The actor says he's moving on after the box-office disaster with "Battleship" and other films.
Three days after Walt Disney Studios said it would incur a $200 million loss on "John Carter," the film's star, Taylor Kitsch, was still licking his wounds. He had just returned to his Beverly Hills hotel, cheeks flushed following a boxing workout where a fellow gym rat had tried to console him about the box-office dud.
"This guy came up to me and goes, 'Next one. Don't worry about it; you'll be fine,'" Kitsch chafed. "I'm like, 'I'm not worried about it, man. I didn't market the movie. I didn't finance it. I gave everything I had to the film.' It sucks to feel like you have to be defensive. But if someone's gonna take the fall, it's gonna be me."
Now, two months later, Kitsch has another big-budget movie riding on his shoulders: Universal's Navy action flick "Battleship," which opened Friday. Although he can take some comfort in knowing that the film has already raked in more than $250 million overseas, American moviegoers didn't embrace the special-effects-heavy picture in equal measure. It took in just just $25.3 million this past weekend.
But Peter Berg, who directed the $211 million production, is standing by his man. Berg, who created the high school football TV drama "Friday Night Lights," first displayed his belief in Kitsch after casting him as the show's womanizing jock, Tim Riggins. The promise Kitsch displayed on the program had many buzzing about him as Hollywood's next leading man, and helped him land the role in "John Carter" as well as a part in Oliver Stone's gritty drug-cartel thriller "Savages," due out in July.
"No one I've ever heard of has had the year he's had," Berg said. " ... But there's a difference between him living up to the hype and a movie he's in not performing well. Yeah, 'John Carter' hurt him. But it wasn't like he was inconsolable, walking around with a rope looking for a branch."
Despite his chiseled bone structure, Kitsch didn't aspire to be an actor when he was growing up in Kelowna, British Columbia. His family was poor, living in a trailer and at one point above a grocery store where Kitsch and his brothers helped their mother sell canoes.
For fun, he and his siblings would steal golf balls from local fairways, clean them and sell them in egg cartons. Kitsch's father, who left the family when his children were young, sent $200 checks monthly, the actor said.
Kitsch's ticket out of town seemed to be hockey. By 18, scouts were approaching him at nearly every one of his games, and he said he was being courted by a number of Division 1 colleges in the United States. Then he suffered a knee injury that ended his career.
He eventually headed to New York, where he booked gigs modeling for Abercrombie & Fitch and took acting classes. But he still comes off as an athlete -- especially through his speech, which sounds like a mesh of archetypal surfer brah and frat bro.
As Stone put it: "He's very Canadian -- quiet, laid back -- sluggish, at times. He likes to rest. But that's not to say he's lazy."
"That's kind of who Taylor is," agreed Berg, who is seeking to cast Kitsch in his upcoming film "Lone Survivor" as a Navy SEAL who dies leading a raid in Afghanistan. "I buy him as the guy that's going to make the wrong decisions, be impulsive and have anger-management issues -- but never out of malice."