By Jeanmarie Tan
HE'S NO Robert Pattinson, but rising Canadian star Taylor Kitsch is slowly but surely getting there.
After all, his name recently popped up on 'hot' lists ever since his breakout big-screen role as mutant superhero Gambit in the blockbuster movie X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Kitsch is among People magazine's Top 10 Hottest Bachelors and a Vanity Fair poll on the world's most handsome man.
He's also nominated for Choice Male Hottie and Fresh Face Male at this year's Teen Choice awards, alongside dishy peers like Chace Crawford, Zac Efron, Chris Pine, Sam Worthington and, of course, Twilight heart-throb Pattinson.
As a certified nutritionist and fitness trainer, the 1.83m hunk also became the youngest person to grace the cover of Men's Health magazine at 25.
Now 28, Kitsch said in a conference call with Asian media from his Texas home: 'It's something flattering, but at the same time you take it for what it is. If anyone lets these things go to their heads, they're shallow cats.
'It doesn't make or break anything about who I am. All it does is that people will come watch my movies.'
Even though Kitsch is reluctant to admit it, we're sure a good portion of viewers watch the critically acclaimed TV series Friday Night Lights because of his shirtless scenes.
He plays brooding bad boy Tim Riggins, a sexy high school football player with alcohol problems, anger management issues and a penchant for bedding anyone in a skirt.
The third season premieres over Star World (StarHub Ch 18) on 26 Jun at 8pm.
He said: 'As much as you guys feel I take my shirt off all the time, I can tell you if I did it as much as I'm asked, I'd be shirtless for more than half the season.
'I still feel that's not what I'm about and I've proven that over and over. Again, it's flattering in the sense that women want to tune in to the show, but that's going to be very short-lived... and people will get bored of it.'
As if to deflect the media's emphasis on his looks, Kitsch insists he's 'excited' to cut his trademark shaggy hairstyle for his upcoming big-budget Disney action flick John Carter Of Mars 'just because it's time... for a different look'.
'I was close to shaving it before, but it'll be long for Season Four of Friday Night Lights, which will start shooting in September.'
He beat out the likes of Josh Duhamel and Joe Hamm for the much-coveted titular lead in John Carter Of Mars.
Adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs' book series, it will be directed by Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E) and will possibly be turned into a franchise on the scale of Pirates Of The Caribbean.
John Carter Of Mars will reunite him with Wolverine's Lynn Collins, who's married to actor Steven Strait, Kitsch's co-star from The Covenant (2006).
She plays his character's love interest, Princess Dejah Thoris, heir to one of the kingdoms in Mars.
Kitsch said: 'It's funny, Hollywood's a small world. I respect Steven a lot as an actor and they're a great fun couple too. I didn't really get to work with her so much in Wolverine, but I trust her as an actress and I'm very happy they brought her into the picture.
'We're two characters in love, so the chemistry must be tangible in the movie, and I think we've got that because we're already good friends.'
But the love connection shouldn't be too convincing - in case Strait gets jealous. 'That's a good point,' Kitsch acknowledged with a chuckle. 'Steven is going to be on the set. It's work right? He wished me nothing but luck before I got the job.'
Despite overnight fame, Kitsch has managed to stay grounded because of his life's struggles.
He had a promising ice hockey career and almost turned pro until he injured his knee at 20.
He then moved to New York, where he modelled for Abercrombie & Fitch and Diesel, took acting classes with renowned coach Sheila Grey but ended up sleeping on the subway for a while when the money ran out.
'Before I became whoever I am now, I went through a lot of hardship. I knew who I was before all this started, so I'm grateful for my late start.'
Kitsch also looks up to his 'down-to-earth' Wolverine co-star Hugh Jackman as an example.
He gushed: 'He has an amazing aura about him. You should ask these guys. They stay the same and are even more grounded with their star power.'
Which also means no wild hard-partying Hollywood lifestyle for the self-confessed homebody.
'A great day for me is taking a long ride on my motorcycle, running, working out, hanging out with friends.
'I partied in my late teens and early 20s, so I'm not missing out on much if I stay in. I'd much rather do these activities than get drunk.'
This article was first published in The New Paper.