Taylor Kitsch, this time next month, will be one of the most famous film stars in the world. But right now, he's just a tired Canadian sitting in a London hotel room huddled up in a trench coat.
"Be charming, be yourself, I know you haven't slept in 48 hours... but be funny, warm, be excited about it.
"I can't say that it's tiring. But it's like a Catch-22, because I'm not actually doing the fulfilling work. It's going to hopefully help with getting other work, but I had an opportunity with these incredible directors, the top choice for me, and I couldn't do it because I was committed to doing press...”
I wonder who offered such a tantalising opportunity, but Kitsch is industry-seasoned enough already not to tell me (at least until I promise to smash my recorder in half, like the lawyer Oliver Babbage, West-Wing style - when he eventually relents, agreed, it WAS a big thing he had to turn down). And, in the meantime, Kitsch cheers up... "I need to throw my violin away, apparently."
So here we are, Kitch on the cusp of global stardom as his films John Carter and Battleship - representing two years of work but arriving in cinemas like buses within a month of one another - put him centre stage of multi-million-dollar blockbusterdom. Was it an easy jump, like others before him, from a modelling career to the big screen?
"I think there's always more to put in, but I feel I've struggled to get to where I'm at for sure. I quite simply outworked people to get here - got up earlier, did a bit more prep, wanted it a bit more, who knows, maybe all that combined."
Wanted what, exactly? Although he’s obviously a workhorse - with tales of being put to bed fox six days on doctors' orders after over-stretching himself on the set of John Carter - Kitsch isn't disingenuous enough to pretend approval doesn't matter ultimately:
"I love what I do, and I'm so proud of the work and excited. But I have a lot of musician friends, and those guys get validated the second they walk on stage, there's 5000 plus people losing it, engaging, crying, while I've waited two years...
What, for tears? He nods. "They're hopefully coming. It feels really great when people are on that emotional ride, and after the work you've put in, they just see John Carter and nothing else."
After the one-two of John Carter and Battleship, they'll definitely see Taylor Kitsch as the go-to man for negotiating with aliens good and bad. Is he worried about type-casting at this early stage?
"So this is what I'm doing now. I'm throwing everyone a curveball and I'm going to play an alien in the next movie."
I don't believe him.
"It's funny because I don't even see the Tharks as aliens, I don't know why, they're just a nomadic tribe led by such a brilliant actor (Willem Defoe), I'm just thinking out loud here, but it was such an engaging and emotional process with those guys, maybe that’s why..."
He trails away, because, after all, there probably is, with the best will in the world, not much more he can say about his broad-chested beefcake warrior John Carter, despite the story being "very character-driven" about "an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances, he's very relatable".
What is surprisingly more relatable than a Civil War veteran being transported to the planet Barsoom to be captured before turning peacekeeper, is the situation in which Kitsch now finds himself, on the cusp of superstardom, and he is suitably bemused:
"There's no balance in my life right now, but it's very fulfilling and I'm just so glad I put in the work, because god knows it would be such a shit feeling if I knew I could have done better, put more energy in."
He’s now 30 - would he have liked this to happen earlier?
"Oh my god, no," he exclaims. "It would have been beyond brattish. If I was 18, it'd be crazy, it'd be very entertaining for people.
"Hugh Jackman is a good friend of mine (that'll be Kitsch remaining relatable then) and we both got started around the same age, and it's one of the things that connects us... having a good sense of self before it all started."
So should we or should we not prepare to see pictures of Kitsch falling out of nightclubs on Sunset Boulevard, pneumatic C-lister in his wake?
"Oh, I hope so," he smiles, before offering a disclaimer. "Let's see how well the movie does on opening weekend, and if not, I'll just go and date some miraculous starlet. No, it's going to be hands off in Texas."
It's going to be a home by a lake in Austin, to be exact, a sanctuary Kitsch is proudly building by himself - sort of.
"Nail in my mouth, dungarees. Nah, I wish. Maybe we should just say that."
I offer to Photoshop his head onto the body of Ryan Gosling in The Notebook, a prospect that raises a very un-John-Carter giggle. I also tell him his Battleship director Peter Berg described him as "a young Brad Pitt, just better looking..."
"Oh, no way," he exclaims, looking even more pleased. "I heard he called me Bruce Willis too. Well, he's had an amazing career - Pitt - when you think about it, I love his character-driven stuff."
But he can't go to the shops without the federal police clearing the road first...?
"Yeah, but that's a choice he's made. I'm on a little lake down there in Texas, where no one gives a shit."
When he’s not making films alongside superstar Rihanna - did he envy her entourage?
"That won't be me. It's another choice. She's at a different level, already a worldwide musician star. I don't know what that lifestyle looks like."
So what is it all for, if not that? He doesn't miss a beat:
"Just a matter of getting free shit all the time. No! I love what I do. But I'll definitely be taking a moment to rest after Battleship. You won't see me around. Back to Austin."
Which, maybe, he should stop mentioning in interviews?
"Shit, yeah. That's Austin, Illinois. Make it Arkansas."
John Carter is in UK cinemas from today 9 March. Watch the trailer below:
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