I’ll be honest: While I’ve been a fan of superhero comics, and Marvel comics in particular, since I was a kid, Captain America was never my favorite character. I didn’t dislike him, mind you, but he just always seemed too simple, without the depth or quirkiness that made superheroes like Batman, Wolverine, and Spider-Man so much fun to read about. What had never occurred to me before I saw 2011′s Captain America: The First Avenger was that Cap could still be a terrific movie superhero if the right actor was in the role.
This isn’t to say that the rest of that film wasn’t excellent – it surely was – but anyone who thinks it would have been as good without Chris Evans in the star-spangled uniform is just flat wrong, in my considered opinion. Much as Christopher Reeve made Superman – a comic book superhero even with even less depth than Cap at that point in time – into a terrific movie superhero (for two films, anyway) partly by realizing how important it was to play Clark Kent, Evans made Cap into a hero for the people by really playing Steve Rogers for most of the film instead of Captain America. That’s how it makes sense to me, anyway.
So it was a huge pleasure on my recent trip to Los Angeles with a group of other bloggers to have a chance to sit down for an interview with Evans. I’d seen him at the premiere of The Avengers two years ago, but he was one among many there, so it was awesome to have him by himself at the interviewee table. It was also, as the group of bloggers was about 88% women, entertaining to be one of the few guys and watch most of the women try desperately not to freak out whenever Evans looked in their direction. Must be nice (and probably a bit embarrassing) to be able to cause reactions like that.
Anyway, Evans’ sex appeal aside, here are some highlights from the group interview:
QUESTION: What qualities in Captain America do you find in yourself?
CHRIS EVANS: Aww, how do you answer that question? He’s such a good guy. All right, what do I find in myself? I think he’s always trying to do better. I don’t think I’m as good of a man as he is, but I think as good of a man as he is, he’s always trying to improve. So the one thing I am working towards on a daily basis is just trying to find ways to evolve.
Q: Do you find that a character like Captain America plays like a role model?
CE: Oh, completely. There’s a kid that I grew up with named Charlie Morris. He’s the best kid I know. He was an Eagle scout. And being an Eagle scout is not easy – you’ve got to really do it for a long time. But he’s just such a good man, and he genuinely, genuinely puts himself last. He lives by a code. And so when I took the role, I told Charlie, “Listen. I’m modeling this after you.” And it’s such a great character to aspire to be.
Q: How difficult was it to shoot that crazy elevator fight scene?
CE: That was tough. That was the first thing we shot. It was three days, and it was awful. It was awful because you have these great stuntmen that I had worked with for about a month prior, choreographing that fight in a warehouse where we had built a little fake model elevator.
So you’re rehearsing the dance. It’s literally a dance. You might as well be on your feet, doing the salsa. It literally is just rhythm and steps and beats, and with every person that you disable and drop, the fight continues with me. As these guys go off and take coffee breaks, I’m stuck there, doing every single aspect of the fight. And there’s no masks. So there really wasn’t much opportunity to hide with a stuntman. It’s just brutal. It’s the type of thing where working out for two, three hours a day is exhausting. But for a scene like that, they yell action and you give everything, even though it’s a fake fight. It’s exhausting. They call cut. You have about 30 seconds to kind of catch your breath. And then you do it again.
And you do that all day, so by the end of the day you realize: I’ve been working out all day. All day! This isn’t normal. This isn’t human. You fall asleep before your head hits the pillow. So at the end of those three days, at the end of this scene, there was just this collective applause. It really felt like a giant accomplishment, and a solid way to kick off the movie. It was a chore, but worth it.
Q: What was it like seeing yourself as Captain America for the first time?
CE: Terrifying. I think the first time I saw it was back when I was still pretty insecure and a little apprehensive about taking the role. So it was a real dichotomy. There was simultaneous joy, but at the same time, a deep fear. That’s eroded over time, and now it’s very familiar. It feels very comfortable. It feels great now, and damn, if I had said no, I would have been the biggest fool on the planet.
Q: If you had a second choice for a superhero role, who would you choose?
CE: You know, I’ll say it: I miss Johnny Storm. I liked the Human Torch – he was a fun guy to play. I would say someone like Iron Man, but no one can touch Robert Downey, Jr. It’s fun to play someone with life. It’s fun to play someone who enjoys embracing their abilities, and Johnny Storm was a lot of fun to play. And that costume was comfy. It was like a wetsuit. It was perfect.
