Chris Evans Talks CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, Wearing the New Suit, Relationships with Other Characters, and Working with Robert Redford

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Being on the set of a Marvel movie is about as close as you can get to stepping into the pages of a comic book, so it was with understandable enthusiasm that I joined a few other equally excited journalists on the set of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. We’ll have more up from our set visit closer to the film’s April 4th release, but we’re able to bring you our interview with star Chris Evans today.

Evans shared his thoughts on Cap’s new suit, which comes with a new fighting style, and talked at length about Steve Rogers’ character arc across each of the movies, the relationships he’s forged along the way, and how he responds to both adversity and personal responsibility. Evans also stepped out of character a bit to give us insight into his own opinion on signing Marvel’s multi-picture contract, working with Robert Redford and much more. Hit the jump to see what he had to say.

captain-america-the-winter-soldier-chris-evansQuestion: Kevin [Feige] says Captain America’s suit has a thematic arc.

Chris Evans: Okay … that doesn’t tell me what I can tell you. Sure it does!

Kevin said you could tell us everything.

Evans: Right! [laughs] Kevin said, “Just spill the beans. It’s cool, man.” I don’t know what I can tell you.

Tell us how you like the new suit.

Evans: I do like the new suit a lot. I do like the new suit. I can tell you that I think a lot of people like the old suit as well, after The Avengers. Not to say anything bad about The Avengers suit. The Avengers suit was wildly comfortable, but I think a lot of people enjoy the old suit. I think a lot of people enjoyed the World War II aspect of the first movie. There was something about that that other people liked.

Are you glad that your ears are getting some air?

Evans: Well they get some air on the new suit. I always liked the ears inside. I always thought I kinda had big Dumbo ears and whenever they tried the helmet with the ears on, I was like, “Please don’t make me do this. I look so silly.” But they did some really good things. It looks a lot better. The new suit does actually have the ears out and it looks okay, so I was like, “All right. I can live with this.”

Can you talk about where we find Cap when the movie begins? We were talking to the filmmakers about how he’s been around for a while now and he’s somewhat acclimated. Does he feel comfortable?

captain-america-the-winter-soldier-scarlett-johansson-chris-evansEvans: Sure, well he feels comfortable within the structure that he’s given. He likes to serve, he likes to take orders. He’s like a herding dog; he needs a task. I think the issue in the first two – Captain America and The Avengers – is, well in Captain America it was about giving him the opportunity. Then he got the opportunity and was thrust into a different world, and in Avengers, there were so many characters, it’s tough to spend too much time with any one.

On this movie it’s about him trying to, not just acclimate to the modern world, but I think it’s always been Cap’s goal to do what’s right and be of service, to help where he can. In this movie, I think the question is, “Well, what is right?” I think it was a lot easier in the 40s to know who the evil was. [laughs] There’s no disputing Nazis are bad. [laughs] Now it becomes a little bit more difficult to answer. There’s more of a gray area. What is the right thing? Are you of service to that cause? That’s where it becomes a tricky dispute for Cap, because things were just done differently in the 40s, and threats are different now, precautionary measures that are taken now are somewhat questionable and can be suspect in his eyes, so it’s a tough hurdle for him to jump.

In this film, you get a lot of new relationships and you get to build on old relationships. In what direction do you think your character has grown in each of those?

Evans: Well I think it’s brought him in more of a human direction. Cap’s such a good guy, it’s hard for him to bleed; not just literally, figuratively. He doesn’t want to burden anyone with his troubles and, unfortunately, that’s what makes characters dynamic and interesting. So, any way we can push him in more of a human direction where he does show weakness and he does struggle and he does connect with people and show vulnerability, I think that grounds him a bit and makes him more interesting. All the relationships, especially with Natasha and with Sam, even though we do have The Winter Soldier, he’s more like… we’re doing third act stuff right now, so for the meat of the film, the majority of the film, the connections that he makes, that I think really bring him to life, are with Natasha and Sam.

During the junket for the first Captain America film, you talked about what a big decision it was for you to commit to this character and the amount of films you’d be making. So three movies in as Cap, how do you feel about your relationship with Marvel and what’s come of it?

Evans: I feel really good. I’d really be kicking myself if I hadn’t done this. Oh my God. [laughs] Oh man, I’d be kicking myself. It was just a matter of adjusting to life-style changes. My team told me this in the beginning because they knew I was apprehensive too, they said, “It comes in waves. You’ve got to respect the fact that, when a movie comes out, there’s gonna be a surge and there’s going to be some changes, and it’s going to go away. It’ll die back down. Just like any type of actor, when a movie comes out, you get a little more of a spotlight, and then it goes away.” So you can monitor. It’s not like once these movies are out, your life is forfeit and you can’t have any more control. So you just have to take those periods of time in stride and understand that it will pass, it’ll die down eventually, and things will go back to a relative level of normalcy.

