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Tribeca 2011: Taylor Kitsch Joins “The Bang Bang Club”

Tribeca 2011: Taylor Kitsch Joins “The Bang Bang Club” (photo)

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There’s a reason Taylor Kitsch is the first person you see in “The Bang Bang Club,” despite the fact he’s not the film’s central character. As Kevin Carter, the real-life Pulitzer Prize-winning war photojournalist who fearlessly took photos of the demons plaguing South Africa during the end of Apartheid in 1990s while battling his own internally, he has the unenviable task of playing the lone member of the group with the titular nickname (referring to the pictures they snap) to wear the weight of the tragedy of his surroundings on his face as indelibly as the tattooed outline of Africa on his arm.

However, Kitsch’s Carter could be called the film’s beating heart not only for the decency he brings to the role, but also a charisma that as anyone who’s watched him play the stoic Tim Riggins on “Friday Night Lights,” currently finishing its final, extraordinary season on NBC, could tell you can seduce you even if he’s breaking your heart. While these things come naturally to Kitsch — he exudes both in person — several other aspects on “The Bang Bang Club” didn’t, requiring two months of heavy research, practicing a Johannesburg-inflected accent, subsisting on a diet of fruit, coffee and hot sauce to lose 30 pounds, and shadowing celebrity photographer Jeff Lipsky to operate a camera properly – all ironically serving the purpose on screen of making you not notice what a deeply nuanced performance it is.

With his rugged good looks, it’s been easy to be distracted from Kitsch’s acting prowess, but with this film and two upcoming blockbusters on the horizon (Pixar’s first live-action film “John Carter of Mars,” directed by “Finding Nemo”‘s Andrew Stanton, and Peter Berg’s “Battleship”), the secret’s about to be out and recently, I sat down with the star to talk about the toll of his most demanding part to date, the importance of trusting his gut and how his days of living on subways prepared him for a career in the movie business.

You recently co-hosted a benefit [with Friday Night Lights” co-star Connie Britton] in Austin with an African children’s choir – did that actually connect to “The Bang Bang Club” and has the experience lingered on more for you than some of the other work you’ve done, shooting in Johannesburg?

[The benefit] didn’t, [but the experience] definitely did. It took me a while to come out of it and to go back to Austin, it was a big thing to just be conscious of it and allow yourself to take your time to let go of it. Being in Austin helped because you’ve got people who know you for who I was before I went away and I may see a couple of things different when I come back. They just understand and allow the process to just kind of seep out. So it took quite a while and even now, there’s still quite a few emotional triggers with [Kevin Carter]. It just took a lot of me to play him and I just wanted to do it right.

TaylorKitschBangBang_04212011.jpgSince you still have a slight Canadian lilt, you’ve never actually used your own voice on film. Does having an accent every time out help you get into character?

I think any actor has to love that. It feels funny when you’ve played something that’s really close to you because that’s when you feel like you’re acting. When you’re playing something that’s so far from who I am, it just feels like you’re more in tune with that guy. So [in “The Bang Bang Club”] when you put on the accent and you lose the 30 pounds to play him and you have a different walk and you grow the gross beard, you pierce your ear, you dye your hair, it’s like all these little things add up and they help so much.

I’ve heard you shadowed photographer Jeff Lipsky, which is something that may be evident in how you hold the camera, but not necessarily something that shows up on screen otherwise. How did that help you?

It’s so technical because obviously we don’t have point-and-shoot cameras, so to make that an unconscious trigger where if I’m in a scene playing with my Leica, I don’t want that Leica to take over the scene where I’m like oh fuck, hopefully, I look like I know what I’m doing. I need to know the shit so inside out that it’s unconscious because that’s what they did. So shadowing Jeff and having this Leica with me for months before I go to camera with it, now when I see it, it’s like this is what it’s supposed to mean to me in a scene and if I can prep and give myself the best opportunity to play it honestly, it’s a no brainer to do it, to put that time in.

Even with two months of prep, this must’ve been one of the quickest shoots you’ve done in recent years. How does that compare to some of the marathon shoots like “John Carter of Mars” or “Battleship”?

I think every journey’s so different and I love that about the projects we’ve done. Each character and the story has been so different, and I’m very thankful [“The Bang Bang Club”] was only a three- to four-week shoot because I was quite a wreck doing it. If it was two, three months, it wouldn’t have ended well. I don’t think it would’ve been good for me, just with the weight loss and where I was psychologically, so I was very grateful it was a very quick shoot. And for me personally, it allows me to just go all out. Knowing that “Fuck, Kitsch, you’ve got three weeks then you’re done? Go. See what you can do.” But if you’ve got this marathon shoot, like I did “John Carter” – 107 out of 107 shooting days, I’m in every scene, so you’ve got to pace yourself. You’ve got to shut down, relax, sleep when you can and do all this. With Kev, it felt more like all in. It’s a different mindset for sure.

I had to ask an aside about “John Carter” since I’m so curious…

Great. I just saw the trailer hours ago, by the way. [grins]

It’s one thing to act against those green tennis balls on a CG-heavy movie, but is it harder giving a performance when you don’t necessarily know how you’ll wind up appearing onscreen?

