Taylor Kitsch is John Carter of Mars, Etc.

It feels like just the other day when I was reporting that director Andrew Stanton and the folks at Disney were spotting out locations in Utah where they will be shooting the long-awaited John Carter of Mars this fall. And with that news came speculation — although spotty — about who may or may not be playing the title role.

Mere hours later, almost as if it were planned, word came down via The Hollywood Reporter that X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Friday Night Lights star Taylor Kitsch will be taking the role of John Carter — the Civil War vet who is transported to Mars where adventure awaits — a role that has been rumored to be circled by the likes of Tom Cruise and Christian Bale. For those who saw Wolverine, Kitsch was one of the film’s highlights as the smooth talkin’ Cajun with Kenetic abilities, otherwise known as Gambit.

Also among the newly announced cast members is Kitsch’s Wolverine co-star Lynn Collins, who can be seen this coming week as Dawn Green in season two of True Blood. Collins will play Dejah Thoris, the heir to the throne of Mars’ Helium kingdom — the princess who calls upon John Carter to help save her kingdom from a race of 12-foot tall green guys (or so I’m told).

And with Kitsch and Collins in place, casting appears to be continuing at a very rapid pace. Sideways star Thomas Hayden Church told Jeffrey Lyons of Reel Talk that he will also be joining the film, in what he’s calling a ‘very dramatic role’. No word yet on the exact role that Church would be playing, but he did also say that he will be reporting for duty sometime in the Spring. With production set to begin in November in Utah, that means a rather long shoot for Andrew Stanton’s first live-action feature. Alas, I don’t think anyone is doubting that Stanton is a quality storyteller.

Overall it has been a quick hitting few days after months and months of specutlation around John Carter of Mars — not to mention the decades upon decades that studios have been waiting to get this thing made. And now finally it is in motion, with Pixar talent (and animation), the financial backing of Disney and a young up-and-comer in the lead role. I’ve enjoyed Kitsch’s work in Wolverine and on Friday Night Lights, so it will be interesting to see how he handles the weight of a major sci-fi tentpole.

As for Lynn Collins, she’s a lot of fun on True Blood and was primarily window dressing in Wolverine. With this role she will have a lot more to do, so here’s hoping that she can fill out that Dejah Thoris costume (which for those of you who have never seen the books, means that she won’t have much clothing to ‘fill out’ at all).

And finally, the Thomas Hayden Church situation. Fact: the man is a quality actor. ‘Nuff said.

John Carter of Mars is scheduled to hit theaters in 2012.

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