Could Taylor Kitsch’s breakout year be his Waterloo?
2012 is turning out to be a bad year for Taylor Kitsch. It wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t start out so good.
Kitsch began the year as one of Hollywood’s hottest commodities. With starring roles in three big-budget action flicks, he looked like he’d be the next big leading man.
On the eve of his third, it just isn’t looking that way for the handsome young actor from Kelowna, B.C. And the saddest thing of all is that very little of it is his fault.
Kitsch’s initial break looked to be Disney’s John Carter, a space-desert epic that was decades in the making.
He became the subject of a gargantuan marketing campaign that plastered his half-naked body all over bus stops and subway stations. The studio attracted Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton to put light to celluloid on what it clearly hoped would be one of the year’s biggest hits, an enchanting sci-fi sequel that could spawn a franchise.
Sadly, no producer stepped forward to say that John Carter‘s time had passed. Humans had discovered Mars, and learned that no humans could possibly live there. Therefore setting a desert epic on the planet and divesting it of its dusty red atmosphere continued to seem like a good idea.
We all know the result: it flopped, but not quite as badly as it could have. North American returns saw it recoup just under $74 million, while overseas box office made up the balance and allowed the film to make about a $32 million profit on its $258 budget. The film’s reception nevertheless scuttled any plans for a sequel.
Then came Battleship, Peter Berg’s attempt at adapting the Hasbro board game into a film. He assembled an impressive cast including Liam Neeson and Alexander Skarsgard but left Kitsch as his leading man.
It told the story of mechanical aliens that came down to Earth to do battle with humans, and Kitsch played a Navy seaman trying to stop them. Advance press made the film look like a rehash of the Transformers series, whose last film was only released in 2011.
Timed to pick up any box office slack left over by The Avengers (that film had been released three weeks prior), it too bombed stateside, grossing $64 million on a $209 million budget.
The overseas market stepped up here too, making it an additional $236 million to give it a worldwide gross of just under $90 million.
The relative success of these films isn’t something you can pin on Kitsch, but of a massive global marketing effort that saw studios literally blitz these countries with advertising. Attempts to force audiences into submission and make them see their films didn’t work for studios’ domestic box office but it appears to have paid dividends in foreign markets.
Back to Kitsch a second. His acting needs work, but I don’t think that’s the problem here. Of the three films listed here I’ve only seen John Carter. He showed potential as a leading man, but he demonstrated neither the authority nor the gravitas to carry that film.
The problem, I think, is that he needs to pick better movies to star in, or else find himself a new agent. John Carter had already passed through various hands, and when it finally made it to theatres its time had gone well into history.
Battleship, meanwhile, just seemed like a flat attempt at making money. The studio chose a hack director to helm a film based on a board game, and it ended up looking like a carbon copy of a crappy Michael Bay franchise. Bad word of mouth almost certainly sank that ship stateside.
Now we come to this weekend and the release of Oliver Stone’s Savages. In it Kitsch plays a pot grower who runs afoul of a Mexican drug cartel.
Kitsch will have to share the screen with co-stars Aaron Johnson and Blake Lively, to say nothing of supporting players John Travolta, Salma Hayek and Benicio del Toro, but if the film flops at the box office it will almost certainly reflect poorly on Kitsch’s sattus as a box office draw.
I’ll reserve judgment until I see the film. I’m not privy to what goes on inside studios, but I know that Hollywood doesn’t permit much more than three strikes.