I’ll tell you something about [Andrew] Stanton – I would get his coffee tomorrow. That’s how smart this cat is and with his years of preparation, I could see where he’s going -he storyboarded and had tests of what tharks [aliens on Barsoom] look like and he showed me, so that allowed me a trust because if I’m acting to tennis balls, I’ve got to trust in post, they’re going to kill it. They’re going to fucking make this guy do everything and anything Stanton’s saying right now to me what this guy is doing. For me, it’s just an enormous amount of trust for me to just go all in and believe him. With “Bang Bang,” I have more of a gut instinct going on a scene with someone right in front of me, like “okay, I’d love to try this and that.” With “John Carter,” I was lucky to work with Willem [Dafoe] and Sam [Morton], but there’s also takes where there’s nothing there and I’m talking to literally air and in post, they’re going to put a thark in, so there’s a bit of a difference there.

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Scarface Movie Al Pacino

Wanna Play?

Say Hello to Our Scarface Quiz

Play along with movie trivia during "Scarface" tonight at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Tony Montana is all about money, power and respect. And while we can’t promise you’ll get money or power by taking our Scarface quiz below, you will get respect if you get a perfect score. One out of three ain’t bad. Click below to take the quiz, and catch Scarface this month on IFC.

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Hank Azaria Commencement

Best Speech Ever

Hank Azaria’s Simpsons Advice For Grads, Questionable Shark Facts and More of This Week’s Funniest Videos

This week we're laughing at Hank's Tufts commencement speech, Jason Alexander's shark facts and more.

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Photo Credit: YouTube/Tufts University

We’ve made it! Memorial Day weekend! But before we can complain that it’s over too quickly, take a moment to bask in the pre-break lack of productivity and enjoy some lighthearted videos.

From Hank Azaria channeling Chief Wiggum and other Simpsons characters while talking to college grads to “Shark-spert” Jason Alexander sharing questionable shark facts, here are five funny things from this week you need to watch.

1. Kermit Informs Fozzie Bear That They’ve Been Canceled

It’s never easy to see someone receive bad news, much less a Muppet. But if anything, Kermit’s poise and acceptance during a time of crisis is impressive, admirable even. Fozzie Bear, on the other hand, reacts with greater similarity to how we would: with baseless anger and utter despair.


2. Jason Alexander Offers Shark “Fin Facts”

Memorial Day weekend means the start of beach season, aka Shark Feeding Season. As part of IFC’s Shark Half-A-Day Memorial Day marathon, “sharks-pert” Jason Alexander offers up some interesting “fin facts” about our sharp-toothed friends from the deep. You can also check out Jason’s beach tips, and catch the Jaws movies with more “fin facts” from Jason this Memorial Day on IFC.


3. Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke Confirms Dothraki Is a Real Language

With eyes still dewy from the climax of this past Sunday’s Game of Thrones (Hold the door!), the Mother of Dragons herself Emilia Clarke dropped by Late Night with Seth Meyers to throw the diehard fans a reason to smile: Yes, Dothraki is a real language. Watch Clarke discuss the phonetics and grammar involved with vying for Westeros rule.


4. Hank Azaria Gives Advice Through Simpsons Characters

Hank Azaria — star of The Simpsons, The Birdcage, and Brockmire, premiering in 2017 on IFC — gave the commencement speech at his alma mater Tufts University. In the hilarious speech, Azaria discusses how he got through college, recounts his early career struggles, and offers up life advice via fan favorite Simpsons characters like Chief Wiggum and Comic Book Guy.


5. X-Men: The Animated Series Gets Honest

Screen Junkies are back this week with another round of Honest Trailers. This entry focuses on the cartoon mutants that comprise X-Men: The Animated Series — an ultra-’90s Marvel property that predates the comic book adaptation boom of the 21st Century. But looking back at the decade of Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane, this video finds much to mock.

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Weird Al Comedy Bang Bang Season 5

Call Him Al

“Weird Al” Talks Comedy Bang! Bang!, His Upcoming Tour, Favorite Videos and More

Weird Al comes to Comedy Bang! Bang! starting June 3rd at 11P on IFC.

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With a career spanning five decades, “Weird Al” Yankovic has defined the song parody genre and become a beloved pop culture icon. Starting June 3rd, you’ll be able to catch him as the brand new Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader Fridays at 11P on IFC.

We recently chatted with Al about joining Scott Aukerman on the new season, his upcoming tour, favorite CB!B! characters and his future dream projects. (Hint: it might involve actors spontaneously breaking into song.)

The Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader gig seems like a natural fit for you. Did it take any time to get acclimated?

Weird Al: Yeah. It’s a slightly different skill set. The accordion is my main act, but I don’t use it on the show at all. It’s a keyboard setup. The actual setup is a little bit of a combination of what Reggie [Watts] had and [Kid] Cudi had. And a few extra things thrown in. So I’m trying to do my own version of what they brought to the show.

