This year marks the 25th anniversary of the horrific conflict that took place in Waco, TX between members of the cult known as the Branch Davidians, led by cult leader David Koresh, and the ATF (U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms). The agents were given an order by then-Attorney General, Janet Reno, to intervene at Koresh’s compound in order to seize an illegal weapons stockpile kept by the cult. As a result, a firefight and fierce 51-day standoff took place outside of the compound that ended in complete tragedy with the Davidians, at the order of Koresh, burning their entire compound with everyone inside it to the ground. So much has been said over the years, as many believe that not only were the Davidians in the wrong for what they did but that the government had also violated their rights during this siege.
It was a complete mess.
This sad moment in American history has been adapted into a brand new miniseries titled “Waco” with Taylor Kitsch portraying David Koresh. This miniseries was written and directed by the Dowdle Brothers (No Escape) and will premiere January 24th on the newly minted Paramount Network. The series also stars Michael Shannon as Gary Noesner, the FBI negotiator who tried to de-escalate the conflict at Waco, John Leguizamo as ATF agent Jacob Vazquez who went undercover with the cult before the siege, and Rory Culkin as David Thibodeau, a survivor of the Branch Davidians. I caught up with Kitsch to find out what it was like playing the infamous cult-leader.
How much did you know about the history of Waco before signing on for this project?
“I think was, like so many people, that I’m going to say I knew like 99%. I get a call from the agency saying ‘the Dowdle brothers want to meet you and they are thinking of you playing Dave Koresh. Will you go sit down with them?’ You quickly turn to Google and Wikipedia and start reading up on it. You go through the whole gamut of everything. All of the emotions that go with that. I was flattered and then, of course, I said ‘yes’ to the meeting. We had an amazing two-hour meeting and we got along super well. The more they actually told me about what actually happened the more enthralled I was. A few weeks later, I got the role. Then the actual research started. I couldn’t have been more happy and excited to have taken on that role. The writing is really strong and obviously this a character you dream of as an actor.”
What was it like getting into character to play David Koresh?
“I started prep on January 2nd and hit camera in late April. It was beyond scary. Learning to play the guitar and sing (David Koresh played and sang in a bar band with fellow members of the Branch Davidians) and obviously diving into his whole story. Diving into David’s home videos and hundreds of hours of calls. Reading David Thibodeau and Gary Noesner’s books (‘Waco: A Survivor’s Story’ and ‘Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator’). You just try to take in as much information as you can. Then obviously losing the weight is just a part of it. It was scary, to be honest, but I think that gets the best out of you.”
Those scenes of Koresh playing in his bar band kind of humanized him for me in a way.
He took it so seriously! He actually recruited Thibodeau from L.A. to be in his band. Dave was really, really serious about his music. I think that the beauty of this story is that you’re going to see every side of him. I think that’s what the Dowdles did so well. I think when you’re tackling someone like this, that’s the point. You wanna show every side of Dave for who he was before, after and during the siege. It’s just so much material so you just have to get myopic on certain parts. I think every actor’s first question is: ‘why, why, why?’ You try and wrap your head around and not oversimplify it. Some of those questions will never be answered because he isn’t here anymore and because there are still so many of them. You just do your research. You lock everything else out and just get that tunnel vision. Which is why you do it, for that process. I really enjoyed it and it opened my eyes to a lot of things.
Both sides of this standoff, the Branch Davidians and the ATF, could be blamed for how horrible everything played out at Waco. The show doesn’t pull any punches on showing how both sides did not come out of the situation clean. Did you have any sympathy for Koresh while playing him?
“Yes, to be blunt. For all of the Davidians. The kids and their families. Obviously, it’s an amalgamation of ego on both sides. Just one wrong decision after another. It’s a tragedy. I truly believe that the end didn’t have to happen that way. Not that it’s about sides or anything. I think what we do in this is play it all out as matter-of-fact as much as we can and allow the viewers to make their own decisions. I think that was super important and we were really conscious of that while filming.
2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the standoff in Waco, TX. What do you think is Waco’s legacy?
