[This is a re-post of my interview from the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. While I rarely re-post interviews, this was one of my favorite interviews of 2012 and with the movie now playing in limited release, I decided it was worth another post.]
Every once in awhile you land an interview that you can’t wait to share. The one you’re about to watch with Chris Evans is one of those. At this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, I got to sit down with Evans for over twenty minutes (we were scheduled for a lot less) to talk about his great work in director Ariel Vromen‘s The Iceman. As you can see in the trailer, Evans plays a killer and is nearly unrecognizable in dirty long hair as Richard Kuklinski’s (Michael Shannon) friend and partner.
I’ve spoken to Evans a lot over the years, and one of the things I love about him is his honesty and willingness to talk about everything. If you ask him a question about his career, or even his contract with Marvel, he’ll talk about it. Most actors will try and deflect the question, or give a politician’s answer. That’s not how Evans operates and it’s very refreshing. So besides talking about The Iceman and working with Michael Shannon, Evans talked about how his career has blown up, the intricacies of his Marvel contract, the business of Hollywood, playing a critical character of the Marvel universe, Captain America 2 (Captain America: The Winter Solider), whether he knows anything about Captain America 3, the success of The Avengers, Joss Whedon, Thor 2, Bong Joon-ho‘s Snowpiercer, the greatness of Hayley Atwell, his upcoming anti-romantic comedy A Many Splintered Thing with Michelle Monaghan, and so much more. Hit the jump for more.
Before going any further, if you’d like to watch the interview, below is the time index followed by the video. However, for those that want to read it, the full transcript is further down the page.
Chris Evans Time Index:
- 0:22 – Chris Evans reflects on his career, starting with his arrival in L.A. and his goals at the time, through his movie-making evolution and up to his current day perspective. He talks at length about the price of stardom and compares his own experiences to other actors, such as Sam Rockwell.
- 2:30 – When signing on for the Marvel movies, Evans reveals his contract was for six films.
- 3:00 – Evans candidly talks about being able to land roles, like the one in Iceman, thanks to his exposure in films like Captain America and The Avengers. He goes on to talk about the business of Hollywood.
- 3:45 – Evans admits to being a “whiny bitch,” because he is in the process of deciding whether he wants to do true indie films or continue to star in blockbuster projects.
- 4:30 – Evans continues to reflect on his changing career goals over the years and where he finds himself now.
- 5:50 – Playing a critical character of the Marvel universe, Evans talks about how lucky he feels to be a part of a fantastic franchise who works together like a team and a family.
- 6:25 – Evans talks about how his contract affects his appearances in multiple films other than the Captain America and The Avengers features, such as the extra scenes he appears in at the end of other Marvel films.
- 7:00 – Evans reveals that he and Hemsworth have expressed interest in Evans appearing in Thor 2 as a cameo, if they can make the plot work in a way that makes sense.
- 7:30 – Evans continues to applaud Marvel’s work ethic and progressive attitude towards making quality films for their dedicated fan base.
- 7:50 – Evans is relatively new to Twitter so he confesses that he hasn’t tweeted all that often as of late.
- 8:35 – Which was more uncomfortable: the wig in The Iceman or the suit in the Marvel films? Evans answers.
- 8:55 – Evans talks about working with Michael Shannon and his on-set commitment and dedication versus his more laid-back off-screen persona. He goes on to say that Shannon acts as an anchor for himself and other actors, comparing him to Michael Jordan.
- 10:00 – With regard to his character in the film, Evans talks about the freedom of interpreting the look and demeanor of Robert Pronge, since there’s little direct evidence available for inspiration. He also mentioned that Richard Kuklinski (Shannon) had remarked that Pronge was “sick,” which gave them a jumping off point.
- 10:45 – Evans talks about the process of getting into the head of a sociopath, saying that, “No villain thinks he’s a villain.”
- 12:05 – Evans talks at length about Snowpiercer, a film which finds the future world frozen over with all of society existing aboard a train. He calls it an allegory for social class warfare, since the train cars are separated by class. He describes a revolution that takes place from the lowest classes in the back of the train that progresses towards the front.
- 12:35 – For Snowpiercer, Evans compliments the stellar cast along with their “borderline-genius” director, Joon-ho Bong. He goes on to describe director Bong’s unique style of pre-conceptualizing his desired editorial cut so that he shoots only what he wants to see in the final film.
