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"John Carter": From Books To The Big Screen

Amanda Martinez |
March 8, 2012 | 11:03 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

(Creative Commons)
(Creative Commons)
Taking on the title role of John Carter in Disney’s upcoming live-action film of the same name, Taylor Kitsch finds himself a world away—literally—from his popular Friday Night Lights character Tim Riggins.
Opening March 9, Kitsch plays a Civil War veteran who is transported to Mars and becomes prisoner of the planet’s creatures.
Kitsch found working with CGI and reacting to creatures and objects that weren’t really there a huge departure from his previous acting gigs.  He found it exhausting to shoot and reshoot the same scene over and over so the effects team could capture everything.
“I think when you’re acting to nothing, it’s tough, man,” said Kitsch.  “You know, I’ve got big speeches in this film, where you’re looking at clouds.  It’s tough to really connect to anything.  So it just kind of demands that much more of you.”
To prepare for the role, Kitsch woke up at 4:30 a.m. every day for 11 months and stuck to a restricted, protein-rich diet.  A rigorous schedule of boxing, wire work, and sword training led the actor to battle a serious case of exhaustion throughout production.
Despite the physically demanding role, Kitsch said he doesn’t see the role as just an action role.
“Of course the action is going to be insane and it is in the film,” said Kitsch.  “But what really makes me choose a role is just the people I’m surrounded with, you know.  And the character I get to portray, the emotion is no joke in that as well.”
The actor said without the emotional arc in the story, he wouldn’t have taken the role.  Kitsch points to director Andrew Stanton, known for his powerhouse animation films Toy Story and WALL-E, for breathing life into the project.
Stanton, a self-admitted “rabid fan” of the John Carter book series, said he didn’t want to see them screwed up after the property suddenly went back to the estate in 2006.
“I told them that you’ve got to make this,” said Stanton.  “I mean, I want to see this on the screen.  I’ve been waiting 35 years and it’s still not going to happen now and somebody has got to make it.”
Stanton worked hard to keep true to the source material, but wasn’t afraid to venture out on the film’s narrative.
“How the story moved forward and how the drama was put together, we had to take license because it didn’t really play well as a three-act structure movie that you would see in two hours,” said Stanton.  “So we had the luxury that there were things that he (the author) got better about.”
Stanton said he, along with his co-writers Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon, were able to take more interesting characters from later books and put them in the film to tell a better story.
“My one big goal was, ‘Does it feel like when you watch the movie, what it felt like to read the book?” said Stanton.
Kitsch said he tried to ignore any hype or outside pressure to portray a character that has existed for over a century, but found himself the harshest critic.
“No one is going to put more pressure on it more than I will,” said Kitsch.  “It’s very flattering to be a part of it.”
Stanton believes even non-book lovers can still relate to the film because of the human aspect to the story.
“Having a person that discovers that they think their purpose in life is over and was misguided to begin with, suddenly find where they really do fit in.  I think that’s what all of us are searching to do,” said Stanton.
The director hinted at the possibility of a sequel to the film, saying Disney acquired the rights to the first three books and planned all three movies together.
For movie fans worried about an unsatisfying cliffhanger ending, Stanton assures fans that’s not the case.
“We made sure each movie finished in a very satisfying way when we wrote them even though there might be these meta-issues that could keep going on,” said Stanton.  “It’s like having a good conclusion to a television season.”

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