Taylor Kitsch is an American actor who has suddenly hit the big time when it comes to blockbuster movies. Having starred in the American Football based drama, Friday Night Lights, he recently took the lead role in the sci fi fantasy epic John Carter and is due to appear on the big screen as one half of a pot growing duo intent on rescuing their kidnapped girlfriend in Savages, directed by Oliver Stone. Now he’s currently starring in the naval action adventure film Battleship, alongside the likes of Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgard, Brooklyn Decker and newcomer Rihanna.
Talking to View’s Matthew Turner, he spoke about learning from the old Navy vets, working with his old friend director Pete Berg, and playing yet another flawed character.
I thought the film was a lot of fun, first of all ...
I'm embarrassed to tell you how long it took me to get the fact that they were playing Battleships in that sequence – it was like five minutes before I worked it out.
I like that though! Yeah.
And also the pegs – I didn't get that until someone told me, yesterday and then I was like, 'Ohhh. Right.'
The pegs! Nice, nice. It is a bit subtle. There's a few odes to the game, for sure.
What attracted you to the film and how did you get involved?
Pete Berg [director]. He came up to me in London when I was doing [John Carter]. And he's a dear friend of mine, cast me in Friday Night Lights. And the character. I haven't had a chance to really play a guy that's really that fun and the comedy part of him. To me, [he has] one of the best character openings I could ever ask for. It was just a lot of fun to collaborate with him. And it's just a fun movie and sometimes I take myself so fucking serious that you've got to leave it up to a Pete Berg to just take the piss out of you and it was nice to work with him and to engage in a fun, summer film.
Did you do much research beforehand?
Yeah. I read a tonne on John Paul Jones, the grandfather of the Navy. And then it was shadowing or hanging out with the guy, the TAO [Tactical Action Officer], who I was in the film – he fights the ship and the CIC [Combat Information Centre] and the computer. So I shadowed the guy that ran that and that was a lot of fun, because he was very similar to how I wanted to portray Hopps [Taylor's character] in that room.
What did you take away from the research?
Man, it's funny. Any time you do a movie, you're in the bubble. That's just the way it is. For me, anyway, everything else just kind of shuts down: relationships, friends, everything. You're just so enveloped in the Navy and being on these ships, being in Pearl Harbour and so you feel just a part of it, even if it's unconscious. So I loved that, to talk to these war veterans and the guys that are obviously still serving. So you kind of [stick your] chest out and it's really just – you unconsciously adapt to that kind of stuff.
I was surprised to read how much shooting on actual ships there was.
So was seasickness not a problem for you?
No. I had moments but I didn't succumb to it.
No, it's funny, because ironically, when we were doing studio stuff, we were on tracks so they would really make it feel that way [sways from side to side]. And they were like, 'Okay, well, we're going to do just a test run of the worst of the worst.' And that was no joke. And that was a bit excessive and I almost chucked, but I didn't. And I think Plemons – Jesse Plemons, who plays Ordy – had a moment, but I don't think he went.
Obviously you have a strong working relationship with Pete. What's he like as a director on set?
An empowering one. He's an actor as well so he knows what you're going through, so when I'm talking to him in layman's terms, he gets it. And he trusts me enormously, which is very empowering. And I can improv and I can really kind of let loose – I can really go for it and let him decide to pull me back. It's a lot tougher as a director to get shit out of people, rather than be like, 'Okay, that's great, just pull it back a bit' – it's a lot easier for me to pull back than to get emotion or whatever it is. And with him I could just go. And it was fun and you feel that in the film.