You’ve been on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast and the show many times. Do you have a favorite CB!B! character?

Weird Al: I’d probably have to say Doctor Time. Every time Scott wants me to do an evil character, he’s always got a bad English accent. [Laughs] Any time my character goes evil, he becomes sort of British.

Any favorite guests you’ve worked with?

Weird Al: Gosh, I love them all. Paul F. Tompkins is always fun. His Andrew Lloyd Webber character, Cake Boss, everything he does. And Andy Daly as well. They’re so versatile and so amazing at improv. That’s the one thing I was a little nervous about because I’ve never been super confident with my improv skills. But Comedy Bang! Bang!, particularly the TV version, is good for that because it’s all heavily edited. So it kind of gives me permission to try out whatever comes to my mind, so if it really sucks, they’re not gonna use it. [Laughs]

Scott Aukerman Weird Al

Your upcoming tour is a continuation of your Mandatory Fun tour from last year. Any new elements to the show?

Weird Al: Well, it is the same tour, so it’s not that much different. I might freshen some video a little bit. I’m hoping to use a bit or two from the current season of Comedy Bang! Bang! and slip that into the show somewhere.

The tour starts June 3rd in St. Petersburg, Florida and ends September 24th at Radio City Music Hall. How do you keep up the pace? 

Weird Al: It’s just a mindset. I’m really only working for two hours a day, so I basically just save up my energy for the show. I relax, surf online, watch satellite TV, read a book, rest my voice, and then give it all I got when I’m onstage.

Looking back at your vast song catalog, was there ever a parody that came to you immediately upon hearing the song?

Weird Al: Yeah, that’s happened a few times. More often than not, I have to think about it and analytically work out all the variations on a theme that I can and pick out the one with the most potential. But there’s been a few times where the idea came to me spontaneously. I think the first time I saw Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video, before it was even over, I thought, “Oh! I gotta do ‘Fat’! Super-plus-sized actors trying to get through a turnstile on a subway! I gotta do that!”

Do you have a favorite of your many hilarious videos?

Weird Al: Oh boy, it’s hard to say. “White and Nerdy” has been my biggest hit and that was a really fun video to do. But in terms of making a video, “Tacky” was really fun to do because it was so easy and I got to work with amazing people like Jack Black, Margaret Cho, Kristen Schaal, Eric Stonestreet, and Aisha Tyler. And we knocked it out in a couple of hours. We were having so much fun while making it, I kinda wish we weren’t so efficient and professional. [Laughs] I could’ve done that all night.

Was it filmed all in one take or was it stitched together?

Weird Al: That was all one take. Some people say, “Oh, I see where the edit is,” but it was all one shot. We did a total of six takes, and I think four of those takes were usable, but the last one was the best.

And you were directing while performing?

Weird Al: I directed that one, yeah. We location scouted and found a building in downtown LA that I thought was good for the shoot. I’ve since seen that building in a lot of other movies and TV shows — I think it was used in The Big Lebowski and a few others. It was difficult because I start the video in one set of clothes and I also end the video in a completely different set of clothes. So while the cameras were off me, because there’s only one elevator in the building, I had to run down five flights of stairs, quickly change my clothes, and hit my mark for the end. And after the take, we’d all just watch what we did, and say, “OK, let’s do it again.”

Is there a director you’d love to work with in the future?

Weird Al: Oh gosh, yeah, but I mean, music videos are notoriously low-budget so that’s why I end up directing them myself. [Laughs] But I’d love to be in a movie codirected by Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino.

Do you have a particular genre of music that you love parodying the most? Or is it more of the moment and different for each song?

Weird Al: It doesn’t necessarily revolve around personal taste so much. It really depends more on the song than the genre. But I found rap songs tend to lend themselves to parody, mostly because there’s a lot of words to play with. A lot of pop songs are repetitive, and that’s sometimes been an issue. With rap, there’s no shortage of syllables to mess around with.

Given that you’ve been so prolific and done so much, is there any type of art left that you’d like to dip your toe in? Dramatic acting, perhaps?

Weird Al: Well, if Spielberg and Tarantino want me for their film, I wouldn’t want to turn them down. But there’s no burning desire to do drama. I love doing comedy and feel comfortable doing that. Writing a musical might be something I do down the line. I don’t know when but I might take a shot at something in that area. Other than that, I’ve done pretty much all I wanted to do in my life so far. A lot of it not successfully. [Laughs] But I took a stab at it and feel gratified by that.

You’ve had such a eclectic career in music and comedy. What do you attribute your longevity to?

Weird Al: [Laughs] I don’t know what I’d attribute the longevity to. There’s a modicum of talent, but it’s mostly because I surround myself with very talented people. I’ve got a great support group, I’ve got the same band since the early ’80s, and I’ve worked with the same people for decades. And I got a very loyal fan base and I love what I do. And somehow I’ve been very lucky and it’s worked out so far.

Watch “Weird Al” in an episode from the new season of Comedy Bang! Bang! right now, before the season premiere on Friday June 3rd at 11P.

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