- 14:20 – Evans says that Captain America: Winter Soldier will start filming around March, so he plans on sitting down with the creative team later this year.
- 14:35 – Evans talks about A Many Splintered Thing, an anti-romantic comedy that he starts filming in October with Michelle Monaghan.
- 15:15 – Evans is fully up to date with the Winter Solider storyline and reveals that Kevin Feige was already talking about the sequel’s plot foundation even before The Avengers.
- 15:35 – Does Evans know where the third Captain America is headed? Find out here!
- 15:40 – Evans comments on how tough it is to keep all of these Marvel storylines secret and under the wraps. He says that Feige is a genius because he’s also the audience and he knows what comic fans are expecting to see and what excites them.
- 16:35 – Since Evans has to be in heroic shape for the Marvel films, he talks about the physical demands of Captain America and The Avengers films.
- 17:25 – Evans talks more about his process of getting back in shape and staying healthy, commenting on Robert Downey Jr.’s injury on Iron Man 3.
- 18:15 – Evans comments on the screentime commitment and workload of carrying a film like Captain America: Winter Soldier versus sharing the load with an ensemble cast such as in The Avengers.
- 19:15 – Evans is looking forward to exploring more of Steve Rogers’ story in the Captain America features. He also comments on the Captain America scenes that were filmed for The Avengers but were cut from the film.
- 20:35 – Reflecting on the first Captain America film, Evans talks about co-star Hayley Atwell’s performance and how she landed every single direction that Joe Johnston gave her.
Here’s the full transcript:
Chris Evans: Some of my finest work.
Can you remember the dream of getting to where you are? Do you know what I mean?
Evans: Yeah. It’s so funny how it evolved. That was part of the whole…when the Captain America stuff came around you kind of take a little bit of a gut check. When you first get to L.A. you are so excited to be there and there is this competitive fire. There is this desire to get to a certain place, but it is all brand new and there is no downside. You really don’t understand anything. So you kind of want to fight and get there. Then as you kind of continue and you make movies and you realize…you start to see some of the pros and cons of the situation. Then you think, “Well, maybe what I wanted isn’t exactly what I wanted? Maybe I kind of want to find…” I think that in the beginning you think, “I want to be the biggest movie star in the world.” And then with the more movies you make you are like, “I don’t know if I want to be that anymore. I think what I am looking for is something different.” I like acting but a lot of times, stardom comes with a lot of strings attached. Then you look at other careers and there are just other careers out there and you look at someone like a Sam Rockwell or someone like that. He has done so many great movies, he has so much respect from his peers, he is a fantastic actor, but I am sure that he can walk down the street without any bother. That is when you start to think, “God, maybe there is a happy medium.” Then as you go on your career you start to think that you have to tailor some choices. So when the Captain America came along you think, “Well, alright. If I do this, which direction am I going in? Is this the direction that I thought I wanted when I was 18? Is this the direction that I tailored my goals to at 28, 29, and 30?” So it is a little more apprehensive. I don’t even know what the question was anymore. I am rambling.
I know exactly what you are saying. A lot of people don’t realize that you were very apprehensive about signing on for that role.
What is funny is that later in the interview I was going to say to you that I believe most of the Marvel people had to sign 8 or 9 picture deals. I heard that with you it was more like a 5 picture deal.
Evans: We got 6, which was good because initially it was 9. I was like, “I can’t do 9.” But even 6 – you can do 6 over 10 years. It is a big commitment.
But isn’t there something to be said…like I think one of the reasons why it is great seeing you in this movie is that you disappear in the role. You don’t even realize it is you. But don’t you also think though that being a part of the Marvel Universe, and especially with The Avengers making so much money, that it has to be a little bit rewarding, though? Your work is being seen and it is being appreciated by millions around this planet. There has to be something to that.
Evans: Without question. Not only that – it is work. I got this movie because of that. If I hadn’t done that…you know, James Franco had this role and he fell out. When he fell out…I know Ariel [Vromen] as a friend but he called and basically said, “Listen…” I know how independent films work. They obviously crunched the numbers and putting me in the role worked for the numbers. I mean foreign sales, or whatever you want to call it. That would not have happened without Captain America and that would not have happened without The Avengers. So I owe a lot to that. And it is nice to have your work seen. It really is.
Evans: Yeah. See, I guess you know what it comes to down to? I’m such a little bitch. I don’t know what my issue is. I really am.