“There was a huge injustice there on so many fronts… As for the legacy: I think that’s up for discussion. Which is the beauty of it as well. You take all of those things in and hopefully we can talk about it and raise awareness that one kind f*ck up after another lead to this. On both sides! You watch some of the hearings they had on capital hill and see that there were some biases in it and the political game being played at its best. That’s what’s scary as well. For David’s legacy? I feel like there is so much more to be said. I wish he was still around so we could pick his brain and talk to him, and the rest of the Davidians, so that we could learn more so that it never happens again.”
Category: Movie News
Jeff Bridges and Taylor Kitsch have rounded out the ensemble cast for Black Label Media’s untitled firefighter film that currently stars Josh Brolin, Miles Teller and James Badge Dale.
Black Label will also continue its strong partnership with Lionsgate, which now has worldwide distribution rights, including North America, through its Summit Entertainment label. This news comes on the heels of the project’s strong international sales at the Cannes Film Festival.
Lionsgate seemed like the obvious home for the project given Black Label’s strong ties to the studio following the success of “Sicario” and the upcoming Ryan Gosling-Emma Stone musical “La La Land.”
“Tron: Legacy” helmer Joseph Kosinski will direct the film, which follows the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group of firefighters that faced one of the deadliest wildfires in history in order to save an Arizona town, resulting in the tragic death of 19 crew members. Kitsch and Bridges will play firefighters in the pic.
Ken Nolan developed the story on spec with the producers.
Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Erik Howsam, Conde Nast Entertainment’s Jeremy Steckler and Dawn Ostroff, Mike Menchel, Black Label Media’s Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill and Thad Luckinbill are producing the film. Black Label is financing.
Di Bonaventura also has “Deep Water Horizon” on the pipeline with Lionsgate.
Kitsch most recently appeared in HBO’s second season of “True Detective” opposite Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams. He is about to make his directorial debut with “Pieces,” which he will also star in. He’s also attached to topline “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan” with Jessica Chastain.
He is repped by CAA and Untitled Entertainment.
Bridges is coming off strong reviews following the premiere of his heist film “Hell or High Water” at Cannes. He is repped by CAA and MGMT Entertainment.
Black Label Media’s Molly Smith, Thad Luckinbill and Trent Luckinbill have several other high-profile projects in production/pre-production, including writer/director Danny Strong’s “Rebel in the Rye,” starring Nicholas Ho
A date has been set for the premiere of The Normal Heart!
Sunday, May 25
9 p.m.: The Normal Heart (HBO)
Thanks to HollyWood Reporter for the information.
On the morning that we meet, 32-year-old actor Taylor Kitsch is a patchwork of frayed flannel and denim. He’s Paul Bunyan-big, and speaks like a country road – leisurely paced, with winding turns that sometimes go nowhere. We’re sitting down to breakfast at his favorite beachside hotel in Santa Monica where he’s hunkered down for a week of meetings. At night, he’s been driving out to the Valley to play hockey.
“Us Canadians, we find that shit,” he says with a laugh. “Hockey’s like therapy for me. I went through a terrible break up a while ago and it was the one thing that allowed me to actually not think about it for an hour-and-a-half.”
A tossed off aside, to be sure – therapy on ice! – but it encapsulates Kitsch’s onscreen appeal, and has a lot to do with why the L.A. machers keep banking on him. He’s a man’s man, a jock even, but he’s comfortably evolved. He talks about his vintage Triumph bike like a veteran gearhead, but he isn’t afraid to feel.
This much was clear on the cult series Friday Night Lights where, for five seasons, he played Tim Riggins, a star high-school fullback saddled with a drinking problem, a conscience, and his own catchphrase – “Texas Forever.”
After Friday Night Lights, the powers that be gave Kitsch the keys to two potential franchises: John Carter and Battleship. For a variety of reasons beyond a young actor’s control, both went tits up, and he found himself in the odd position of having to hit the reset button on a film career before it really started.
And so here we are. The underdog label fits him better anyway, and Kitsch’s 60-second back-story is a lesson in triumph over adversity. The youngest of three brothers, he was raised by a single mom when his father took off. Money was sometimes tight. Like many young Canadians, Kitsch dreamed of playing pro hockey one day, and maybe could have if a knee injury hadn’t sidelined him. Asked to quantify his disappointment, Kitsch trains his emerald green eyes and says plainly: “One of the only memories I have of my father is him skating with me when I was 4-years-old. That’s pretty heavy shit.”
