The fact that he'd be starring alongside Brendan Gleeson in the English-language remake of Jean-Francois Pouliot's 2003 Quebecois hit "Seducing Dr. Lewis" didn't hurt either, according to the B.C. native. So there were no elaborate tricks required to get Kitsch to sign on, unlike the little white lies the town uses to keep Lewis around, like faking a love of cricket (his favourite sport) and jazz fusion.
While Kitsch is back to a busy schedule again these days (with his HBO special "The Normal Heart" recently premiering) and "The Grand Seduction" coming out in theatres, Moviefone Canada sat down with the actor to talk about what (or who) drew him to the project, what he loved about filming in Newfoundland, and how his approach on this film was similar to his one for "Friday Night Lights."
Moviefone Canada: We spoke with Don McKellar back when this movie premiered during the Toronto Film Festival, and he said that while this was a relatively big production for him, you'd told him how "quaint" it seemed to you. Was this a big change-of-pace from what you're used to?
Taylor Kitsch: In a great way. Just in the practical sense, it wasn't an incredibly stressful movie. The schedule was unreal. I'm used to f--king long [days]. Even on "Normal," it was like 15-plus hours a day, and this one, I was spoiled. Living in nature, right on this bluff, on the ocean, four-day weekends, and I'm not having to kill myself or my body, it was great. It was a great experience. It helped me just in mindset alone, because it made you simplify everything. There's one restaurant there, one gas station, we were fly fishing every day. It forced you to get into nature, which was something I was raised up with and had forgotten about. So it was great.
I'm guessing that had to help you get into character more too, being similarly seduced by that landscape and that lifestyle.
Absolutely! Even that town, it's like you almost didn't want to leave. Just because it has that tone to it, and the people are like the nicest people on the planet. You know, we can become jaded in everyday life, in the city or especially in this business. We were at a gas station and were trying to get a rod and reel, and it didn't have a fishing store. And one of these locals overheard us, he goes into his camper, picks out his own rod and reel and just gives it to us. You wouldn't really get that anywhere else. That just exemplifies who these guys are.
I know that the project had a few ups and downs in terms of getting made before Don McKellar came on. Were you attached to it from the beginning?
No, I wasn't. I know Brendan [Gleeson] went through a lot more than I did. And he was a huge, or the reason why I signed on. He was a big part of that, he factored in hugely, but I hadn't gone through a lot of that. I lucked out.
So how'd you come onto it then?
My manager sent me the script, and she was like, "I don't know what it is about this script, but it's just so endearing. Even if you don't want to do it, I want you to read it, just so you don't think every script is s--t." Because I'm pretty particular. So I read it, and once I put it down, I was like, man, I think I could have fun with playing this guy, and Brendan's attached, which was big. And then, it shoots in Canada, it's a quick shoot, it's not going to take five years out of my life; all these things factored in and it just felt right.
So then I talked to Don on the phone, and I'm like, "Hey, this is kind of my process, I don't want to go there and be locked into something. Especially if it's a comedy, I feel we should be able to have a bit of improv," and he was completely on board. He's so easygoing. So, it just fit.
Do you think it helped that Don's also an actor himself?
I think so. I can put it in layman's terms pretty quick, from an actor's POV, if I don't like something or if I do, or if my gut's not telling me this feels right at all. I can just go up and be like, "Hey, you've had this feeling as well on set." [Laughs] And he would be like, "OK, let's do something about it. Let's flip the scene on its head, let's figure it out." It was good that way.
How much improv would you say that you guys ended up doing?
I would actually be known for doing some f--king stupid takes that I knew wouldn't get in, just to maybe lighten the whole setup or whatever. It was always like a line would be thrown in. I don't know percentage-wise, but every scene, I'd try and do something different, surprise the actors or whatever. Mark [Critch] is really great with that, and Brendan's so hard to break. He's just so good.
Your chemistry with Brendan Gleeson was great, which is obviously pretty key to the movie.
Yeah, it's what's driving it, really. I don't know, it's just some guys, I couldn't wait to f--king see him. I just respect him as an actor, obviously, but more as a person, more importantly, and we just had this great big bear hug. He's got this energy, it just raises you.
Coming off two big action movies, do you look at a role like this or "The Normal Heart" to actively try to do something different? Is there a conscious plan in place on your part?
I wish. It's more like these opportunities come in front of me that I'd be stupid not to take. In "Normal Heart" and "Lone Survivor" and "Savages," I mean, even "John Carter" and "Battleship." I'll never say no to a multi-Oscar-winning director who's an incredible guy as well, and Andrew Stanton and Pete Berg, who is, in my opinion, one of the best storytellers out there right now and is a dear friend of mine, who gave me my start. And then Oliver Stone, that's a dream come true, to be 30 years old and carry a f--king Oliver Stone movie? That's no joke. What's amazing is, I'm in a spot right now where I have choices like that. And that's, as an actor, everything. It's what you're trying to get yourself, that opportunity. All I ask for is to be in the mix.
So what did you do more research for, playing a doctor or playing a cricket fan?
Doctor. [Laughs] I had to convince you that I was madly in love with cricket, not play it. But with a doctor, it was hands-on stuff, and me, if you lack conviction, you lack a lot of other things in my opinion. I had to at least know the little things of the process. So we had a guy there off-camera being like, "You would do this." What you're checking for, and what kind of candor you'd have with the patients and whatnot. So that was important to me. I didn't want to look like an idiot doing that.
Did you watch the original "Seducing Dr. Lewis" before you made this?
Nope! Don left it up to me, and it was the same process I went through [on "Friday Night Lights"]. This is truly a remake, I guess, or an English version, even though we make it our own on so many levels. I'm never one to emulate anybody, so I just didn't even want to plant that seed. I didn't want to be in my head about the movie while making this movie, and that was the same with "Friday Night Lights." Completely different characters, but you knew they were going to be compared, because it's a "TV version." I've seen it now, "FNL," and read the book, but it was more of just like with anything, you want to make it your own.
Does it make the job easier knowing that the character clearly resonated with an audience once before?
Yeah, I mean, as a storyteller, that's your job. To evoke, if it's laughter, whatever it is, to educate people on a subject matter, to make 'em bust up, and I love that challenge. And you have to just be so f--king grounded to get there and get that out of people. So I love that. It's a high, definitely, when you talk to people and they either related to it, or someone they know related to it so much, or they saw their best friend in that character. Especially with "Normal" this week, it's been heavy, really heavy. But that's the ultimate validation.
"Lone Survivor" had to be like that for you too, I'm guessing.
Oh man. That's f--king unreal. I was in Venice the other day, and I'm at this high-brow coffee shop, but there's these two guys that were sitting there and I'm like, they're looking at me a bit weird. Like, they know who I am, but it's a different look. And then finally -- they didn't have your stereotypical "Marine look," SEALs can have beards, long hair, it doesn't matter -- they both came up to me and were part of the SEAL community and were like, "Hey man, we want to say in person that you've knocked it out and you did it right, and we appreciate that." And one of them went through with Murph [who Kitsch portrayed], so it was pretty awesome. It doesn't get much better.
"The Grand Seduction" will open in theatres on May 30.