No, I actually know what you are saying.
Evans: I’m such a fucking whiny bitch, man.
I know what you are saying. To be clear and maybe I am picking up on it – you are trying to weigh “Do I want to be on the star path or do I want to make movies that are true indies? How do I do both?”?
Evans: Do I even want to…see, this is the issue. I wish my agent was here because we have had this conversation a lot lately. What is the goal? Is my goal to be a giant movie star? You start to realize, or at least I have in the past couple of years, that is not my goal. It is a very strange thing to realize. It is a very strange thing because when I moved to L.A. at 18, that was the goal. The goal was to get to a point in your career where you can make the movies that you want to make, do what you want to do, and have access and freedom. You want to climb the ladder. Even just the competitor in you wants to earn it. But then these things start happening.
We are on a real tangent here and I want to bring this back and ask about this, Snowpiercer, and all of this other stuff. But I think the most important thing, and I say this as a friend/journalist/whatever, I think the most important thing is that, the Marvel movies are fucking awesome. I am so happy that Joss Whedon signed on to be a part of the universe.
Evans: Aren’t they good, man? And it is so crazy because they don’t make those big studio movies. Let’s be honest, how many times have you gone to movies, you see a giant studio movie, and walk away happy? It is not often.
With Joss now signing on to Avengers 2 and with him being part of the Marvel Universe and I’m sure you got him to tweak the Captain America 2 script no matter what, get him to work on it. The fact of the matter is that if I am you, and I say this as an outsider, you make sure that when you are not making the Marvel movies, you are picking the best scripts you can that give you the most diverse range to show your talent.
Evans: That is why I do things like this. That is the goal, you know? I will do the Marvel and that is a studio thing. That is my obligation and they are great. I’m very lucky that I happen to be under a contract with a fantastic family, a fantastic franchise.
Yeah, they are not going to make bad movies.
Evans: They are not going to do bad movies. I love being the character, I love being a part of the team, and it is the best. If you have to be under a 6 picture contract, you can’t find a better one.
Evans: That counts to the contract.
Evans: Yeah. Maybe we will talk when this is off about how that has already affected…that has happened.
That is what I mean.
Evans: You can go through the Marvel movies and you can see where that has happened and where that has affected contracts. [laughs]
I love those buttons in the credits. I love that interconnected tissue. I love you as Captain America, and I am talking to as a fan as well as representing fandom, but you are real good at it. I really hope that when the 6 pictures are up that you have had such a good time that you would maybe want to do more.
Evans: [Chris] Hemsworth and I even talked about that. I would love to do a little thing in Thor 2. It is obviously going to be tricky trying to work out the plot, the reason why I am not there to help him, and why he is not there to help me. But the best thing about Marvel is that, like I said, the movies were so good and we had such a good time making them. Marvel is such a great company to work for. It feels like everyone just wants to pitch in. It feels like everyone…why would I not want to help? I’m not going to hold them over the coals and be like, “Well, it’s my contract and guess what? I’m screwing you!” Let’s just make this great. If I can help that – great – and make it better? Let’s do it!
I hope that all works out. One of the questions that someone asked me was…first of all, you mentioned to me that you are on Twitter. Are you really on twitter?
Evans: Yeah, I got on Twitter like two months ago.
What is your @ address? Do you know?
So is that really what it is?
Evans: I think that is what it is. I don’t even know if that is right.
Evans: No. Nobody helps me. It is just me. But when I first got on it I was like, “This is great!” and for the first month I was like “Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!” I haven’t tweeted in like a month and a half or something. I don’t know.
Some of the questions that I got off of Twitter: what was more uncomfortable? The wig in this or the suit?
Evans: The suit. The wig you forget is on. It is a bitch getting it on but after 10 minutes you forget that it is even there. The suit you are fully aware, constantly.
You got to work with Michael Shannon, who is a very gifted actor.
Evans: He sure is.
Can you talk about getting to work with him and walking away from that experience?
Evans: He is just fantastic. He is so committed. You get him off set and he is a happy guy and he is a cupcake. He is the nicest guy on the planet. He is joking, laughing, having a bottle of wine, and having a good time. But then on set the guy has a focus and a commitment and a dedication. That type of intensity…it breeds allegiance. When you are around a guy who is so in the zone it is infectious. His acting style is so grounded. With this character….my character is pretty out there. So you try different levels, you know what I mean? You might try the first take here, the next take here, and the next take here. As you rise up, Michael stays steady and almost acts as an anchor. You try things kind of further and further off the wall and you kind of feed off of him, and it brings it back down to a mutual place or a realistic place. It is like playing basketball with Michael Jordan – he is just going to make you better.
