Interview: After 'Lone Survivor,' Taylor Kitsch continues to serve

Taylor Kitsch

Actor Taylor Kitsch attends the "Lone Survivor" New York premiere at Ziegfeld Theater Dece. 3, 2013. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Taylor Kitsch was approached recently by an energetic military veteran in a hole-in-the-wall bar in Austin, Texas. The veteran wanted to let Kitsch know how much his film “Lone Survivor” — based on the nonfiction book about U.S. Navy SEALs who were ambushed in Afghanistan in 2005 — meant to him. Rather than brush him off with a handshake and a “thank you,” Kitsch struck up a conversation with the veteran.

Forty-five minutes later, Kitsch said he had bonded with the veteran over the film, learned about his time in the service and met his son, who was thinking of enlisting.

“It happens all the time — all the time,” Kitsch said over the phone from Austin, where he lives, about getting approached by service members and veterans. “That’s what this movie does. It’s an incredible thing to be a part of. From a personal standpoint, it’s pretty damn validating. It makes you feel great that you got to do this and do this right. First and foremost, I cared about what the families and military community thought of the film. Once I got those, I couldn’t (care less) about what everyone else thought.”

Kitsch and his cast mates, including Mark Wahlberg, were so moved by the military cause they’re now active in promoting the Lone Survivor Foundation and its fundraisers. “Lone Survivor” author Marcus Luttrell (the only survivor of the 2005 ambush) founded the charity to help returning service members make the transition to civilian life through a therapeutic and holistic healing retreat.

The foundation — which also offers couples and family retreats for service members — will host Concert for a Cause featuring the BoDeans on Thursday at the House of Blues and the third annual Rock for the Ranch fundraiser Saturday at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel.

“This organization helps mend the transition when men and women come back from service,” Kitsch said. “It helps them get the counseling they need.”

We’ve all seen the videos of troops surprising their loved ones after coming back from overseas. They’re constantly featured on cnn.com. You can also find them on welcomehomeblog.com, a website dedicated to homecoming videos. Many of us have been moved to tears by these happy reunions — and Kitsch is no different.

“Oh my God, I break half the time,” Kitsch admitted. “My buddy sent me a video of a bunch of them edited together. I’d already seen a lot of them, but I still broke.”

The former “Friday Night Lights” actor has been living in Austin for the past six years. He tried living in the Los Angeles area, but it wasn’t for him. The Hollywood lifestyle just doesn’t fit the laid-back British Columbia native, who has said in interviews he was homeless in New York at one point and sleeping on subway trains. And while he doesn’t seem all that interested in fame, he is proud that he’s able to use it to bring attention to the Lone Survivor Foundation.

“I love it,” Kitsch said. “It’s very fulfilling. The thing about celeb parties is, maybe it feels good for two seconds. This is something I can actually contribute — something bigger than me. It’s a great thing.”

lgomez@tribune.com | Twitter @TribLuis

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