All action American superhero with a human face
His latest outing as Captain America will show a more human side to the all action superhero. Though he's enjoyed his foray into the Marvel world, Chris Evans is keen to turn his talented hand to directing, says Ross McDonagh
When your mates are hunky blond demi-gods from other dimensions with lightning spewing hammers, multi-billionaire tech geniuses with flying armour that can shoot anti-tank missiles, or dudes who can change into hulking green monsters who can punch a hole in a planet, it can be hard to stand out.
But for Chris Evans, it's all part of the challenge of playing Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America.
According to Evans, the Cap isn't just the 'grounded' one among his superhero peers; the upcoming sequel – The Winter Soldier – is going to be the most down to Earth of the genre yet ... but in a good way.
"Steve doesn't fly, he doesn't shoot lightning, he's not from another world; his powers are very grounded. So you can't really rely on giant special effects to carry the entertainment," he said.
"This is kind of a grounded movie. I think it's more of a political thriller, like a 70s movie. It kind of has a feel of All The Presidents Men or a Jack Ryan movie or something. It's this kind of political espionage movie, it's got that kind of energy. The superhero element is just one piece of the puzzle."
The 32-year-old admits that without the bells and whistles of his Avengers comrades, it is tough to make a superhero who isn't that super, interesting.
"Without question! Yes! Yes, it's very hard, because he just punches and kicks, that's all he does, so it's tough. It's tough sometimes. Because you know my action sequences are going to be practical, meaning its not all of a sudden going to be CGI. It's going to be real people punching and kicking, and we're going to have to use wire gadgets and practical stunt effects to make this work.
"And that's pressure not just within our stunt sequences but within the dialogue sequences as well, and acting sequences. We've gotta make sure this character is interesting. He doesn't turn green, he's not from another world, there are things that are very basic about him, so trying to find the complex and interesting aspects for him is a challenge."
Action films are nothing new to Evans – heck, this isn't even the first superhero he's played. He remembers the heady days when he was Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four – bells and whistles don't come any better than being able to spontaneously combust. While comic book crossovers are common, and thus so they are comic book films, it is now unlikely Evans will face any casting conundrums should the Fantastic Four meet the Avengers, since the Four are about to be rebooted with The Human Torch cast with (gasps!) black actor Michael B Jordan.
But had it ever conspired, Evans conceded he would shed his newer, stiffer mantle.
"I miss Johnny Storm. I miss him. He was a fun character to play, he really was. It's a shame those movies didn't do better. I really liked the character," he said.
"Who would I prefer to play? I prefer to play Johnny! He's fun! He gets the jokes, he gets to catch on fire, the costume is a lot more comfortable, the girls, the cars ... he's a lot more fun. But I've been playing Cap for a while now so he'd be tough to let go."
Obviously the American actor feels an affinity for the Cap – he'd have to if he signed a six-film contract. But there was a time that this very stipulation terrified him.
"I would not be where I am without these movies," he said. "These movies have opened enormous doors for me. But there was a time where I really didn't want to do them. And I'd really be kicking myself.
"Why did I not want to do them? Well, initially when you hear it's a six-picture contract, that's a long time. I enjoy acting; but acting isn't just about making movies. Acting is doing this (press), and doing talk shows. Your personal life is affected. Acting isn't just acting. It's a lot more.
"Those are the things that I struggle with. Those are the things that I don't know if I really want, and those are the things that you can't turn off. Once they happen, they happen. That's something you have to, have to, take into consideration when signing up for a six-picture deal.
"All of a sudden one of these movies explodes, and your whole life changes on a personal level. It's no longer just about acting, and you can't say no. You're stuck now, and that's scary.
"And for me, it was too scary to consider, and I decided initially to walk away and say no. But for whatever reason the offer came back, and I said no, they'd make some tweaks and offer again, and I'd say no. It became this little dance, and it began to feel like maybe this is what I should do. Maybe it is exactly what I should be doing; whatever scares you. Push yourself in man, for better or worse. No matter what happens, if it goes well, if it goes poorly, maybe this is your journey.
"So I went for it, and it was the right decision."
"That being said, I directed a movie last year (romantic drama 1:30 Train, due for release later this year) as a result of the doors Marvel has opened for me, and it was incredibly satisfying; creatively, emotionally, everything – it felt right.
"So moving forward I'm certainly going to try and act a little less in my life, and try and direct a little more.
In The Winter Soldier, Evans lines out alongside fellow Avenger Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson. And while they are both on the same side as their government, they might not agree with the lengths it goes to to 'protect' its people – a theme that Evans claims hits very close to the bone in real life.
"We're both in similar conflicts in this film. We have different paths; Natasha has lived a life of deception and self preservation. Steve's history has been one of morality and virtue. But we are both at a point in our lives where we fight for a cause, and we believe in doing what's right.
"The problem is we both work for a company – without giving too much away – that is handling its business in a suspicious manner. Given all modern technological advancements, in order to preserve the freedom that they are both fighting to sustain, there may be certain tactics and approaches that SHIELD will take that we feel will infringe upon people's civil liberties.
"And this is where the grey area comes into play. It's hard to know what's right and what's wrong and what shouldn't be allowed, and where do you cross the line."
He claims the shock revelations concerning NSA surveillance in the US had more that one parallel to the Captain America sequel.
"When all this stuff when going on last year I was thinking 'man! This is really going to be helpful when this comes to press!' It's such a relevant topic, it really is so applicable to the things such as how far are we willing to bend to preserve our safety and freedom.
"Are my cellphone records your business? It's very relevant. Everything we deal with in the film is food for thought in everything we are going through today."
Another controversial topic Evans finds himself caught up on is the 'dumbing down' of films for US audiences. His South Korean sci-fi thriller Snowpiercer for example, due for release this June, has generated a petition to have the full unedited version shown in the US, after it emerged a 'simplified' cut would be shown to American audiences.
Does that really happen for US releases of foreign films?
"Oh I'm sure it still exists today," Evans confirms, "it's a tricky thing. It's just sort of unfortunately what sells.
"What are the best movies you guys saw last year? I bet they were small movies that made very little money and not a lot of people saw. And the most successful movies, if you list them, the biggest – (all Marvel movies aside, he laughs) – the big movies that rake in a huge amount of dough, are typically very average films. So it's tricky, because it's about supply and demand. It's what the people want.
"It's like what came first: the chicken or the egg? Are we making the bad products so that's what they're settling for, or is that what they want so that's what we make. It's a tough call.
"It's why I like indies!"
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