Taylor Kitsch's Double Feature: Will 'Battleship,' 'John Carter' Make Him a Leading Man?

Battleship Taylor Kitsch on Phone - H 2012
<p>Battleship Taylor Kitsch on Phone - H 2012</p>   |   Universal Pictures
The "Friday Night Lights" actor got plenty of screen time during the Super Bowl, being featured in two of the hottest trailer spots during the big game.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Eli Manning may have starred on the field, but it was Taylor Kitsch who was bidding to become the MVP of the Super Bowl movie trailers.

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He’s playing the title character in Disney’s John Carter, where he shares the screen with exotic Martians, and also will appear in Universal’s Battleship, where he faces off, along with Liam Neeson, against tech-savvy aliens.

There is more than a half-billion dollars in production costs swirling around him; not bad for an actor best known for his turn as a high school football player in NBC’s little-seen but passionately followed Friday Night Lights. The 30-year-old also has had a few bit roles in movies (he played Gambit in 2009’s Wolverine), but now he’s been drafted by the big leagues, which are desperate to groom a hot new leading man.

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Kitsch himself has little on the line but a lot of potential upshot. If John Carter fails, the upheaval in Disney’s marketing department — where MT Carney, painted as an outsider, was recently replaced by Ricky Strauss, who has more production stripes than marketing experience — will take the blame.

If Battleship sinks, fingers will point at everything from the board-game-based property to director Peter Berg. If both hit, Kitsch has two franchises in his pocket. And by then, the WME-repped actor will have moved on to Oliver Stone’s Savages, an adaptation of a dark Don Winslow book that opens July 6. No aliens in that one.