Aside from that, I love doing these movies because they’re good. [laughs] You know? It’s been one of the tricky things in my career – I’m sure you’ve seen some of my not-so-good movies – and it’s disappointing when you put a lot of time and effort and sweat, you know, it sucks. When you see the movie and you say, “That is not what I read, and it’s not what I wanted to be a part of, and it’s a real disappointment.” These movies, you don’t feel that. I’ve begun to just put my trust in Kevin Feige and all these guys at Marvel, they’re so good at what they do. Their internal barometer of what is good and bad is pretty on point. Not just from the standpoint of the movie, but everything; the marketing and the trailers and the wardrobe, it’s just got to look right. It’s scary diving into such a big endeavor; if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work on a massive scale, but you feel a little more comfort in that you trust the people that are making these movies, and that’s what acting’s about: trust. If you don’t trust someone every single take, you’re going to be holding back. It’s nice to let go a bit.

Captain America The Winter Soldier - Anthony Mackie Chris EvansThe Russo brothers characterize this as a reboot in tone, but Captain America was the only superhero in America in the last decade or so who was resolutely heroic. How does that change in tone affect him? Is there more of that identity crisis that other heroes have gone through? Or is it just a matter of placing him in a context?

Evans: Well he is a really human superhero, you know what I mean? He doesn’t shoot lightning, he doesn’t fly, it’s very meat-and-potatoes type powers. So I think it’s only appropriate that the tone and the theme fits more of a human element. It does have kind of a very grounded political thriller tone to it. I think that just goes hand in hand with the character, it just works. And like I said earlier, they’re also trying to infuse much more human conflict that doesn’t necessarily have to do with fighting monsters and doing giant stunts, it’s just about him coping with moral issues; right and wrong, good and bad, that’s stuff we can all relate to.

So he’s not as much questioning his identity as much … being comfortable with his identity in a more ambiguous environment?

Evans: No, no, no, I think he’s fine with that. His question is how he fits into the world around him.

Can you talk about in The Avengers there’s a scene of distrust planted. Does that get expanded on in terms of Sam’s character?

Evans: It certainly does. Now again… am I in trouble now? [laughs] I’m just going to say you said I could say all this. [laughs] Yeah, it does. I mean, that’s no secret, that’s what it is. I mean it’s coming out now in America. How much can we monitor internet use, phone records and text messages? Where do you draw the line? Is it okay to spy on someone before they’ve committed a crime? Do you take the world as it is or as you’d like it to be? And it’s a tricky question and I think Cap comes from a time when there was a little more trust and a little less access. I can go on the internet right now; he couldn’t do that in the 40s so he didn’t have to worry about it, so now you do. Where’s that line? It’s a tricky conversation for me right now. I was born in this era. I can’t imagine coming from a different place, swallowing the pill of where society has gone.

Can you compare working with Joe Johnston on the first film to the Russos now, and how things have changed?

Captain America The Winter Soldier Chris EvansEvans: It’s a tough call because I love all of those guys so much. I love Joe and I love the Russos. It was probably tougher for Joe … but that’s not fair. I was going to say it was probably tougher for Joe because they didn’t have as much information. The Russos reference the first Cap and Avengers and it’s another link in the chain and characters have been laid down and certain things have been established. But those films did very well, so the expectations are at a level where there is maybe a bit more pressure on the Russos. I don’t know.

With Joe, it was all brand new and we were trying to feel it out together. I loved working with Joe, but Joe’s got that nostalgia, he loves the 40s and 50s and he’s got 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’s just ripping through cars, which is fine, but I think we’re trying to push it a little bit more in this one. I wouldn’t mind pushing it a little bit more in this one. You saw Avengers, those guys are good! I’ve got to have a reason to be on this team! [laughs]

Can you talk a bit about the new fighting style?

Evans: That’s what we were all saying. I remember when we were first talking with the Russos … Has anyone here played the Captain America video game?

Yeah.

Evans: I love it. [laughs] And I don’t like video games. And I love it because I love the way Cap moves, he moves so well and he just beats ass. [laughs] It’s like, that’s how this guy needs to be moving. This isn’t just the guy who’s been given the ability of speed and power, he’s been training. He’s been put through… he’s got the frame of mind to absorb this information, so you can only assume with training and his ability, the guy should really be dangerous. And we should show that. It’s not just, “Take Jason Bourne and make him” you know. If Jason Bourne can do it, Cap should be flying through these things. So we had a bit of fun turning up his power, turning up his speed. So the fights are a lot more grisly and impactful, and in my opinion, cooler.

