hello, tay­lor

Make some space in your full hearts, be­cause the man be­hind your dream fic­tional boyfriend, Tim Rig­gins, is as real as they come

ELLE (Australia) - - Con­tents -

Fri­day Night Lights favourite Tay­lor Kitsch on life af­ter Tim Rig­gins.

If there were any doubts that 12 years spent liv­ing in Austin (five of those play­ing the most-beloved Texan high­school foot­baller ever to grace TV screens, in the slow-burn­ing cult se­ries Fri­day Night Lights) had rubbed off on Cana­di­an­born Tay­lor Kitsch, they’re quashed quicker than a Dil­lon Pan­thers touch­down when he an­swers the phone with the South­ern drawl of a life­long na­tive, as a greet­ing of “good ol’ Aww-stralia” booms down the line.

The city is now his adopted home (though he “only just” con­sid­ers him­self an Aus­ti­nite), and it’s there that he’s tak­ing a quick breather in be­tween projects, hav­ing just wrapped up TV movie Waco. Film­ing along­side An­drea Rise­bor­ough, Rory Culkin and Ozark’s Ju­lia Gar­ner was “a beau­ti­ful ex­pe­ri­ence” that re­sulted in what Kitsch calls “the best work of my life”, play­ing David Koresh, a re­li­gious sect leader at the cen­tre of a 51-day stand-off with the FBI in 1993 that mar­tyrised most of the group and re­sulted in the deaths of sev­eral fed­eral agents. For his role as the self-touted prophet, he also learnt to sing and play gui­tar, but coyly claims that “by no means am I any good yet”. Ul­ti­mately, he’d love to chan­nel his new­found skill set to play leg­endary gui­tarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, who worked with David Bowie and Joe Cocker among other greats (“his story’s fuckin’ amaz­ing”), but in the mean­time, there’s a cer­tain joy in know­ing time spent bar-hop­ping dive joints in Austin could mean wit­ness­ing the hand­some ac­tor hon­ing his strum on open-mic night.

“There’s al­ways a story worth telling. I think that’s what it means to be an ac­tor, to im­merse your­self in the swing and to breathe life into these guys,” says Kitsch of his roster of roles un­til this point, in­clud­ing a gayrights ac­tivist in The Nor­mal Heart, the late Pulitzer Prizewin­ning pho­to­jour­nal­ist Kevin Carter in The Bang Bang

Club and a cop un­com­fort­able with his sex­u­al­ity in the sec­ond in­car­na­tion of True De­tec­tive. “You al­ways want to be scared. I’m al­ways try­ing to take risks and do some­thing dif­fer­ent. For me, com­fort is death.”

That chase of the next will soon see him di­rect his first fea­ture-length film, Pieces, about three friends who in­ter­cept a drug drop on the Texas/mex­ico bor­der in a mis­guided bid to

bet­ter their means. Kitsch, who also wrote the film’s script, knows bet­ter than most the shitty sit­u­a­tions that could lead some­one to make a brash de­ci­sion – he has de­scribed him­self as “white trash” grow­ing up, and spo­ken of strug­gling so hard when he first moved to New York that he had to sleep on the train. “I’m fas­ci­nated by the choices peo­ple make given what they’re given – which a lot of the time is not a lot – the roads they go down and what the reper­cus­sions are.”

Kitsch en­listed long-time friend Peter Berg to pro­duce the pas­sion project – Berg be­ing the cre­ator of Fri­day Night Lights, in which Kitsch played the tor­mented and brooding Tim Rig­gins. Re­port­edly, at the en­cour­age­ment of Berg, Rig­gins was largely im­pro­vised by Kitsch (know­ing the ac­tor was be­hind much of the #33-branded charm does lit­tle to al­le­vi­ate any feel­ings of trans­fer­ence), a process Kitsch cred­its with much of his suc­cess since. “I had an ab­so­lute blast play­ing that guy and I still have re­la­tion­ships from the show that’ll last a life­time. That show was a big spring­board for me. But it was def­i­nitely time to move for­ward and to keep swing­ing.”

This month, Kitsch stars in Only The Brave, a fire­fight­ing epic based on the true story of the Gran­ite Moun­tain Hot­shots – an elite group of 20 wild­fire spe­cial­ists, 19 of whom per­ished dur­ing a fate­ful 2013 blaze at Yar­nell Hill in Ari­zona (the big­gest loss of life of fire­fight­ers in the US since 9/11). It’s not a load Kitsch car­ries lightly. “In my hum­ble opin­ion, one of the most flat­ter­ing [roles] an ac­tor can be of­fered is some­one who has lost a legacy,” he says. “I love the re­spon­si­bil­ity you hold when you’re given some­thing like this, the way you now carry the torch for some­one.”


To pre­pare for film­ing, the cast (which also in­cludes Josh Brolin and Miles Teller) spent time with the Hot­shots’ only sur­viv­ing mem­ber, Bren­dan Mcdonough, and camped and hiked in the wild for two weeks – an im­mer­sion Kitsch calls “an honour”. “Those weeks train­ing and grow­ing to­gether to be­come this crew helped [bond us] im­mensely. Ev­ery­one was go­ing through their grow­ing pains to­gether.”

Brolin, who plays the crew’s leader, has said the group is “the most close-knit com­mu­nity of ac­tors I’ve ever worked with”, and Kitsch adds that the cast are still in touch – through a group chat: “I don’t know how many times I cry laugh­ing [at it], prob­a­bly once a week.” But the con­tents of the text thread that in­cludes some of Hol­ly­wood’s big­gest dudes’ dudes are as elu­sive as you’d ex­pect. “Oh man, that is for my eyes only.”

Only The Brave is out Novem­ber 30

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