friday Night Lights actor will appear in this year. He stars in Peter Berg's actioneer Battleship this May and Oliver Stone's drama Savages in June.

We mentioned the possibility of both Battleship and John Carter sequels in our interview with Kitsch from the Arizona press event for the latter, today we bring you the remainder of our conversation with Kitsch on working with Stone, the tone of Battleship and flying under the radar in Hollywood.

Screen Rant: There seems to be some pre-buzz on Battleship  where it's being likened to Transformers, to the degree that some are calling it Transformers 4.  What do you make of that?  Do you think that’s completely inaccurate?

 Taylor Kitsch: "I understand the concept of it being that. But I think we are truly our own ordeal. I think you will get (director) Pete Berg's, as well as my own, flavor in there. We’re very collaborative, and we co-wrote a lot of those scenes. And it has that feel of a Pete Berg movie, which is so fun. But he definitely doesn’t forget about character. And that guy can tell stories just as good as anyone else. And his humor, our humor, it’s quite twisted, which is great. The first 10-15 minutes is arguably one of the best character openings I’ve ever had. It’s quite funny. It’s so random, people have no idea. That scene has nothing to do with the Navy, it’s just a cool character opening that’s very endearing."

 SR: I didn’t know you were writing on Battleship as well.

TK:  "It’s how collaborative Pete and I are. It’s really how much we admire working with each other. It was just bouncing ideas... he would send me the script and be like, 'I want you to rip it in half. Do it. Kill it.' And I would send stuff, and he’d be like, 'No. Yes. Cool.  I’m thinking about it.' It was great."

SR: Are you looking forward to people seeing the film and getting an idea of what it’s actually about?

Rihanna in 'Battleship'
Rihanna in 'Battleship'

SR: What was it like to work with Rihanna on her first film?

 TK: "It was good. She was in it in increments. I think it’s a matter of, on her part, picking a small part, and working with Pete. He creates a 'Friday Night Lights'-esque set. Which is very freeing and empowering for any actor, green or veteran status. I think it’s a good call. If you’re going to try to break into this gig, do it with a guy like that."

SR:  Well speaking of working with veterans, Oliver Stone is an iconic figure at this point. Does that become intimidating?

TK:  "Absolutely man! You’re getting courted by an Oliver Stone to come be a part of his movie, and it’s a character of my dreams... that I’d love to play. I had so much fun playing him. F**king intense. And I love that. I love the way he challenges me. I come incredibly prepped, so we worked well together. If you don’t come prepped on an Oliver Stone film you’re not gonna have a good time. I love that. I love that he demands you to be ready. I think people get lazy. Actors can get f**king lazy, and you won’t work well with him if you come not ready. I did. I came ready. I prepped. Always prep. I shadowed, and worked with a Navy Seal for 5 weeks (for Pete Berg's NAVY Seal drama  'Lone Survivor' with Mark Wahlberg). You watch Chon in 'Savages'  versus John Carter, and that’s why I don’t stress as much as if it was the same character in every movie. I have unrecognizable guys. As Chon I have a shaved head, shrapnel scars all down the side of his face and half my body is covered in tattoos. This guy is a complete 180. And that’s the beauty of the gig."

Kitsch plays Chon in Savages, a pot grower who must face-off against a Mexican drug lord, Lado (Benicio Del Toro) with his partner Ben (Aaron Johnson) when Lado kidnaps their mutual girlfriend (Blake Lively).

SR:  So having done a variety of roles just these past few years, is there a specific genre or type of character that you haven’t tried yet that you’d like to do?

TK:  "I’m gonna go quite gritty again. I’ve been very lucky to surround myself with amazing people, from Willem Dafoe to Benicio del Toro to Liam Neeson. I can't say too much, but I think this next step, if we do it, will be incredibly gritty. I think people will dig it. And when they hear the news they’ll get it."

SR:  Well since you mention them, each of those actors have a similar kind of trajectory. They're able to work on a wide range of films and a wide range of characters and they also manage to fly under the radar a bit. Is that something you'd like to emulate?

TK:  "It's harder to do with the sh*t out there. Twitter. Paparazzi. Everything is in the now. Everything. This interview can go up in seconds. I admire Christian Bale. I admire Johnny Depp. I admire Matt Damon. I admire those guys that stay under the radar. I loved that people didn’t know Bale was English until he was doing an Oscar speech. That says a lot about who they are. I think it’s a choice, I do. You gotta think that way."

SR:  I spoke with some of the ladies that worked with Christian Bale on The Fighter and they said that they never heard him use his English accent on set. He was always Dickie. Are you as intense? Do you immerse yourself in character?

 TK:  "I’m not. I’m not as intense as a Daniel Day Lewis who won’t leave character, and you have to tell him he's Abe Lincoln on and off set. It’s not me. I love to be called the character when I’m on set, but it’s not like if you call me Kitsch I’m gonna be like “what the #@%$!”? I loved, on 'Savages,' Oliver calling me Chon. I like that. Or when I was playing Kev Carter (in 'The Bang Bang Club') I wasn’t always in a South African accent. I was at times off set, but it wasn’t like a major thing. You didn’t have to call me Kev or whatever."

SR:  You live in Texas and try to stay out of the limelight but is that possible at this point?

TK: It’s all a choice. If I don’t go into the bubble, and I stay out of it, it allows you to be a lot clearer. I hate claiming this or that. Let people look at my work and they can decide who or what I’m about. That’s fine. I don’t think an Oliver Stone would let you lead his film if I was something else. So we leave it at that."

Battleship opens in theaters on May 18th.

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