Taking on the role of photojournalist Kevin Carter in “The Bang Bang Club” was hardly a vacation for Taylor Kitsch. “I didn’t sleep. It was a zoo to shoot,” he says of the film, which tells the true story of a group of photographers covering the violent last days of apartheid in South Africa. “It wasn’t a fun shoot for me at all. I had a lot of kidney problems playing Kev, through the diet and losing 30-something pounds.”
Known to audiences for his work on “Friday Night Lights” and starring alongside Hugh Jackman in “Wolverine,” Kitsch threw himself into playing Carter, starting before heading to Johannesburg for filming. “I had two months to prep on my own in Austin, so that entailed shadowing a photographer, getting a
Leica — which is about a 60-year-old film camera that Kev used — developing myself with that, shooting about five to 10 rolls a day and then losing the 30-something pounds just running every day in Austin,” he explains. “There’s so much pressure I personally put on myself to do this guy justice, so I prepped and prepped so much. It brings your game up more. I would’ve done anything to get where I needed to be, to feel I could let the scene go. I was a wreck. It’s an incredible amount of energy.”
But any amount of effort was more than worth it, Kitsch insists, given how badly he wanted to do the film. “Even reading the script and fighting for the role, it was a matter of, like, I know I can play this guy truthfully,” he says. “There’s something that I know I could hit with him.”
Luckily his next projects are more on the fun side. Of course, even his upcoming “Battleship” — based on the board game — isn’t without its gravitas. “Just because it’s this big film doesn’t mean we can’t have a very, very intense moment here or there, or have loss,” he says. “I think that’s a big thing that people will be surprised about. It’s not just beat-beat-joke, beat-beat-joke, alien missile going.”
While he worked relentlessly on getting into character, Kitsch wasn’t necessarily prepared for how difficult it would be to get out of character, given the intense scenes Carter lived through. (Carter won a Pulitzer Prize for a photo of a young Sudanese girl resting while being stalked by a vulture.)
“Some counseling was needed, and just separating yourself, and just being incredibly conscious of it and being OK that it’s taking time to let go was a big thing for me,” Kitsch says.