Indeed it is. In need of a new career plan, Kitsch moved to Manhattan at the urging of a modeling scout, where he got more work catering bar mitzvahs than he did on the runway. These were dark days, though some were darker than others. At one point, he admits, he was even properly homeless, sleeping on subway cars when the weather got too bad.
Which is all to say that when those would-be blockbusters crapped out, well, Kitsch had seen worse. And if he’s got any regrets about doubling down on movies with CGI aliens, he’s certainly not saying. In his defense, he points out, John Carter was a live-action Mars epic directed by the guy who just won a couple of Oscars for Wall-E.
“If I even told you who else was trying to get John Carter’s role!” Kitsch says, though he stops himself, and won’t elaborate. As for Battleship? If nothing else, it was a chance to spend a couple of months in Hawaii playing a board game with real U.S. warships. “The Navy closed down the USS Missouri for us for two weeks!” he says, proudly.
At this point, a waitress comes by again to ask Kitsch if he’d like coffee. This is not her first spin by the table, nor will it be her last. Kitsch is still getting used to the attention, which might be why he still lives in Austin, Texas, two years after FNL wrapped. The pace, the people, the landscape – it suits him. In fact, the only particularly Hollywood thing about Kitsch is his breakfast order: a fruit plate with Greek yogurt on the side. I ask if he’s felt pressure to move to L.A. You know, to be seen. He shakes his head: “They want you bad enough they’ll come get you.”
And it sounds like they do. Rumors of Kitsch’s meteoric ascent weren’t exaggerated, just premature. Look for him to earn his Next Big Thing crown in 2014 with pivotal roles in two very different male ensemble films: Lone Survivor (a true story about a tragic Navy SEAL mission in Afghanistan) and an HBO adaptation of The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer’s Tony Award-winning play about the 1980s AIDS crisis.
Lone Survivor comes from director Peter Berg, who cast Kitsch in Friday Night Lights, and gives him another gift here. Kitsch plays Mike Murphy, the leader of a four-man platoon that went hunting for a Taliban leader named Ahmad Shah in the mountains of Afghanistan in 2005.
Kitsch likens Lone Survivor to The Deer Hunter and Platoon, and he’s not overplaying his hand. The film is two hours of tough-to-watch battle-scenes wrapped in moral quandaries, tied up in an ethical-dilemma bow. To prep for the project, Kitsch and his co-stars (including Mark Wahlberg and Ben Foster) trained with actual Navy SEALS in the desert outside Albuquerque.
“The first day of training was live fire,” Kitsch says, assuring me this wasn’t some pretty-boy project. “Real bullets, dude.” He recalls hiding in a ditch while SEALs dressed as Taliban charged past him unaware. During training, he even shot a SEAL in the face with a paintball gun and drew blood, he says, grinning wide. But don’t let his bluster fool you. When Kitsch saw a finished cut of the film, he admits. “I cried three times.”
No one was injured during the filming of The Normal Heart, though by all accounts the experience was just as harrowing. It’s a story about the earliest days of the AIDS Crisis, when men were dropping dead at an alarming rate from a mysterious “gay cancer.” Kitsch plays Bruce Niles, a Wall Streeter who moonlights as the head of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a pioneering treatment center and pressure group. What Kitsch loved about the role was the towering fear it inspired within him.
He took the script to his old New York acting coach, Sheila Gray, and laid himself bare: “We were both, like, Holy fuck,” he says. It’s worth nothing there are no CGI Aliens in either of these projects. When asked if that was intentional- if he was looking for a pair of deeply human roles to erase the memory of a box-office turkey based on a board game – he shrugs it off: “I’ll keep swinging for the rest of my career.”
For Kitsch, opportunity looks a lot like hard work, and he prepped for The Normal Heart by “reading a stupid amount of memoirs.” The film co-stars Mark Ruffalo and Matt Bomer, and Kitsch will remember the experience as a master class in acting and knowing one’s limits. When the production set up shop on Fire Island for a pivotal scene, Kitsch chose to sleep on the mainland. “I know if I’m with the boys I’m gonna party ’til 3 AM and drink 18 bottles of wine,” he says. “I needed to get some rest.”
