Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not only a great film, in general, but it is also a bad-ass superhero movie. Picking up after the events in New York with The Avengers, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is living in Washington, D.C. and trying to adjust to the modern world. When a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague comes under attack, Captain America teams up with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and new ally the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to take on an enemy that just might take them down first. The film also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan, Cobie Smulders, Robert Redford, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp and Hayley Atwell.
At a conference during the film’s press day, actors Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson talked about concerns over being typecast, how the Black Widow has evolved, the great camaraderie between Cap and Falcon, getting to work with Robert Redford, and how much they enjoy returning to these characters, while Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige talked about the possibility of a solo Black Widow movie, how they decide when to bend or break things in the Marvel canon, and his minimal involvement with the Marvel films coming out of studios other than Disney. Check out what they had to say about Captain America 2 after the jump.
Question: Chris, when the first film came out, you were very candid about concerns that you had, not about the role itself, but about it’s impact on you with the loss of anonymity and concerns about typecasting. Now that this is your third time through with the Captain, and there’s more to come, how do you feel about it now?
CHRIS EVANS: Had I not done the movies, it would’ve been the biggest mistake of my life. It really would’ve been the biggest regret, to date, and there are plenty. It’s changed everything for me. Not just what it’s enabled me to do outside of these movies, but it’s so comforting knowing that you’re making good movies. It would be a nightmare to be trapped in this contract and be making films that you’re not proud of, but Marvel has the Midas touch. Every time you suit up, you know that you’re making something of quality. It’s rewarding, on every level, so thank god I had the right people in my life, pushing me to make the right decision.
Scarlett, this character has evolved and grown a lot, over the three films that we’ve seen her in. What do you think of how this character has evolved, and has playing her changed you, at all?
SCARLETT JOHANSSON: Well, other than being in physical therapy for the rest of my life, I think this is the first time that we’ve really gotten to see Natasha. We saw a little bit of her in The Avengers and we saw a bit of her backstory, and we’ll see more of that in The Avengers 2. But in this film, we really get to see Natasha as a person who gets up, gets ready for work in the morning, and has a life outside of just her job, once she’s out of the suit. She’s a woman and she has her own reality outside of this, although who knows how far that structure is. Through this series of circumstances, as the plot unfolds, we find both Steve and Natasha questioning their own identity and realizing that they thought they were pretty strong people that had their beliefs. Whatever twisted morals they might have, and maybe the Widow more than Cap, but at the end of it, they realize, “Wait, I’ve been this hired hand for my entire professional career and young adult life. Who am I? What do I want? What do I need from someone?” In some ways, there’s cliffhanger at the end because you really see that they’re just having this huge moment of self-discovery. I think we’ll be able to track where that goes, in the next installments.
Kevin, this film treats the female characters with respect and admiration, and the story is almost as much about Natasha’s journey as it is Steve’s. Will we be seeing a solo Black Widow film, sometime in the future?
KEVIN FEIGE: I think it could be great. We’ve got various outlines and ideas of where to take that. There’s a big element that explores her backstory, in an upcoming Marvel feature. So, the question really is, when would we want to take her out of that ensemble to go and do her own thing? In fact, as you saw in this movie, and as you’ll see in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, she is key to so much of the broader world.
Scarlett, what do you think about being a role model for girls out there, wanting to see a female on screen who helps out her male co-star?
JOHANSSON: I think Natasha is a bit of a reluctant superhero. She doesn’t necessarily have this really strong moral compass. Let’s not forget, she started out her career as essentially a mercenary. So, I don’t know if that makes her role model material. But, one of the things that’s very attractive to me about the character is that she uses her feminine wiles as a part of her job, but she doesn’t rely on her sexuality or physical appeal to get the job done. She’s extremely smart. She thinks on her feet. She’s a leader, and I think has a lot of foresight. Those are all qualities that I think are wonderful for young women to celebrate. And of course, it’s really rad for me to have my friends’ kids look up to that character and dress up like her at Halloween. I always say, “The Widow always wins,” and it’s true. It’s a nice sentiment.
Chris, you and Anthony Mackie have such a great comradery with each other. How was it to work together and introduce the Falcon into the story?
EVANS: I’ve known Anthony for a while now. This is our third movie together. It’s familiar and it’s an old relationship. When I first met Anthony, it actually wasn’t on a movie set. We got along very well. We’re very similar people. We hit it off very well, off set. We just got along and it was very easy having a repartee with him off set, and I think that translates on set. The guy is life. He’s energy. He just brings a certain type of spark that you need on film, and that you need off, as well.
Chris and Sam, what was it like to work with the great Robert Redford?
EVANS: He’s amazing. It was pretty intimidating that day because he is a living legend, but it’s always such a treat when someone you look up to that much lives up to the expectation. He very easily could’ve come onset and hijacked the film, not just as an actor, but with his past as a director and his experience. He very easily could’ve taken over. He showed up with the utmost professionalism. He knew his lines. The first day we filmed, we shot until 1 o’clock in the morning, and he stuck around for my off-camera stuff. It was like it was his first movie. He really is such an example of what it is to be great.
