“John Carter” Brings Live Action, Challenges and Rewards

Agnes Constante, El Vaquero Copyeditor

Mars is at war.

And when Civil War veteran John Carter (Taylor Kitsch, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” 2009) wakes up to find himself on this planet, he joins 12-foot-tall green aliens in their fight against the opposition. He also discovers that love is not commonly found on Mars, and falls for Martian princess Dejah Thoris.

Oscar winner Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo,” 2003) directs his first live-action film in Disney’s “John Carter,” which hits theaters Friday.

Stanton said directing this type of film wasn’t actually much different from working on animated films, which he has done throughout his career.

“People think that when you work on an animated film … it’s as if I’m talking to a bunch of computers my whole life,” he said. “I actually talk to 200 people every day … that have different jobs, like how to do the lighting, the camera, the costume work.”

The main difference for Stanton was standing up for 15 hours a day regardless of what the weather was like, whereas in previous animation projects he was able to sit down more often.

“Having to to be on your feet all day … in any kind of weather, whether it be really hot or really cold…. with no breaks, that was really it. Although that sounds like I’m complaining, that’s just the hard part of it. But I always like to equate the journey with sort of like deciding to sail across the ocean.”

Making “John Carter” was essentially like creating two movies, Stanton said. On one hand there was live action, which took about one year to complete.

And then there was the graphic side, which Stanton said took an additional year and a half.

“John Carter” is based on novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and while the series isn’t as popular as “Harry Potter,” Stanton wanted to execute the film well, as he has been a fan of the books.

Kitsch said working with Stanton on this project was a pleasant experience.

“For what he’s achieved, you’re dealing with a guy who has zero ego,” he said.

Kitsch, who has starred as Tim Riggins in NBC’s “Friday Night Lights” from 2006 to 2011, hopes to continue taking roles like his character in “John Carter.”

“What really makes me choose a role is just the people I’m surrounded with, and the character I get to portray,” he said.

In addition to portraying John Carter, the role was physically demanding.

“I think I battled exhaustion throughout, just because you’re in so much of it and you’re working six day weeks,” Kitsch said.

He also described his diet during the film as boring, and had to react to nonexistent creatures and objects which were later edited into the film via CGI.

“I think when you’re acting to nothing, it’s tough… it’s tough to really connect to anything. So it just kind of demands that much more of you,” Kitsch said.

Still, the challenges along the way have allowed Kitsch to feel a sense of accomplishment.

“Setting the bar that high for myself personally and keeping it at that level of energy and aesthetic and all that emotion, that’s probably the biggest thing that I’ll take from (this film),” he said.