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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Taylor Kitsch Takes a Break from Big-Budget Action Movies to Try Something Different

Posted by on Thu, May 15, 2014 at 1:48 PM

  • Gleeson, Kitsch, and Pinsent / Entertainment One
I was flipping through the SIFF program guide this weekend when I noticed a film, Don McKellar's The Grand Seduction, in which Taylor Kitsch appears. After starring in major-studio fare like John Carter, Battleship, and Lone Survivor, a Canadian comedy is just about the last place in which I would expect to find Kitsch—and one of the more welcome.

Granted, I haven't seen the film yet, but Kitsch, who hails from Kelowna, BC, appears alongside two of the finest actors their respective countries have produced: Canada's Gordon Pinsent, the heart of Sarah Polley's Away from Her, and Ireland's Brendan Gleeson, who elevates every project with which he's ever been involved. The strawberry blond, ruddy-faced Gleeson is so good, in fact, that few people complained when John Boorman cast him as a Central American in The Tailor from Panama. I mean, that kind of casting doesn't even make sense, and yet Gleeson pulled it off.

So, with that caliber of talent surrounding him, Kitsch is gonna have to up his game, but I think he's up to the task. I had never even heard of the guy until 2006 when I caught the pilot for NBC's Friday Night Lights, and that's all it took to hook me on both actor and show. It remains one of the best pilots ever made, because director Peter Berg approached it like a movie: he introduces over a dozen characters, clearly establishes their connections to each other, and left me wanting to get to know them better rather than feeling overwhelmed or confused.

In retrospect, I'm not exactly sure why I tuned in. Although I still haven't read Buzz Bissinger's book, which takes place in real-life Texas town Odessa rather than fictional Dillon, I enjoyed Berg's 2004 movie, so that must've provided some incentive (Berg reunited with Kitsch for Battleship which doesn't appear to have pleased anyone on any level). In addition, I'll watch most anything involving Kyle Chandler, who took over the coach role played in the film by Billy Bob Thornton. Chandler, who won an Emmy for his efforts, has gone on to work with several Oscar-winning directors, including Kathryn Bigelow and Martin Scorsese. If there's anyone Kitsch should look to as a model for transitioning from TV to movies: it's him.

For all five seasons, Kitsch played Tim Riggins, a handsome ne'er-do-well who seemed to do the wrong thing more often than not. He wasn't a bad guy, but he wasn't a good guy either. Scruffy appearance aside, Kitsch was the cast member with the most conventional movie-star looks, but his character lacked drive and looked for all the world like one of those high school athletes who isn't good enough to go pro or smart enough for college. Everyone else moves on with their lives while the Rigginses remain rooted to the spot, going nowhere fast and spending their lives drinking away the sad fact that they peaked in their teens.

Jason Katims, the guarded optimist who created the series, opted not to let things get that dark, but he did present Riggins as one of the few Panthers to remain in Dillon once the show came to an end. Katims would go on to create Parenthood, which also sprang from a movie and ran for five seasons on NBC. In a surprise move, just announced last week, network brass have decided to give the show one final short season—details to be determined—presumably to wrap up some of the loose ends left hanging in last month's finale. If I prefer Friday Night Lights to Parenthood, I've gotten a kick out of the way Katims has brought back as many FNL cast members as possible, including Minka Kelly, who played Riggins' girlfriend; Derek Phillips, who played his older brother; and Michael B. Jordan, who played a Panther teammate—and broke my heart in Fruitvale Station.

As for Taylor Kitsch, it looks like he's still figuring things out as he goes along. If The Grand Seduction doesn't work—the trailer makes it look like a cozy cross between Northern Exposure and Doc Martin—I wouldn't blame him for trying something different. This also applies to Kitsch's other forthcoming feature: Ryan Murphy's HBO adaptation of The Normal Heart, which airs on May 25. With Kitsch's looks, I'm not surprised Hollywood came calling, but his roles to date suggest at least a passing interest in playing something more than just a cute, snub-nosed face—and a chiseled chest (if you're into that kind of thing). If, when all is said and done, Riggins becomes the character with which he's most closely associated, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, but I'm willing to bet more memorable characters lie in his future.

The Grand Seduction plays Kirkland Performance Center on May 29 at 8pm and SIFF Cinema Uptown on May 31 at 5pm. Find more SIFF info here.


Comments (4) RSS

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Laurence Ballard 1
The strawberry blond, ruddy-faced Gleeson is so good, in fact, that few people complained when John Boorman cast him as a Central American in The Tailor from Panama. I mean, that kind of casting doesn't even make sense, and yet Gleeson pulled it off.

Yeah, what a concept: amazingly talented actor acting extraordinarily and all bereft of some political/social agenda. Tribal affiliation is a necessary component in any casting process, but any casting agent worth their salt will tell you to lead with talent.

There's plenty of typecasting already in film, on television, onstage. A good performance will always be much more than mere appearance. I'd hate to work in an environment where only an actor from Edinburgh may play Macbeth, or an amazing Panamanian actor wouldn't be considered as Christy Mahon in, The Playboy of the Western World--all because it somehow--to me--"didn't even make sense."
Posted by Laurence Ballard on May 15, 2014 at 3:13 PM · Report this
Buzz Bissinger's recent right-wing mental breakdown notwithstanding, the original FNL book is simply amazing and I highly recommend it, especially since you enjoyed the show so much.
Posted by albatross2 on May 15, 2014 at 4:49 PM · Report this
Kathy Fennessy 3
@1 Agreed, but then I believe Gleeson can do pretty much anything. If the part had gone to a white actor of lesser talent, however, I wouldn't be as understanding. @2 I hesitated as to whether to address that or not. I continue to hear good things about the book, but the piece he wrote for GQ about his shopping addiction was horrific in a slow-motion car crash kind of way.
Posted by Kathy Fennessy on May 15, 2014 at 5:15 PM · Report this
"The Grand Seduction" looks like a charming, well-crafted film... but it's hardly a revelatory, cutting-edge story. Really, does no one remember "Doc Hollywood"?
Posted by YoungbloodG on May 29, 2014 at 7:20 AM · Report this

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