This Friday, the Disney sci-fi blockbuster "John Carter" -- the most expensive movie ever filmed extensively in Utah -- opens in theaters around the country. All this week, The Cricket will bring you tidbits from the cast and filmmakers who made "John Carter."
Taylor Kitsch's face and muscular body hovers over Los Angeles' Sunset Boulevard, on a billboard advertising "John Carter."
"My ego loves it," Kitsch told reporters at a press event last month near Phoenix.
His ego may have to get used to it. This is shaping into a starmaking year for Kitsch, a 30-year-old native of British Columbia who rose in the public eye as high-school running back Tim Riggins on the series "Friday Night Lights."
Besides "John Carter," Kitsch is playing the lead in the action blockbuster "Battleship" (hitting theaters May 18), and starring in Oliver Stone's narco-trafficking drama "Savages" (due out in July).
"At the end of the day, I'm not going to be looking back at my career and thinking, 'Hey, I had a billboard,'" Kitsch said. "It's going to be about the work."
Portraying John Carter, an ex-Confederate officer transported to Mars and recruited to join an ongoing battle for the Martians' survival, was a physical ordeal, Kitsch said. "I was truly and literally suffering from exhaustion," Kitsch said.
And because Carter, while on Mars, is usually shirtless, Kitsch went through "a disciplined regimen" of diet and weight-training to look buff. One downside, he said, is now "people expect me to look like this at all times."
Kitsch trained in swordfighting, and performed many of his own stunts -- which included being suspended between two cranes in the southern Utah desert in a scene where Carter discovers he can leap amazing heights.
"I love that scene where he learns to jump," Kitsch said. "We were living on trailers on that lake bed. ... There's two cranes, I'm on a wire, jumping 60 to 80 feet. ... I was well over 200 feet in the air [at times], hanging overhead while they check the replay. It was really testing fate."
Another fun scene for Kitsch is at the beginning of the film, set in the Arizona territory of 1868 (but actually filmed near Moab), in which Carter on horseback is chased by cavalrymen into a group of Apaches.
"I cannot wait to do a Western," Kitsch said. "Ask ['John Carter' director Andrew] Stanton how many times I pitched a Western."
For a view from the set of "John Carter," and a look at the Utah connection, read The Cricket's article from Sunday's Tribune. Also, read this story about how the film moved from the page to the screen.