There aren’t too many actors who get called upon to play a sidekick in one movie and then a villain in that movie’s sequel. There are surely even fewer who do so playing two characters that are both the same and different. Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘s Sebastian Stan is in that rare category, playing The Winter Soldier himself in the new movie after having played Bucky in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. For him it’s even a little stranger, considering that when auditioning for the first movie, he was trying for the title role.
A group of fellow bloggers and I had the privilege of interviewing Stan in Los Angeles last month. He was very forthcoming with details about how he got the part of Bucky in the first place, and the mental and physical process he went through in order to transform himself into The Winter Soldier. Unlike his co-star Anthony Mackie, he made no references to Chris Evans’ posterior, but he nonetheless proved a very interesting interview.
NOTE: There are some minor spoilers for CA:TWS below. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you read this at your own risk; and you really should see the film as it is nothing short of awesome.
Here are some of the highlights of the interview:
QUESTION: What was your reaction when you found out that you were coming back as The Winter Soldier?
SEBASTIAN STAN: I always played that moment in my head over and over again. I was probably thinking I was gonna be somewhere in New York on a crowded street, and I was gonna scream and just have this big reaction. And it’s actually the opposite: I just sort of was quiet and still.
Q: Was it difficult to switch roles from Bucky to The Winter Soldier?
SS: Well, yes and no. I would say no in the sense that everything is so spelled out for me in the comic books that I sort of feel like I have that to follow as a guide. Yes, in that certain things from comic books often aren’t so easily translated to the screen. There were things visually that were new that we had to discover about the character.
I mean in the comic books there was a lot of information but in terms of how the Winter Soldier moved, how he behaved, what his presence was like on screen, those were all things I had to discover once I was in the outfit and we were actually shooting the movie. And that was more difficult I suppose. At the end of the day the most difficult part was playing someone that’s very different while at the same time the same person.
Q: Did you have to train a lot for this role, and was it tough?
SS: Yes the training was really hard for me. I was never used to that type of training before. Some of the diet and the working out that was happening six months before we started shooting was really difficult at times. And then learning to fight is basically just like going to dance class. You just have to have patience. You see the stunt guys who are just phenomenal and you just wanna jump in and do it but the whole thing has to be so planned out and detailed. You can’t have a lot of room for errors because people can get hurt. So, just practicing that and repeating that everyday for about two to three months I’d say was hard, but the results were always very gratifying.
Q: How do you mentally prepare for a role like this in terms of playing someone who doesn’t even know who they are?
SS: Yeah, exactly. Well, it’s funny the way things happen in life. I don’t want to get too down here but my stepdad was dealing with Alzheimer’s. And so it was interesting because while that sort of process was very painful as an observer, that was one of the things I found to be very helpful for me to observe. What their behavior is like because even though they don’t know certain things anymore, there is still that struggle within them to try and kind of know things. They respond to certain things they see or sounds they hear, a song or something kinda triggers a memory. It’s a very weird internal battle. I watched him a lot for sort of some references. Some of the things of how I was gonna sort of translate that on the screen I didn’t really know until we were literally on set.
Q: In some of the action sequences that you were a part of, was there one piece that you especially enjoyed doing?
SS: Well, any of the fighting stuff, once we had it down and we were in the costumes – any of the stuff that was shot outside in Cleveland was really exciting because there was no CGI green screen. I mean it was literally long sequences with all the car explosions, people sort of falling and being shot and then us jumping into that one-on-one combat. That was all really fun because, again, it was really all happening around you, and you don’t often get that when you work on these big movies: you always have to deal with the green screen.
Q: What was your most memorable moment while filming?
SS: Any of the stuff that I had with Robert Redford was pretty memorable. That’s where I really remember telling myself just be here, be present, you know. On set, it was like suddenly I was in a situation where the whole reason for me going to acting school and everything was here. I was with this man and he was being very generous as an actor with me even though he’s obviously who he is. And then off set sort of just wanting to kind of like see if there was anything I could pick his brain about in terms of people he’s worked with. That was pretty special.
Q: What is your favorite scene to see on the big screen?
SS: I just thought this movie was so different in terms of it feeling just so much more realistic in our world than some of the other movies in my opinion. I think any of the car chases are really great. That whole sequence with Nick Fury and the Winter Soldier were great sequences.
Q: When you were first cast as Bucky in the first movie, did you know that Bucky would come back to life as The Winter Soldier later on?
SS: I didn’t because I hadn’t read anything. And there was no script for Captain America[: The First Avenger] when I was auditioning. Actually, all I really had was a scene between Steve Rogers and Bucky, and I was auditioning for Steve Rogers. So, I obviously looked up things about Steve Rogers but I never looked up anything about Bucky. And when I didn’t get that part, I sort of thought that was that. I actually didn’t want to read any of the comic books or anything going into the audition process because I wanted to just have a fresh perspective. But then when I talked to them about Bucky after that, they educated me on the story.
Q: How did you mentally prepare to get into character? Do you put on the costume and you’re ready to go?
SS: In this case, I feel like it always depends. The costume was a very big thing. Also I just looked very different. I didn’t recognize myself looking in a mirror honestly, with the mask and the hair and everything. It kind of gave me confidence.
Note: Interviewing Sebastian Stan 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.