What I liked about the video game is the shield use. In the hand-to-hand combat, you got to use your shield.

Evans: Yeah! Absolutely! Shield use and acrobatics, too. I mean, he was flipping off things and spinning and jumping and using his environment, it wasn’t just punch, punch, kick, kick. That’s fine but this has to be more than The Bourne Supremacy.

captain-america-the-winter-soldier-chris-evansHow much of a challenge was that for you?

Evans: [laughs] It was a bit of a chore but it was fun. I was excited. They put me in gymnastics classes and I was doing combat stuff every day for a few months. It’s a lot of fun because once you get the dance down, and all it is is a dance really, the choreography, when you get the dance down you can start working on the acting, because you can’t telegraph a block or a punch, and you have to show if you’ve been hurt. When it’s sharp, when it’s neat, it just feels so good. It’s so great, it feels like dancing. It just looks so good. We have such good stunt coordinators and choreographers. The Russos really have a handle on how they want to shoot this. Sometimes you watch the stunt guys do a little playback in the stunt warehouse and it looks okay, and then the Russos get in there with these great angles and a lot of great camera movement. Some of the films they even referenced in those first meetings of how they wanted the fight sequences to look was spot on. The footage that I’ve seen is awesome. You guys going to Comic-Con?

Yep.

Evans: I just saw the Comic-Con footage. It’s so good! [laughs] It’s so good! I was like, “Oh thank God!” It’s so good.

Can you talk a bit more about Steve and Sam and what they make of each other?

Evans: Sure, Steve and Sam, I don’t know if they have too much stuff. Sam is mostly an outsider that I meet in this movie and certain things happen that require me to turn to some outsiders, some people that may not be part of my inner circle. Sam … oh wait, you mean Sam Jackson? Oh, Sam and Steve? I’m Steve! [laughs]

Yeah, Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers.

Evans: Well Sam works at the VA now, he’s like a therapist, essentially, for people who have come back from overseas and are struggling. And in that regard, Sam and I connect. Mackie, I’ll just say Mackie because there are too many Sams. My stunt guy’s name is Sam, too. So Mackie’s character and mine, we kind of have an understanding because it’s not like Cap has many friends, you know? His life is his work. And Natasha gives him a hard time about that, too, getting him dating. Just finding a social life, finding yourself outside of your work. And so Mackie extends an olive branch and tries to just be a friend. Then later on when things happen, that friendship proves to be a valuable one.

captain-america-the-winter-soldier-chris-evans-scarlett-johanssonThe writers were talking about how Black Widow brings out these vulnerabilities in your character, so what was it like to have that interplay with Scarlett? What did it bring out in Captain America that maybe we haven’t seen before?

Evans: Well, again I like being human. I like laughing and telling a joke. 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 I loved that aspect of Johnny Storm; I got to tell the jokes! I got to be the funny one and I don’t get any now! [laughs] There are so many funny people in these movies. It’s nice with Scarlett. Some of the dialogue just feels like the way people speak, which is nice because it’s human, and there’s 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. It’s just nice, nice moments. Her and I both have issues in this movie. It’s just such an odd pairing. We’re such different people. Her moral compass is for sale. Steve is a Boy Scout. It’s interesting what they find in each other. Outside of the movie, Scarlett and I have known each other for a long time. We just constantly make jokes about how many movies we’ve made together. It’s very effortless. We get along very well and I think that shows on screen.

Off screen, you mentioned that Captain America is the ultimate Boy Scout, so do you feel the responsibility, like, “I can’t go to the strip clubs” kind of thing?

Captain America The Winter Soldier - Chris EvansEvans: You just can’t get caught! [laughs] No, absolutely. It’s a strange thing to have to funnel through your brain every time you make a decision. It’s so interesting, when you meet little kids and that resonates, when that hits home. It’s easy to think it and assume it, but then when you meet a kid and you think, “Man, this kid really looks up to me. What a strange thing. He doesn’t even know me!” That’s so funny. I remember feeling that way when I was a kid. It’s a beautiful thing. Not to sound cheesy but it’s really cool. You owe that to them. That’s part of the responsibility of this job. That’s a tricky thing that I always question about … it’s interesting the parallels of Steve’s character and me in life, the parallels of what you owe. What, as an actor … where’s the line? What do I owe? I know I chose to be in a profession that compromises my anonymity, but does that mean you need to know where I go on vacation or what my dog’s name is? Where’s that line? I categorize the way kids view you as something you owe, it’s your responsibility. If you make stupid mistakes in your life and it tarnishes their image of you, that’s on you. You’re not free to just go be a jackass. Because I was before. [laughs]

How does the Winter Soldier’s presence affect Steve and his past coming back to haunt him?