Kitsch picks at the remains of his fruit plate, moving a pair of figs around with his lumberjack paws. He’s got a busy day ahead – “eight back-to-back meetings” – but seems in no rush. Like any athlete raised in a locker room, he loves to shoot the shit: about the house he’s building on a lake in Austin, about learning to fly-fish in Newfoundland, about women. On the subject of his dating life, he’s country boy coy, but it sounds like he’s having a very good time. “I’m not getting married next year. I’ll tell you that much,” he says.
Making any kind of long term commitment, personal or otherwise, isn’t likely. He was offered a big network TV show this past season – a gig that paid “just stupid money,” he says, still marveling at the figure – “but I ain’t signing no seven-year deal.” As for the rumored Friday Night Lights movie, he wishes them well, but says he’s done playing Riggins. “Why mess up something that ended so fucking great?”
Kitsch pauses to reflect on the past year and the freedom he’s enjoying. “I love that I can literally shut down and just concentrate and really see what I’m capable of doing.” Texas Forever.
LOS ANGELES (January 14, 2014) “Lone Survivor,” the Navy SEAL drama starring Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch and Emile Hirsch earned $38.5 million in its first weekend in wide release, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The Universal film directed by Peter Berg is based on Marcus Luttrell’s memoir about a Navy SEAL team on a mission in Afghanistan.
The opening exceeded expectations and marked the second biggest opening in January after the $40.1 million debut of 2008’s “Cloverfield.”
Disney’s “Frozen” was in the No. 2 spot in its eighth weekend, earning $15 million and brining its domestic total to $317 million.
Paramount’s controversial “The Wolf of Wall Street” was No. 3 in its third weekend with $9 million for a total haul of $78.6 million.
One of the most eagerly awaited properties in the entertainment sphere for Broadway babies in 2014 is undoubtedly the unveiling of the long in-development HBO film adaptation of the iconic Larry Kramer play THE NORMAL HEART, directed by Ryan Murphy, and one of the leads of the film, Taylor Kitsch, opens up about his elemental role in the stage-to-screen property as part of a new interview.
In reflecting on his own relationship to the era depicted in the film – showcasing the early onset of AIDS in the 1980s – Kitsch relates, “I mean, look: I was born in ’81. I had no idea about the whole AIDS epidemic. I’m straight, and playing a gay guy who’s leading a double life, who’s still in the closet, who’s losing his lovers, who has AIDS but won’t admit it to himself, who ends up dying … I mean, where do you want to start? F*ck me, dude. It’s insane.”
Furthermore, Kitsch says, “The body type, the fact that he works at Citibank, very high up on Wall Street, so learning that part of it and reading an insane amount of books about guys who were leading those kinds of lives, learning about AZT and where it started … I knew probably the surface stuff, but what I learned for this, the education I got, that was another great tool.”
Additionally, Kitsch adds of THE NORMAL HEART experience, “[B]eing out of your comfort zone is why you become an actor. You try to stretch yourself as much as you can.”
Lastly, as for the firmly period-set look of his character, Kitsch states, “F*ckin’ eighties, right? And I was getting blown out every morning. I didn’t even know what that was! I just wrapped last week in New York – another insanely heavy movie, very heavy stuff – but man, we would die laughing. I would come in with blond hair like a mess at 5 a.m. I’m not a morning guy, for one, but I’d just be sitting there eating my breakfast, half asleep, and you’d just hear the blow dryer going forever. By the end of it, it was just a joke: I had to add some volume in between takes.”
HALIFAX — A film starring Canadian actor Taylor Kitsch as a doctor who can save a small town from financial disarray will open the Atlantic Film Festival.
“The Grand Seduction,” from Toronto director Don McKellar, also stars Irish actor Brendan Gleeson and Gordon Pinsent.
Jay Dahl, whose film “Roller Town” opened the 2011 Atlantic Film Festival, is back with his apocalyptic horror flick, “There Are Monsters.”
Other highlights include “Hard Drive,” a coming-of-age movie by St. John’s, N.L.-based Governor General’s Award-winning filmmaker William D. MacGillivray, and “Buying Sex,” a documentary by Nova Scotian husband-and-wife team Kent Nason and Teresa MacInnes.
This year also features an increase in Atlantic-based talent, with more than 80 locally produced films to be screened.
That represents a 30 per cent increase from the previous year.
This year’s Atlantic Film Festival runs Sept. 12-19.
Source: CTV News