For Canadian actor Taylor Kitsch, playing hockey offers a great escape, and so does playing a diverse range of characters. Kitsch is best known for his roles in "Friday Night Lights," "Savages," "John Carter," and "Battleship." In his new film, "The Grand Seduction," he plays urbane Dr. Paul Lewis, a reluctant suburbanite won over by the townsfolk of a small fishing village, who want to land a lucrative business contract.
The role of Dr. Paul Lewis, an eccentric doctor with a penchant for cricket, is not your typical action hero role. How did you get into character?
You gotta go with the material, and you also wanna have fun with it and give it a heartbeat, as well. This is a guy who's really living on the surface and has been fed the "ideal" way of living. He's a big-city doctor, starting to make money doing plastic surgery. He has all his ducks aligned as to how things should be until he's exposed to the culture of this small harbor town. That enlightens him on so many levels. With all that and Brendan Gleeson and collaborating with director Don McKellar, it just felt pretty organic to dive into.
Your character in the film feels like he's given up a lot of big-city perks by moving to this small fishing village. As a big-city guy yourself, did you feel deprived of anything during the shooting of the film in Newfoundland?
I think there was one restaurant. We are so spoiled in New York that we can drive two blocks and be surrounded by an insane amount of restaurants. There are probably five sushi restaurants within five blocks of each other. So to have just one restaurant within a 40-mile radius was hard. The food was good, but when you're staying for months on end, it's not what you want to eat every day.
How was your experience working on "The Grand Seduction" and "The Normal Heart" different than, say, "John Carter"?
You're going from a true period piece with "The Normal Heart," to I think just having fun, going in and not taking myself so seriously with "The Grand Seduction." It was a breath of fresh air, getting this incredible fulfillment from these movies, just exposing myself to these different worlds I loved. That's the beauty of this gig -- we get to envelop these characters in these timelines and these events. Those are some amazing things that I get to be a part of and to educate myself, from what it is to lead a Navy SEAL team in "Lone Survivor," to the epidemic that was AIDS in the early '80 in "The Normal Heart."
There has been so much press about the negative impact that box office bombs "John Carter" and "Battleship" had on your career. Would you do anything differently the next time around?
Not a whole lot. I would do it all over again. It's something I have no regrets about. It's unfortunate the way it went down, but the process , which is what it's about for the actors, was amazing. From working with Willem Dafoe and Lynn Collins and circling back to Peter Berg, who gave me my first opportunity with "Friday Night Lights," to asking me back for "Lone Survivor." He's one of my closest friends in and out of this business. He was with me at the premiere for "The Normal Heart," and that meant an enormous amount to me. Having him in my corner is an amazing thing.
I read that you threw yourself into hockey, which you initially gave up after a knee injury, to recover from a recent breakup.
Everyone has their escape, from boxing to the gym. Hockey's been a part of my life since I was 3 years old, and it's just been an incredible escape for me. It makes you feel like yourself. It's all about living in the moment, and I think everyone is looking for that escape to put them in the moment.
In "The Grand Seduction," the fishing village residents pretend to be cricket enthusiasts just to woo your character, who's really into the sport. Could cricket also offer you that kind of escape in real life?
No. [laughs] For one, you can play one game, and it can take days. I don't know much about it, so I can't speak too much about it. But it's not that fulfilling to engage in.
When your hockey career didn't work out because of a knee injury, you famously braved homelessness to build an acting career for yourself.
Yeah, I mean obviously you're conscious of it, but I think in retrospect it's crazy to do that. But I guess I wasn't ready to quit, and acting brings me an incredible amount of fulfillment. So there was one of those voices in me that said, "Just not yet." A big thing for me was I didn't have a crazy big contingency plan that has allowed me to fall back and get comfortable. But the scariest thing for me is being comfortable.
Not being scared. Not being out of your element and getting the best part of yourself. Only when you are scared or out of your element are you tested on a different level. I love that. Win or lose, I love being tested.
Other than not being comfortable, what motivates you as an actor?
It's more about doing great work, and working with amazing people, and being fulfilled from that, and to keep taking great risks. I'm sure I'll have more failures and more wins, but I have to keep doing it...keep living on the edge. A lot of actors I admire take those kinds of risks, and I'll continue to do so.
What are your top mobile apps?
I love the NHL app. A buddy of mine developed a camera app called MullerPhoto, and I use that every day. I love that app. I'm big on photography, so I'll use that. I'm on the CNN app on my iPad all the time. I'm on the Houzz app, because I just bought a house. Scripts Pro is a great app. I'm writing a movie right now, and it allows you to write scripts and breaks down the process quite easily in script form. NPR is a big one I'm on every morning, and 60 Minutes.