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Discuss: Can Taylor Kitsch's 2012 Be Saved By 'Savages?'

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist July 3, 2012 at 10:03AM

From a brand perspective, actor Taylor Kitsch has had an unfortunate 2012. With the movie industry dealing with a rocky past few years, Hollywood has had to adjust its strategy, moving to a familiar, but relatively new spending plan. With A-list stars demanding huge salaries or major backend deals with little assurance that their popularity will translate into box-office gold, Tinseltown has looked inward, almost akin to the old studio system, in an attempt to cultivate its own new (less-expensive) would-be stars.
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Battleship

We suspect the film will be fairly well-received, and do moderate-to-disappointing box office, without setting the world on fire; enough to not be a third disaster in a row, but probably not enough to restore confidence in Kitsch completely. So the question is, what's his next play?

After Ryan Reynolds' disastrous 2011 summer, the actor went to ground somewhat. "Safe House" was already in the can (and thankfully proved to be a big hit), and shooting was already pretty much underway on "R.I.P.D." But since then, the actor's been quiet, with only animated gigs on "The Croods" and "Turbo" (and **spoiler** a self-deprecating cameo in "Ted," clearly from the Tom Cruise/"Tropic Thunder" school of rehabilitation **end spoiler**) actually in production. He has signed on to some other gigs, including the indie drama "Big Eyes," and he's been rumored for the "Highlander" remake (although it's worth noting he's not yet confirmed for that movie). But it's clear that the bruising performance of last year's films made Reynolds and his management take stock a bit.

Kitsch would be well advised to do the same. The actor only has one film on his slate at present, reuniting with "Battleship" director Peter Berg on another military-themed project, the Afghanistan-set "Lone Survivor." The film is shooting this fall, and will see the actor in a more comfortable second-fiddle role to proven draw Mark Wahlberg. We suspect that there's a degree to which Kitsch, like Jude Law and Colin Farrell before him, is a character actor being forced into leading man roles, and may find he's having more fun if, like them, he starts taking more interesting supporting parts. The relatively healthy international box office for his two films suggests he has some value in terms of pre-sales, so he could still be an asset to independent producers putting together a package.

Kitsch was also linked to fan-favorite role Finnick Odair in "Hunger Games" sequel "Catching Fire," and while it was swiftly denied by all involved, including the actor, it might have been a smart move to pursue it; walking into a pre-made franchise with the pressure off is probably preferable to trying to launch a whole franchise on your own shoulders. But the better template Kitsch should try to follow is that of Mr. Channing Tatum.

Taylor Kitsch

A year ago, Tatum was seen as a wooden himbo, whose blockbuster attempts with "G.I. Joe" and "The Eagle" had been pretty unsuccessful. But now, Tatum has had three (wildly different) films opening above $35 million in five months, has won critical acclaim, and is pretty much Hollywood's hottest new star. And in part, he did it by taking his destiny into his own hands, working with smart filmmakers and developing his own projects, while not neglecting the core of his audience by making a film like "The Vow."

He's had as good a year as Kitsch had a bad one, but serves as a demonstration that the "Battleship" star is far from down and out yet, and taking a few hints from the Tatum playbook wouldn't be the worst idea in the world. Find a cameo or an expectations-defying role in some Apatow-type comedy. Chase the next Nicholas Sparks adaptation, the best possible way to establish a fanbase among young women (because Kitsch's biggest problem right now is that he doesn't really have a fanbase, other than "Friday Night Lights" fans out there). Hook up with some smart filmmakers and take a small, memorable role. If he follows some of those steps, Kitsch may be around for plenty of time to come.

This article is related to: Features, Battleship, John Carter Of Mars, Savages, Taylor Kitsch


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