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Taylor Kitsch on ‘The Normal Heart’ and Wanting to Direct

'I didn't even know what a blowout was until this movie.'

Taylor Kitsch stars in the indie film “The Grand Seduction” (which opens May 30) and in HBO’s “The Normal Heart,” based on the play by Larry Kramer. He spoke to Ramin Setoodeh about his new career direction.

I watched a double feature of your movies last night.
Oh man! All you can Kitsch.

“The Grand Seduction” is about a doctor who moves to a small village. Had you seen the foreign film that it’s based on?
No, I had never heard of it or knew it existed. My manager hit me up — she’s like, “I couldn’t put this down.” I read it, laughed out loud 15 to 20 times. We shot in Newfoundland in a harbor town of 150 people. I’m always looking for great little independents.

How did you find the character?
It was harder than I imagined, but maybe that doesn’t mean it was hard. It was more finding the balance on set. Don (McKellar, the director) and I had a great talk before I signed on — look, I’m a big guy on instinct. Obviously, keep it grounded, but improvising is also kind of my process, especially with these little comedies.

Do you do that during your phone sex scene?
That’s all improv for the most part. We had to stop, because I’d take it too far.

What do you mean?
I was basically describing me going out to a shed and dusting off my old lawnmower and starting my lawnmower up. That’s what I was describing in a sexual way. It was hilarious and a lot of fun.

How did you find your look for “The Normal Heart”?
That’s me and Ryan Murphy. He really wanted the blond hair. And it worked. Bruce is very much like an A-list gay man. He could have his pick of the litter, and he was a really good looking guy, working on Wall Street. I loved the three-pieces suits. Wardrobe is a huge thing for me in any gig. This was kind of the epitome of it.

Was it the first time you dyed your hair?
Oh yeah, believe it. I wasn’t a fan of it. I didn’t even know what a blowout was until this movie. I don’t remember the last time I combed my hair.

Did you do a lot of research for the part?
Absolutely. I looked at these guys that were leading double lives. It was a lot of balancing and figuring that out and reading letters and documentaries, sitting down with Larry Kramer and getting some really cool notes.

What did you learn?
You can’t play gay if that makes sense. It just is. Sexuality isn’t who he is. He’s a man that doesn’t have the identity that he knows is within him, and he can’t be himself. It’s those kinds of things you focus on: the loss of love, the loss of his partner, the unknown of what this disease and virus is.

Had you heard of the play?
I had heard of it. I wish I’d seen it.

Was the bad press over “John Carter” hard for you?
I mean, look man, it wasn’t an uplifting experience. My biggest regret would have been if I didn’t do enough personally. If I didn’t give it everything I had. If I hadn’t prepped enough. I don’t have that regret, so that allows me to let go. I still talk to Lynn Collins almost daily. Those relationships that were born won’t be broken by people we never met.

Do you wish there would have been a sequel?
I miss the family. I miss Andrew Stanton. I know the second script was fucking awesome. We had to plant a grounding, so we could really take off in the second one. The second one was even more emotionally taxing, which was awesome.

Is “John Carter’s” disappointing box office one of the reasons why you’ve moved toward indies now?
It’s funny that people are saying this. You go back to “Friday Night Lights.” Then I did “The Bang Bang Club,” which is probably one of my proudest things I’ve been involved with, and then these opportunities came along. You don’t say no to Oliver Stone (who directed him in “Savages”).

Do you read a lot of scripts?
The wordy ones, no doubt. I’m reading a lot of books and material to develop stuff.

Are you interested in working behind the camera?
Yeah, I wrote and directed this 35-minute short (called “The Pieces”). It’s a little thriller. We just got $5 million bucks to make it into a feature, and we’re pretty darn close. Long story short — I’ve been exposed to a lot of guys that are in the drug game through some of my jobs and whatnot. It’s basically a drug drop that goes completely wrong. I’ll direct it. We have full financing, but I’m not going to use even a quarter of that money.

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