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For the title role, Stanton cast Taylor Kitsch, best known for his role as running back Tim Riggins on the TV series "Friday Night Lights." "John Carter" is one of three movies starring Kitsch this year (the others are the summer blockbuster "Battleship" and Oliver Stone’s narcotrafficking thriller "Savages").
Sprayed with gold, sprayed with dirt » The production started in early 2010 with four months on a London soundstage, then moved to a month of filming on location in southern Utah — where the barren landscapes were a perfect double for Stanton’s vision of Mars.
Kitsch endured a severe training regimen to accommodate the torso-baring costume. He ate what he called "the most boring diet you could ever imagine" and lifted weights at any available opportunity — even in his trailer and on the set (just out of camera range) in Utah. "I truly and literally suffered from exhaustion," he said.
For Dejah Thoris’ sun-streaked look, Collins went through weekend tanning sessions in London and hours in the makeup chair to add the Martians’ identifying face and body tattoos. "Then, if it was the princess look, they would spray me with gold. And if it was the warrior look, they’d spray me with dirt," Collins said. She also took sword training, as the movie’s Dejah is more of a fighter than Burroughs’ original incarnation.
Stanton discovered one thing about live-action filmmaking after comparing notes with fellow Pixar director Brad Bird ("Ratatouille," "The Incredibles"), who made his live-action debut last December with "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol." The mechanics of Hollywood filmmaking, of keeping on schedule, is designed to make sure a movie is completed "almost despite the director," Stanton said.
Through filming and a long post-production period — necessary to complete the computer animation of the Tharks and other Martian wonders — Stanton maintains that he stayed on time and on budget (around $175 million). He has had to deal with stories in the Hollywood trades that say the movie’s cost ran much higher, as high as $300 million, and that Disney will take a massive write-off on the film.
Stanton dismissed those stories, saying, "somebody clearly has an agenda. It’s always suspicious when they’re anonymous."
With "John Carter" finished and heading toward audiences, Stanton is now considering his next move. If the movie is a hit, he has plans for a trilogy, drawing from Burroughs’ 11 Barsoom books. "If there’s a desire to go on, we know where we’re going," he said.
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