SAMUEL L. JACKSON: I’d met Robert in a lot of different situations, when I was going to Sundance, as a younger actor, and he had a more active part in that process. And I’ve missed the opportunity to do several films with him, over the years. And that morning, when I got to work with him for the first time, we sat down and talked about a lot of different things. We talked about golf. We talked about life. We talked about movies. So by the time we got onset, it did look like we spent time together, or had some past. It was a great experience. He’s professional. He knew his lines. He wanted to do it. He wanted to try them different ways. He wanted to make things better, and that’s part of coming into the Marvel universe. People come in and they see what we do and they want to blend into it and make things better. And as we continue to do it, things do get better.
Scarlett, how did you physically prepare for this role, and how challenging was it to do these stunts?
JOHANSSON: I had just come off of doing a Broadway run, which is pretty much the most physically challenging thing you can do. I felt like, if anything was going to prepare me to have stamina, it was that. Everything seemed like a piece of cake, after that. I was in pretty solid shape from that run. And then, it was just maintaining it. It’s boring. I get up at 5 o’clock and go to the gym. It’s horrible. It’s not glamorous, at all. I train like a dude, and then eat a bunch of lettuce. That’s how it goes. It’s nothing fancy.
Sam, with so many monumental twists and turns in the story, what went through your mind when you first read the script, and what excited you the most about it?
JACKSON: I’m always excited to do more, and Nick seems to grow with each film. When I was reading it, I realized that it was a bit more than just a comic book feature. It had intrigue. I’m sure a lot of young people are going to be surprised to learn that they actually have to think about something other than what’s going on. You’ve got to figure out the plot. And that always excites me. It’s always a great joy to know that I’m going to be back in a space with all the people that I enjoy working with, and be able to do things that I did on a very small scale when I was a kid. This is a dream come true. You sit there and you read comic books when you’re a kid, and you wonder if there’s a world like that. And then, you grow up as an actor and they start making movies like that, and you wonder, “How can I get in that movie?” And then, next thing you know, you’re inside it and you’re kind of like, “Yeah!” They’re all pluses there.
EVANS: It always feels like it gets tighter. I thought it was supposed to get more comfortable. I’m not joking. That really happens. They always make improvements on it and, once you get a good sweat going, it loosens up quite a bit. It’s exciting. A lot of it has to do with the fact that you know you’re making good movies. If you were disappointed with the previous film, it would be hard to mentally prepare yourself for living in that thing for four or five months. But since Marvel just can’t stop making quality movies, it’s exciting and it’s humbling and it’s an honor to jump back into it, no matter how uncomfortable it is.
Scarlett, is this a fun character for you to come back to?
JOHANSSON: Yeah. I’ve never really had the opportunity to do something like this. It’s an interesting challenge to keep coming back to this character. I have the good fortune of playing a character that’s evolving with each installment that you see her in. I have to understand who this character is and where she comes from, and she has this rich backstory. The exciting thing is just scraping away at a little part of that each time, to reveal a small part of the bigger picture of her. It’s a very complex character, which is wonderful for me because, over the period of time that I’ve played her, I’ve also grown, as you do in your career, your work and your life. I feel like the character’s story is more enriched, as my own experiences are.
Kevin, there are great bits from the familiar Marvel canon and the sensibilities of that universe, but then you destroy a substantially large organization that’s part of the milieu of these films. How do you approach deciding where you bend things or break them, in the interest of moving these films forward, as their own unique piece of entertainment?
FEIGE: The key to making these movies different and unique each time is not necessarily to take chance, but to be able to move pieces around on the playing board and be able to subvert expectations. In terms of the big event that happens in the movie, that changes everything, that was part of the plan for quite awhile. We wanted to mix things up, and for the world to be very different at the beginning of The Avengers 2 than it was at the end of The Avengers 1. But in terms of the tone and action, when we met with Joe and Anthony [Russo], they were very clear and had very lofty ambitions, saying things like, “We want to do the best car chase in any Marvel movie, and maybe the best car chase of all time.” I said, “Well, that sounds good. Let’s try that.” They referenced the best choreographed fight scenes from the last 30 years as inspiration. And damned if they didn’t pull it off.
Kevin, there is a new Spider-Man movie and an X-Men movie coming out, and you seem to be setting up so much within the Marvel/Disney universe. How much influence do you have on those other Marvel films that come out of different studios?
FEIGE: It’s very limited with the other studios, for two reasons. One is because we’re quite busy building our own cinematic universe. And also, the contracts are very old and the approvals are very limited. It is what it is. Those contracts are very old with the other studios. I expect they’ll be making Spidey movies at Sony for a long time, and X-Men movies at Fox for a long time. I hope we keep making MCU movies for a long time at Marvel.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens in theaters on April 4th.