Evans: Sure. Now it’s going to get tricky, I don’t know how to answer these. Well, the stakes are high. That was one of Steve’s biggest sources of guilt, the fact that out of his whole crew of Howling Commandos, the ones that he convinced to come to battle with him, he’s the one guy that didn’t make it back, and that was the one guy that was always there for him. And then to find out that he did make it, and was subject to some of the things that he was subject to, that’s a lot for Steve to process and he takes full responsibility because he wouldn’t do it any other way. So it’s a lot.

How much is Steve thinking about the past versus looking toward the future and trying to adjust?

Evans: That was another thing we tried to figure out in this movie because again a lot of people really did like the 40s, 50s aspect of the first movie. And even those characters, all of those guys in the Howling Commandos were so great, and trying to think how you could work them back in, but I think eventually that could get tired if it’s like, “Well, it’s not the 40s.” You know? “Shut up, we get it! You miss the 40s!” So, we try to strike a balance, but it’s not like every other scene he’s having flashbacks.

captain-america-winter-soldier-robert-redford-chris-evansAny scenes with Robert Redford?

Evans: Yeah! I did! Sundance! It was great! He’s so good, I was so nervous the first day. Within ten minutes, I was like, “Oh, thank God.” Because you never know. You never know how these people are going to be at that level. He’s just the nicest guy in the world. I mean, it’s not like he can’t direct. He could have very easily come on the set and made it his set. He just didn’t do that. He has immense respect. He’s not one of those guys. The first day we shot together, we shot a 15-hour day, and at the end of the day … the Russos like their coverage … and at the end of the day, it was a lot of my stuff. He had minimal lines and he really could have left. There are a lot of actors that would have left and been like, “Are you cool with doing this with someone else?” Which I think kind of sucks when actors do that. But he didn’t do that! He stuck around. It’s past midnight and this guy’s here doing off-cameras with me. It’s just classy. Just a classy guy, a talented guy. He classes up this whole project.

How protective are you about the character of Cap at this point? Do you feel it’s okay to be vocal if you disagree with something?

captain-america-winter-soldier-posterEvans: Yeah, yeah, I am now. The first movie, I just felt like I was lucky to be around. The second movie, you just don’t want to piss anyone off; there are so many other amazing people here. Now you start feeling like, “Well, I’m throwing this barbecue, too.” [laughs] It’s a strange feeling being like, “Well, hang on, what if we did it like this?” It’s a nice feeling to come into your own. I think the first movie, we didn’t even… I’d see myself in the suit and be like, “Who’s that idiot in the suit?” It’s starting to feel more like real or home or something, so you do start caring a little bit more. So you do run into those kids and they do have that impact and it’s a very nice thing. It’s a responsibility now. I don’t want to make it sound like it’s gone to my head or anything, you just care a little bit more about making sure this is good quality stuff because we’re going to run the contract. We’re going to do Avengers 2. Probably going to do Avengers 3. [laughs] These things will happen so you want to make sure it’s pointed in the right direction. You don’t want to step on toes, but there’s room to be vocal and that’s the best thing about Marvel. You can be stuck in a contract at a much worse place, a lot worse place. Marvel’s very collaborative. You feel the love from Marvel.

Are you officially the person that’s been in the most superhero movies in the world now?

Evans: Maybe!

Or is that Sam Jackson?

Evan: Oh, is it Sam? I don’t know. How many’s he done? I only have the other two Fantastic Fours.

I think Hugh Jackman might have him.

Evans: Oh, Hugh Jackman might have him. That Hugh Jackman…

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Official synopsis:

After the cataclysmic events in New York with The Avengers, Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” finds Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, living quietly in Washington, D.C. and trying to adjust to the modern world. But when a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague comes under attack, Steve becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue that threatens to put the world at risk. Joining forces with the Black Widow, Captain America struggles to expose the ever-widening conspiracy while fighting off professional assassins sent to silence him at every turn. When the full scope of the villainous plot is revealed, Captain America and the Black Widow enlist the help of a new ally, the Falcon. However, they soon find themselves up against an unexpected and formidable enemy—the Winter Soldier.

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