For two decades, he’s chugged along in the Hollywood game by flat out refusing to play it. He was busy searching for something else.
Taylor Kitsch has been following a white wolf for five miles through the Montana wilderness, not far from his home in Bozeman. Up the hills, around to the drainage they go. He knows she’s nearby, but not this close—just off the other side of the tree he’s crouching next to. She is right there, all 150-some-pounds of her.
They lock eyes. Five seconds. Seven seconds. A long fucking time. He’s not scared. He’s euphoric. He wants one click of the frame. He pleads with her to stay. “Listen,” he coos, “I just want to take your picture.
“You’re fucking beautiful.”
She doesn’t listen and turns back up the mountain. Gone. For now. But he sees her again. He heads out howling for her less than twenty-four hours later and finds her not far from here. This time, he’s fast enough with the phone’s camera.
Three weeks later and a thousand miles away, Kitsch is showing me the video of their second run in. “Man, we can talk this shit all day,” he says. The problem is—as I watch her hind legs scatter out of frame, quizzing him about the size of a wolf’s home and how they hunt—Kitsch is not talking about himself, which is why I’m here.
Unless he is talking about himself.
For a guy who’s worked as long as Kitsch—that’d be two decades—you’ll find relatively few interviews with him on the internet. Up until a few months ago, he didn’t even have someone handling press for him. “We’re fighting for Playgirl,” Kitsch, forty-one, jokes when I ask what we should expect from his new publicist. “Right now, it’s between me and twenty other guys.” Instead, he has chugged along in the Hollywood game by flat out refusing to play it. But he’s got some big projects coming—The Terminal List on Amazon, out now; Painkiller on Netflix, later—so here we are in the restaurant of Casa del Mar hotel in Santa Monica looking at pictures of wolves, which make up what feels like a sizable portion of his iPhone photo library.
He’s got no clue what time it is, but he is hungry. He was in Monte Carlo all weekend doing promo and flew thirteen hours yesterday. He can’t believe I didn’t choose to meet in Montana instead. “Why wouldn’t you go to fucking Bozeman?” he asks. Why wouldn’t I? Scheduling, of course. So rather than see the new property that he just bought way out of town, where he wants to build a nonprofit, maybe an addiction center, we’re sitting over a table littered with a chicken club sandwich and salad (for him), a burger and fries (for me), and bottomless mugs of coffee with oat milk (for both of us).
The wall of windows just a few tables away, looking right out over the beach, assaults us with views of sun, sand, and ruffling palm-tree leaves. It’s late June and exactly the sort of day that people who love Los Angeles think no visitor could refuse. “I’ve hated this place a long time,” he says, almost amused and squinting in the glare.
Born in Kelowna, British Columbia, Kitsch grew up in a trailer with his mom and two older brothers. Dad left when he was one. Eventually two much younger half-sisters joined. He played lots of hockey, until his knee got busted. Twice.
In 2002, at the encouragement of a modeling scout, he moved to New York. He booked jobs with brands like Abercrombie & Fitch and Diesel, and it went well until it didn’t. Out of work, he bounced between the couches of friends and the floors of New York City subways. With a run of acting classes under his belt, he went west and spent four months living out of his car in Los Angeles, working as a personal trainer between auditions for gigs he pretty much never got. He hauled his way back to Canada with little to show for how much that last stretch sucked. But Kitsch is not a quitter. He kept sending in tapes and small roles finally came. The Covenant. Snakes on a Plane. John Tucker Must Die. His big break arrived when Peter Berg cast him as Dillon Panthers fullback Tim Riggins on NBC’s Friday Night Lights.
He and Berg kept working together—on Battleship (2012) and Lone Survivor (2013), both for the big screen. (They team up again for Painkiller, out late 2022 or early 2023, and they’ve got something on tap about the American West’s violent beginning if a platform will bite.) “We love pushing each other,” Kitsch says of their partnership.
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Photoshoots/Outtakes > Esquire 2022