A little over two years ago, Taylor Kitsch seemed like a sure bet to become Hollywood’s Next Big Thing.
Riding high from his success as Tim Riggins on NBC’s Friday Night Lights, the 33-year-old Kelowna, B.C., native had two big budget films on deck in 2012 – Disney’s John Carter and Paramount’s Battleship.
But audiences didn’t bite.
“There were a lot of elements that were out of our control that hindered the whole thing,” Kitsch said reflecting on John Carter in a Toronto Film Festival interview last September. “It’s one of those things that happen and there’s nothing you can really do about it.”
The $200-million John Carter was a colossal bomb, while Battleship, which also starred Liam Neeson and Rihanna, vanished from theatres in a blink. Later that same summer, Kitsch managed to rehab his career slightly with a role opposite Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Benicio Del Toro and John Travolta in Oliver Stone’s violent Savages, but the damage was done.
The high-profile failures of John Carter and Battleship didn’t sour him on acting. Instead, the experiences left Kitsch yearning for projects that were more organic. Lucky for him, he had three films waiting in the wings that could satisfy that thirst - Lone Survivor (released last January), The Normal Heart (which aired on HBO this past Sunday) and The Grand Seduction (out Friday).
“It was a great escape for me,” Kitsch said speaking of his experience shooting The Grand Seduction in Newfoundland. “It reminded me of FNL (Friday Night Lights) in a way. It was actor-to-actor, no bulls—-. I like that; I miss that. I had that with this and Savages and Lone Survivor and The Normal Heart.”
The Grand Seduction is a remake of the Quebecois comedy La grande seduction, which won the Audience Award at Sundance in 2004. In the Don McKellar-directed update, Brendan Gleeson (Braveheart) is the patriarch of a tiny Newfoundland fishing village who concocts a scheme to lure a cricket-loving eccentric doctor (Paul Lewis, played by Kitsch) to become the town’s resident physician. If he stays, a factory will consider setting up shop, giving the townsfolk much needed jobs.
To convince Lewis that Tickle Cove is worth setting up shop in, Gleeson’s character Murray tells white lies to show the doctor that the small town can accommodate his big-city tastes; including his love of cricket.
He also tries to play matchmaker, setting Lewis up with the townĺs only eligible single, the attractive, but unimpressed Kathleen (Liane Balaban).
Family-friendly hilarity ensues.
“It was a real simple decision,” Kitsch said smiling. “I loved the script, and I had never done a movie here in Canada that was Canadian... I had a riot doing it.
“It was refreshing,” he continued. “It was nice to be on a location like that (the film was shot in Trinity Bay) because I had been on a soundstage for 11 months. Having a trailer 10 feet from a huge hanger can be pretty monotonous.”
The five-week shoot on the film was also a blessing in disguise since it gave Kitsch a chance to train for Lone Survivor by running the Skerwink Trail. And it allowed him to avoid being typecast; something that might have happened if John Carter and Battleship had been box-office hits.
“Hopefully, people won’t be able to nail me down.”
Still Kitsch does sometimes regret there won’t be a John Carter 2.
“The only s----- part of how it ended was I couldn’t go do the sequel. I had a hard outline for the second one and it was f---ing great. Working again with Willem (Dafoe) and Lynn Collins and Mark Strong, who had an even bigger part. That would have been great.”