How did you prepare specifically for this role?
Evans: We tried to…he is a real character. So you go on the internet and there is really not that much about the guy as far as who he is, what he looked like, where he is from, his family; all of that stuff is not there. So there was a lot of freedom as far as the look and the demeanor. But there was a lot of stuff on the books that Kuklinski would say about him. Kuklinski would say that he was sick. You have a mass murderer saying that another man was sick. He made him uneasy. So you say, “So, okay, we obviously have to make this guy…that’s our starting point. If this guy says that this guy had a problem, we have to make him there.” You kind of start to think about what makes…no villain thinks they are a villain. No bad guy says, “I’m a bad guy.” You have to start thinking about what makes a sociopath. I mean, this is like a hundred times a day. I would just be driving my car and I would be like, “What if I just jerk the wheel?” You see someone who is carrying a bunch of trays and I’m like, “What if I just knock those trays down?” But you don’t because you are handcuffed by social expectations and restraint. But a sociopath, I think, starts out small. I don’t think that a sociopath wakes up and starts murdering. I think they do small things that bust the social barriers and chains. It becomes an addiction and like a drug, and it snowballs. Slowly they keep pushing the limits and they like it more and more. Before you know it, they are committing pretty heinous acts. So you kind of get in a mind frame of doing whatever comes into your brain and saying whatever you think. There is a real liberation and a real freedom to it. I am lucky that I only worked about 7 days on this movie because I think if I was in that headspace for 3 months I would probably be in jail.
Evans: Me too! Me too!
I’m sorry for cursing , but I am.
Evans: Right. Watch your fucking mouth, bro.
Can you talk about getting to be a part of that film? Who do you play? Everything.
Evans: I will tell you the whole deal, dude.
I don’t want you to spoil it.
Evans: No, it is okay. It takes place in the future. The whole world was frozen over and all of society lives on a train. It is kind of like an allegory for social classes and class warfare. The poorest people are in the back of the train and as you move forward in the train the classes rise. And there is a revolt, a revolution from the people in the back to the front of the train. We have such a good cast: Tidla Swinton, Ed Harris, Octavia Spencer, and John Hurt. It was just a great experience. Director, Bong [Joon-ho], is just so good. He is so good. The way we shot the movie is so unique. Most times when you are doing a movie…like if you and I were doing a scene, we would start out doing the wide shot, do the whole scene, then we would do your coverage, the whole scene, then my coverage, and then the whole scene. And then the editor would find the cut and would spoon feed the rhythm and the pace to the audience. Director Bong has storyboards laid out so that…he has already edited it in his brain. For example, we will shoot the first line on you. We will shoot the second line on me. We will shoot the third line over here and you say, “Wait a minute. Don’t you want the whole scene here?” and he is like. “No. Don’t need it.” He has already committed to an edit. It is brilliant. It is borderline genius. It’s like building a house and instead of needing a bag of nails, it is like saying, “I need 53 nails.” It is literally committing to a vision ahead of time. The trust that you feel is like, “God, this guy is operating on another plane.” And I completely surrendered to it. You just completely commit to his vision and trust that he knows exactly what he is doing because he does.
When do you actually film? What is your schedule?
Evans: I think we start at the beginning of March. So I start another movie in October and I think probably around December I am going to try and sit down with them and start trying to talk about direction and tone.
What are you filming in October?
Evans: This movie called A Many Splintered Thing. It is going to be classified as a romantic comedy but it is not a romantic comedy. It is a really unique script. It is a really different approach to that genre. It is like the anti-romantic comedy. It is really clever and really well done. We have Michelle Monaghan, who I think is just unfairly talented.
It has come out that you guys are going to do Captain America: The Winter Soldier. How early on did you know that was going to be that? Have you read the comics? Are you familiar with that whole storyline?
Evans: Oh, I am fully up to date with my comics. I know all about it. Kevin Feige was talking about that when we were filming the first Captain America and well before The Avengers. During the first Captain America we were talking about potential futures and, you know, I don’t want to give too much way.
So you basically know hypothetically where even the third movie might go?
