Taylor Kitsch Interview For Oliver Stone’s ‘Savages’
Three-time Oscar-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone returns to the screen with the ferocious thriller ‘Savages,’ featuring the all-star ensemble cast of Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek, Emile Hirsch and Demian Bichir. The film is based on Don Winslow’s best-selling crime novel that was named one of The New York Times’ Top 10 Books of 2010. Laguna Beach entrepreneurs Ben (Aaron Johnson), a peaceful and charitable Buddhist, and his closest friend Chon (Taylor Kitsch), a former Navy SEAL and ex-mercenary, run a lucrative, homegrown industry—raising some of the best marijuana ever developed. They also share a one-of-a-kind love with the extraordinary beauty Ophelia (Blake Lively). Life is idyllic in their Southern California town…until the Mexican Baja Cartel decides to move in and demands that the trio partners with them. When the merciless head of the BC, Elena (Salma Hayek), and her brutal enforcer, Lado (Benicio Del Toro), underestimate the unbreakable bond among these three friends, Ben and Chon – with the reluctant, slippery assistance of a dirty DEA agent (John Travolta) – wage a seemingly unwinnable war against the cartel. And so begins a series of increasingly vicious ploys and maneuvers in a high stakes, savage battle of wills. ‘Savages’ arrives in cinemas July 6th in the US and September 26th in the UK.
An ex-Navy SEAL, Chon uses his skill set to fiercely defend the people whom he loves the most?
Taylor Kitsch: Definitely. Chon is a guy who has been jaded from day one. He’s seen so much sh*t in Afghanistan that his first reaction is always to go to violence. He’s just jaded to the point where he knows that it’s inevitably gonna go to violence, so he just goes there. Because he’s tried it so many times the other way that its never worked for him. I think even at the beginning when we were discussing the look of Chon, where we were going, I loved the scars, they were huge to me – they’re such a prevalent part of who he is. It’s such a great character to play on so many levels. I haven’t gone this route with a guy who’s this jaded, it was a blast. But also, you’ll see a different guy when he’s with Ben and O.
The friendship between Chon and Ben is a big part of ‘Savages,’ especially for Chon….
Taylor Kitsch: Definitely. Ben is probably the only person, next to O, that Chon trusts. The only person he can have his guard down with, that he can maybe even laugh around and joke with – get high and let his guard down, get drunk, whatever it is. It’s a rare find for Chon to have somebody like that. Especially at this point in his life where he’s at. Ben really is Chon’s purpose at this point, he’s not a Navy SEAL any more. So his purpose is to protect this business and protect Ben at all costs. I had read the book before it had been announced that Oliver was involved, but there were rumors that he had optioned it. I thought, “Man, I would murder to play this guy.” When I found out that Oliver was attached, well that was it. I felt that I would be a great fit.
I know you trained with a SEAL to get into the methods and mannerisms of someone like Chon?
Taylor Kitsch: Yeah. I trained with a SEAL prior to beginning ‘Savages.’ He was incredibly open with me. It wasn’t just about learning how to shoot semiautomatic weapons. He’d tell me stories about Iraq and Afghanistan, all of his buddies. It was special to be a part of an incredible opportunity that helped me to understand who Chon was. What I love about the SEALs is that you can walk by them on the street and you wouldn’t think twice. They don’t telegraph. But if you see them in their element, they are something to behold. I’m fortunate to call some of them friends now, too.
What do you think Oliver Stone brought to this film with his direction and writing?
Taylor Kitsch: I think what Oliver did so well and so thoroughly was intertwine it, yeah, but these guys have so much to play with as well with Lado, with Dennis, with Elena. That’s what I loved about it. It’s not just Ben, Chon and O, you’re going through Dennis’ life, you’re going through Lado’s, with what he’s dealing with at home. I think that’s what makes the movie way more stronger in my opinion. Oliver is old-school. It’s all about the work, which I admire. I loved how he would take a break, talk about the scene and work it out. It’s very settling. But you’d better bring your A game. Oliver notices every nuance, even if it’s just a glance. He will question why you’re doing it, which makes you prepare even more. When you do mess up, and everyone has that moment, he will absolutely let you know. But he will also tell you when the take is awesome. He keeps you on your toes, and your performance is better for it.
This film is energetic and relentless, how was it for you to actually work on?
Taylor Kitsch: We had a lot of fun, it was very intense to be on. And I think you feel all of that in the film. I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people, it really will – in a great way! And we were just saying, these films don’t get made. It’s rare. It was so fulfilling as an actor to be on something like this.
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