While other FNL regulars have been making it big since the show's teary end three years ago, Taylor Kitsch, also known as bad boy Tim Riggins, has maintained a relatively low profile. With leading roles in universally panned films such as John Carter and Battleship, it's been hard to take Kitsch seriously, or see him as anything other than Dillon Panther's fullback #33. Yet the recent release of Lone Survivor , which made a whopping $38.5 million this weekend, much to the surprise of critics and even distributor Universal Pictures, could be just the film to push Kitsch from the shadows and into the spotlight.
Taking a look at Kitsch's contemporaries is a little disheartening. Matty Saracen, also known as Zack Gillford, got married in probably the most indie and beautiful wedding to ever happen within the celebrity world. Landry Clark, who was invited to the wedding as Jesse Plemons, is pretty much killing it as psycho Todd on Breaking Bad, a golden globe nominated show. Coach, played by Kyle Chandler, is exploring his more artistic side in The Wolf of Wall Street and The Spectacular Now (both worth the watch). And most importantly Michael B. Jordan, or Vince Howard, is this year's hottest breakout star, with roles in Fruitvale Station and That Awkward Moment that have garnered him both critical and audience acclaim. Kitsch's acting career thus far pretty much pales in comparison, but at least Kitsch has remained positive throughout all his box office woes:
“It was disappointing,” says Kitsch, of the films’ receptions in an interview with The Daily Beast. “We’re storytellers and you want people to enjoy it, and not be jaded before they even fuckin’ go into a movie. There are all these preconceived things nowadays about movies, which is total bullshit.”
While Kitsch certainly doesn't steal the show in Lone Survivor, Marky Mark brings audiences out in this patriotic tale of four soldiers sent on a doomed mission in Afghanistan, his performance as Medal of Honor recipient Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy is strong and his character well-developed. This could be due in part to director Peter Berg, with whom Kitsch has developed a life-long friendship since his early days as the director of Friday Night Lights. Kitsch's comeback could also have something to do with the huge amount of effort into this performance, training with Navy SEALs and speaking directly with Marcus Luttrell, on whom the film is based. In order to gain insight into his character, Kitsch followed an exercise regiment dubbed "the Murph" and drank heavily with his informants, trying to fully embody his character. Kitsch even reached out to his character's family:
“He doesn’t look like Mike, but he captured the essence of my son, his facial expressions, his mannerisms, his sense of humor,” said Murphy's mother, Maureen of Kitsch's portrayal of her son.
Lone Survivor chronicles the failed Navy Seals mission Operation Red Wing, in which four elite soldiers were tasked with capturing and killing Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. The film centers around a decision made by the officers, who capture a goat-herder during their mission and let him go instead of killing him, which sparked significant debate and controversy over issues of morality and the military's Rules of Engagement. The film was released on December 25, but opened in theaters everywhere on Friday.
Kitch's portrayal could be just the break his career has been looking for, a return to the powerful and strong character he played on FNL. Hopefully Kitsch's relationship with Berg will prove to be a fruitful one, leading to further collaborations in the future. I have always felt Kitsch to be an un-sung hero, and now that his potential is finally being realized on the big screen, I know viewers and industry members everywhere will take notice of #33's abilities.