Q: How many different shields did you use during filming and did they let you take any home?
CE: Yeah, they did. They gave me one. There’s probably like, four or five different shields. There’s the one shield that’s heavy and ridiculous, and you know, that’s just for show. Then every now and then if you gotta hit somebody, you get this kind of fiberglass shield. And if you have to throw it, you get a foam shield. But there’s a bunch of different shields, [and] they did send me one.
Q: Where is it?
CE: It’s sitting in my house. It usually comes out after everyone’s had a few drinks. Photo shoots happen.
Q: What was your most memorable moment during filming?
CE: When I saw Robert Redford walk in the door. Everyone was nervous that day. Everybody was scared. There was a whole buzz on the whole set. But it’s Robert Redford. You know, I grew up watching this guy. He is a living legend. So it was intimidating. It was exciting. It was rewarding. It was surreal.
Q: With the fighting styles, what was your preparation like with the martial arts? Are you comfortable with it?
CE: Comfortable now. In the beginning it’s a tricky process, and it’s tough realizing you’re not good at things right away. You just want to be like, “I can do that,” and then you’re awful and you’re like, “I guess I can’t do that.”
In between the first Captain America movie and The Avengers, I had played the Captain America video game. Im not really a video game guy. But someone handed me the controller, and I was playing, and the way Cap moves in the video game, there’s a fluidity and it’s very acrobatic. It’s very aerial. He uses his environment, and it’s almost this beautiful, smooth dance, and when I first met with the [directors], I said, “Have you played the video game?” And I swear to God, they said: “You know what? We referenced the video game, too.” I said, “Good, good, we’re on the same page. But that means we need to incorporate a little bit more of an acrobatic approach to fighting.” And so we put myself in gymnastic classes, which is something I always wanted to do – kind of, anyway. [LAUGHS] I mean, I wanted to go play on like, the balance beam, but it was more like tumbling, essentially. Parkour-style gymnastic stuff. Flipping, and spinning, and just kind of getting a sense of your body in the air. So we did about two months of that. We did two months, a few hours each day, and it was invaluable. It really lends itself to a lot of those fight scenes.
Q: How do you get into the mindset of a man out of time?
CE: Well, you know, we’ve done that now. That’s kind of almost old hat. Eventually he has to adapt. That’s why we kind of went with the shorter hair this time. I said, “Look. I like the Howdy Doody swirl, but I’m sure he’s seen how people cut their hair. Can we tighten this up a bit?”
It’s not so much about tech shock; it’s more about adjusting to society, I suppose. Or just the way government works. I think in the ’40s, Nazis are bad: we can all agree on that. I think given those technological advancements, it becomes a little bit harder to ensure the freedom that we offer and promise. And, as a result, it becomes this gray area: in order to guarantee people’s safeties, you may have to infringe upon their civil liberties. And this is where it bumps for Cap. This isn’t something he’s okay with. There’s a good line in the movie where Nick Fury says, “SHIELD takes the world as it is, not as we’d like it to be,” and that’s a tough pill for Cap to swallow. So, this is all just new for Cap, and it just rubs him the wrong way, and it’s a growth experience for him.
Q: How is it working with Anthony “The Falcon” Mackie?
CE: He’s great. I really like him. H[e] and I, we’re very similar people, and this is my third movie with Mackie, you know? We’ve done – outside of the Marvel Universe – we’ve done a couple of things together, and the first time I met him wasn’t even on a film set. We met out one night, and just kind of got along right away. He just has this innate energy.
Movies can be extremely tedious and tiresome, and I have never seen him drag on a film set. He comes to set, and immediately has an energy, and everybody is smiling and laughing. And, you know, certain days when he’s not there, you’re like, “Why? Why is this day awful? Mackie is not here! Where’s Mackie?” He’s just a ball of energy, and you know, he’s just a very optimistic person. And it’s infectious.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens in theaters this Friday, April 4. I’ll be publishing more interviews for the movie over the next eight days right here on GeekDad, and of course my review / things parents should know on Friday.
Note: Interviewing Chris Evans was part of a press junket I attended that was paid for by Disney. All opinions expressed are my own.
All images copyright by, and courtesy of, Disney.