Puncture is a David and Goliath law drama based on the true story of a drug-addicted lawyer who took on a health supply corporation while battling his own personal demons. Mike Weiss (Chris Evans) is a talented young lawyer and functioning drug addict who meets Vicky (Vinessa Shaw), an ER nurse pricked by a needle contaminated with HIV while on the job. As Weiss digs deeper into the case with his longtime friend and partner, Paul Danziger (co-director Mark Kassen), they uncover a health care and pharmaceutical conspiracy and the mounting pressure of the case pushes their business and their friendship to the breaking point.
During a recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Chris Evans talked about how the range of this character was what attracted him to the role, the importance of showing both the brilliance of this guy and how vile he could be, and the experience of working with co-directors, one of whom was also his co-star. He also talked about his current work as Captain America in The Avengers, what it’s like to shoot on the streets of New York with all of the chaotic attention they get, and that there’s no official word yet on when Captain America 2 will start shooting. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
CHRIS EVANS: It was actually just a script that my manager brought to me. The directors were pursuing me and my manager brought me the script and thought I’d really like it, and he was right. I loved it, and then met with (co-directors) Mark and Adam [Kassen], and jumped right on board.
This guy buried himself in drugs and prostitutes, regardless of the fact that he had this brilliance in the courtroom. What was it about him that intrigued you and made you want to take on a role like this?
EVANS: There are certain scripts you read, and when I really respond to a character, I find myself standing up and starting to do the lines. It was one of those scripts that, right away, I got on my feet and started trying to play him. When that happens, I just think, “Man, I’ve got to play this guy.”
How challenging was it to play such extreme levels, with his drug habit and the rapid speech when he was high?
EVANS: It was ups and downs, but that was part of the appeal of the character. There were so many different levels. He goes from being wildly charismatic, intelligent, charming and effective to being a complete disaster. There was a lot of range to play.
How was it to find a balance between making this character both sympathetic and infuriating, so that audiences don’t get turned off by him and still want to follow him on this journey?
EVANS: That’s exactly what we had to do. It was a matter of trying to tow the line and making him likeable. He had to be likeable. If you don’t like the guy, then I didn’t do my job. But, at the same time, he’s a pretty vile character. Everyone I spoke to, who knew him in life, had some sort of beef with him. I think any guy who’s that brilliant and that genius, there’s a selfishness that goes along with that type of intellect and, as a result, a lot of people get stepped on in the process. It was a matter of portraying the fact that this guy is not the best human being in the world, but not someone you’re willing to write off.
EVANS: Oh, god, yeah! We had to tone it down. Every single person I spoke to, within the first five minutes, all mentioned this guy’s insane wardrobe. I remember my first fitting with Mark and Adam [Kassen] and I saw the wardrobe rack and just thought, “Is this Patch Adams? This is too much! This is almost going to take away from the film, if we go too big.” We did tone it down a little bit. This guy really had a strange fashion sense.
What was it like working with co-directors? How did that whole process work?
EVANS: It was fantastic! I was a little apprehensive, at first. When you’re trying to get direction, you want one anchor and one home base, but it just lent itself the way you hope it would. The more brains, the better. They just worked as such an effective team. They’re very similar in their approach. I never felt like I was getting contradictory direction.
What was it like to work with Mark, the director, versus Mark, the co-star?
EVANS: It was great! That’s such a fantastic thing, the fact that Mark is an actor. Any time a scene didn’t feel right or the words didn’t feel comfortable in my mouth, having Mark not just be a director, but also come from an acting background, there was such a great empathy that he could express. It just made the collaboration much more smooth.
EVANS: For me, it starts with the director. You could have a great script, you could have a great role, but if you don’t have a good director and storyteller, you’ve got nothing. I’m trying to make good movies. There are plenty of scripts that I’ve read where I’ve been completely in love with the character, but no matter how self-gratifying it is to portray a character, if you don’t have a good film, it’s not worth it. It’s like scoring 50 points, but losing the game. You want to win the game. You want to make good movies. Without a good director, the best role in the world doesn’t mean anything.
Did the success of Captain America allow you to breathe a sigh of relief, going into The Avengers, knowing that audiences want to see more of the character?
EVANS: Oh, yeah, absolutely! Plus, with The Avengers, we’re sharing the workload. It’s a lot nicer when you’re not the only one wearing a silly costume.
Having gone from Captain America right into The Avengers, how long do you get to be Chris Evans and not Steve Rogers, especially with Marvel releasing two films a year now?
EVANS: It was pretty quick. We finished Captain America in December. We had about a month off, and then we had to do about a month of re-shoots for Cap. And then, we went right into The Avengers. It was a quick turn-around.
EVANS: No, not yet. There’s no official word.
What’s it been like to film The Avengers in New York, with all the attention that draws from people taking photos and fans wanting to get a glimpse?
EVANS: It’s chaos! That was the one tricky part of working in the city. There were a lot of rubber-neckers.
Have you adjusted to living life in the spotlight now? Is it easy for you to tune that out and just focus on the work you’re doing?
EVANS: Yeah. My life hasn’t changed too much. It’s tricky when you’re working and you’re on a set, and obviously it’s a spectacle and people are giving you attention. But, when I’m not working and I’m living my life, I still have a decent amount of anonymity.
With Puncture, you’re on screen for most of the film and your character goes through so many highs and lows. Were there particular challenges in doing that, or is that just fun to do, as an actor?
EVANS: Oh, that’s real fun! Are you kidding? That was part of the appeal of the character. There was just a lot of meat on the bone.
In doing a film that’s based on a true story, is it important to you that it has a good balance of entertainment and accurate information?
EVANS: Absolutely! That’s part of the pressure. A lot of people who knew Mike and loved Mike, and for whom Mike was dear to their hearts, gave us this story, so we owed it to them to tell his story correctly and not make a bad film. There’s a heavy element of pressure there, whenever you’re dealing with true stories.
In the beginning of the film, this guy seems like he’s pretty self-indulgent and self-obsessed, until he meets this nurse and decides to not only help her, but also really fight for this cause. What do you think it was that made this guy connect to her?
EVANS: To be honest, anytime someone is that intelligent and brilliant, there’s a level of selfishness that accompanies that type of genius, and I think the case was redemption for him. He may have burnt a lot of bridges and abused a lot of friendships, and the case was a way for him to feel better about himself.
Are you hoping to continue to balance the big blockbusters with smaller, character-driven films?
EVANS: Yeah, that’s the goal. You do movies like Captain America, so that you’re afforded the opportunity to take on these smaller ones and hopefully get them greenlit. It’s not easy getting movies like that on their feet.
Now that you do have a name and can get smaller films made and in theaters, does that make you scrutinize the films that you’re look at more, to make sure that they’re things you really want to be a part of?
EVANS: Oh, absolutely! I couldn’t have said it better. You have to navigate and make sure that you’re making the right choices, and not just working.
Have you thought about what you want to do, once you’re finished with The Avengers?
EVANS: No. God, not yet. I’m still living moment-to-moment. There’s so much on my plate right now that I’m just trying to take it one step at a time.
What initially got you so passionate about the craft of acting, and are you still as passionate now?
EVANS: More so. My love for acting grows constantly, with every good performance I see, out of another actor. It’s inspiring. It was a slow burn for me. I did a lot of theater growing up, and then the more I did theater, the more I thought, “I think I’m falling in love with this.”