Last July (jeepers, where does the time go?) a bunch of journalists, including myself, were invited to Marvel Studios in Manhattan Beach, CA, to bear witness to one of the final days of the filming of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which, as you know, is hitting theaters April 4th. We got to see the man himself, Chris Evans, shoot a couple of small scenes under the direction of Joe and Anthony Russo (all of which are completely hush-hush), and we were also given the opportunity to talk to Evans about what it’s like to return to the role for the third time, what Steve Rogers is going through now, and what the deal is with yet another new costume.
“I think a lot of people like the old (first movie) suit, after The Avengers,” was Evans’ response to the almost immediate question regarding Captain America’s signature suit designs and how they change. “Not to say anything bad about the Avengers suit; the Avengers suit was wildly comfortable, but I think a lot of people enjoyed the World War II aspect of the first movie, there was something about that the people liked.” It’s yet again different in The Winter Soldier, being a little bit grayer and darker to go with the tone of the movie, forsaking the bright, and comfy evidently, suit from the biggest movie of 2012.
Steve Rogers himself seems to be changing just as much as the costume. The actor took us through the character’s arc to this point: “[Steve] is comfortable within the structure that he is given. He likes to serve, he likes to take orders. He is like a herding dog, he needs task,” Evans said. “Captain America was about giving him the opportunity, and then he was given the opportunity and thrust into a different world. In The Avengers, there were so many characters, it was tough to spend much time with any one.”
But it seems like The Winter Soldier will finally allow Evans to take the character into new and deeper places. “In this movie, it is about him trying to, not just acclimate to the modern world, but I think it has always been Cap’s goal to do what is right and to be of service and to help where he can.” He also added that part of Rogers’ struggle will be about on which side he wants to be. “I think the question [for him] is, ‘What is right?’ It was a lot easier in the ’40s to know who the evil was… There’s no disputing Nazis are bad. Now, it becomes a little bit more of a difficult answer; there is a lot more of a gray area of what is the right thing, and are you of service to that cause? Threats are different now, and precautionary measures that are taken now can be questionable and somewhat suspect in his eyes. It is a tough hurdle for him to jump.”
Cap won’t be in this alone, as we’ve already seen from the promotional material; Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) will be helping him and challenging him in different ways. “He doesn’t want to burden anyone with his struggles, and, unfortunately, that is what makes characters dynamic and interesting. We push him in more of a human direction where he does show weakness, he does struggle, and he does connect with people and show vulnerability, that grounds him a little bit which makes him more interesting. The connections that, I think, really bring him to life, are with Natasha and Sam.”
For an actor who likes to joke around, Evans said it was difficult to be so stoic all the time. “I didn’t really get any jokes in Avengers, and if it is a joke, it’s a joke at his own expense, he’s not zinging people, which is fine.” But he adds that his scenes with Johansson in this movie allow the character’s humanity to shine through a little bit more. “It is nice with Scarlett, some of the dialog feels like the way people speak. There is a lot of that in this movie. My favorite scenes are the scenes with Scarlett. The Russos could be blowing smoke, but it sounds like they agree. Our characters both have issues in this movie. It is such an odd pairing, we are such different people. Her moral compass is for sale, and you know Steve is a boy scout. It is interesting what they find in each other.”
The reason for a lot of Rogers’ struggle comes from his wariness about S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). In The Avengers, the seeds of mistrust are planted in Cap, and Evans told us that this came from a very real place in the world today. “It is coming out now in America. How much can the government monitor internet use, phone records, text messages… Where do you draw the line? Is it okay to spy on someone before they have committed a crime? Do you take the world as it is or as you would like it to be? It is a tricky question. Cap comes from a time where it was a little more trust and a little less access.”
Evans has now played the same character under three different directing styles. To say nothing of working with Joss Whedon on The Avengers, he’s gotten two very different takes on the character in his two solo pictures, Joe Johnston on The First Avenger and Joe and Anthony Russo on The Winter Soldier. “With Joe it was all brand new and we were trying to feel it out together. I loved working with Joe, but he loves the ’40s and ’50s and he has that look down so well… I think Joe liked a little bit more of a grounded Cap in terms of powers and abilities. Just like a really impressive Olympic athlete, as opposed to someone who is ripping through cars and things like that, which is fine.” He adds, however, “With the Russos on this one, we’re trying to push him a little bit more. I wouldn’t mind pushing it more. You saw Avengers; those guys are good. I have got to have a reason to be on this team!”
He seems to be getting pushed in the physical arena as far as the new fighting style he’s utilizing which required all manner of new training techniques. “I was excited, they put me in gymnastics classes and we were doing combat stuff every day for a few months. It is a lot of fun because when you get the dance down… All it is is dance, really, choreography… When you get the dance down you can start working on the acting. You can’t telegraph a block or a punch or you have to show if you have been hurt. When it gets down pat, when it is sharp, when it is neat, it just feels so good.”
Despite being known for comedy, Evans told us the Russos were quite adept at directing action (hey, they directed the two-part Spaghetti Western paintball episode of Community, after all!). “The Russos really had a handle on how they want to shoot this,” he said. “Sometimes you watch the stunt guys do a little playback in the stunt warehouse and it looks okay, and then the Russo’s get in there with these great angles and a lot of great camera movement. Some of the films that they even referenced in those first meetings of how they want the fight sequence to look was spot on.”
And now, having played the character in three films, how does Chris Evans feel about his place in the Marvel Universe? “It is a nice feeling to come into your own. The first movie, I would see myself in the suit and I would be like, ‘Who’s that idiot in the suit?’ It is starting to feel more real, or home, or something.” He also recognizes how important he’s become to fans of all ages. “You do start caring a little bit more and you do run into those kids and they do have this impact and it is a very nice thing. It is a responsibility now. I don’t want to make is sound like it is going to my head or anything, you just care a little bit more about making sure these it’s good quality stuff.”
We can all see Chris Evans kick more ass and go toe to toe with Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Scarlett Johansson, and all of the other Marvel personnel when Captain America: The Winter Soldier marches into cinemas in the U.S. on April 4th, 2014.