Is it tough not being able to say anything?
Evans: Kind of. Sometimes I will let it slip to like my brother-in-law, who is a huge comic book geek. I will be like, “Oh, yeah, that is what we are doing,” and he is like, “What?!” I’m like, “Don’t tell! I never said that! Shut up.” He is all fired up. But that is the best thing about Marvel. That is why Kevin Feige is a fucking genius. He knows what the audience wants because he is the audience. He is that comic book fan. So he is not like some money man twisting his moustache while being like, “I think they will like…” He knows and he is a comic book fan. So anything that he gets excited about, the fans get excited about.
Can you talk about the demand on you for working out and to be in shape? Do you know what I am talking about it?
Evans: I know exactly what you are talking about and it is bullshit. [laughs] I’ve completely let everything go. The movie I am going to do in October – my character wouldn’t make sense if he had muscle mass. So I am not working out. I’ll be honest, I am 31 and even when I do work out now, things are like clicking. I’m just kind of like, “Oh, my god. I have four more movies where I have to get huge. Damn it.”
Is it sort of easier to maintain? In this, you were a little bit muscular.
Evans: That is what people are saying. I think I was just wearing tight shirts probably.
I don’t know. I was like, “Well, maybe he just filmed something with Avengers…”
Evans: No. I am telling you, I was just wearing s-mediums. That is it. I really wasn’t that big. It is in my brain and thinking about “Man, we start in Captain in March so I am going to have to start training in January” And it is brutal. We are doing 2 hours every day for 2-3 months and it is food, sleep, and training. It is a full commitment. I just keep thinking, “Man, I just need to stay healthy.” I can’t afford to have a bum knee or something.
Or you can’t hurt your ankle like how Robert did on Iron Man 3.
Evans: I know. I heard about that!
I think they shut down for a little bit.
Evans: Did they?
At least his stuff did. The Avengers had to be a blast because you are not in every scene. You get to work a little bit, you got to enjoy Albuquerque and the bbq, go to the theater, and all of that stuff. But with Captain, as you were saying, you are going to be in everything.
Evans: Well, it is a much bigger commitment. The good thing is that we did it once. Gearing up for Captain 2 you think, “Alright, there was obviously a difference in the workload from Captain America to The Avengers.” And you have to get back in the mindset. You have to remember “Alright, this is on you, man. You have to take this seriously.” The fact that The Avengers did so well….you have an obligation. There is a serious obligation to fans who are expecting a great movie. A lot of that starts with making sure that you are physically ready to play the role and look the role. So a lot of that is in my head. Come January that is my life.
From what you know about the sequel, what are you most looking forward to? Without ruining anything because I don’t want to get you in trouble.
Evans: The most I am looking forward to is exploring a little bit of Steve’s…they had all those deleted scenes with The Avengers because a lot of those scenes are for Captain 2, you know what I mean? It is Steve’s story about…
Is that why they took it out?
Evans: I don’t know. Maybe. I mean, The Avengers was a long movie.
Because on set I saw those pictures of Cap’s apartment, which I think you filmed. There was more of showing him out of place in the world and all of that stuff.
Evans: It was good stuff, but it all felt like that was his story. It is a different movie. With The Avengers there was so much to cram in. Like I said, it was a long movie anyway. So I think making it any longer would have just been exhausting. But a lot of that stuff is for Captain America 2. That is his story. It is him trying to on a personal level adjust to the fact that everyone he knows is gone and the whole Peggy Carter of it all. There is a lot of things that he kind of has to come to terms with. So I don’t know. I am excited to kind of see flashes of the first Captain, if you know what I mean, and to see his memory of what we now know as an audience of who he was.
Evans: Oh, dude. It is Hayley Atwell, man. Isn’t she great? She is so good.
She was fantastic. But I have to be honest, it was also the performances and the script. It was everything. They just nailed it.
Evans: There was a scene in Captain America where she comes into the bar in the red dress. We did this scene and we must have done this scene….the coverage on Hayley. She came in the red dress and she tells me a little about dancing or whatever. We must have done that – I’m not joking – about 15 times. The only reason is because [director] Joe [Johnston] would come in and give Hayley a new direction every time and every time she crushed it. The things she was doing…every take I was like, “How is this girl doing something new, different, and great in every single time?” I think Joe was just having fun watching an amazing actress be great. She is phenomenal.
The Iceman is now playing in limited release.