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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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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.