Last year, I had the amazing opportunity to visit the set of Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, along with a small group of journalists. We’re finally able to bring you an account of our on-set experiences, along with interviews from the cast and crew that tease the amazing action and intrigue that’s sure to come. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo’s sequel stars Chris Evans as Captain America, but this interview is all about Sebastian Stan, starring the other title role.
While on set, Sebastian Stan talked about the moment he realized he’d be playing the Winter Soldier, getting used to the costume, playing two very different versions of Bucky Barnes in both movies, his character’s relationship with Steve Rogers, physical conditioning and much more. Hit the jump for the interview.
Question: So, I’m sure at the Captain America junket you got asked plenty of times if you’d ever be playing the Winter Soldier. How early did you actually know that this was going to be in your future?
Sebastian Stan: Well, I think in my brain I knew, or I hoped I knew a long, long time ago, but I didn’t really know until about a year ago to be quite honest. Yeah.
Were you excited? I mean, because like he was saying, we all kind of…fans were all hoping they’d go there, but they didn’t go there so quickly, because they might’ve waited a couple movies, you know?
Stan: Well, that was the whole thing. I had no idea, you know? I had no idea that…I mean, it obviously came up in discussions very early on when I got involved, and that was part of the excitement for me. And actually now, looking back, I should’ve sort of asked myself whether I could’ve known in any way, shape, or form, but it really is one of the more interesting storylines that Steve Rogers has. So, it actually does make sense to want to take it to that level, especially the way that the whole MCU is moving anyway.
So now you can tell us what they were doing to you on that torture chair in the first movie, right?
Stan: I mean, I think…yeah. Looking back, that was probably a very smart setup in their situation to kind of suggest that it could’ve been tied to this. I wish I knew when we were shooting it that that was what was happening, [laughter] but I think…yeah. I mean, I think that makes more sense to look back at that scene and kind of sort of think that it had something to do with breaking the fall, I suppose.
Did you have a game plan as far as bridging between Bucky and The Winter Soldier in a way that movie audiences will really get what this is?
Stan: I hope so. Yeah. I mean, that was always the plan, you know? I mean, even in the first one, for me, I feel like sort of knowing ahead where it was potentially going to go, I was always trying to, even back then, see what I can possibly layer in to…sort of, that one day if someone does look at this movie and then kind of goes back and looks at that, they can sort of maybe spot something and then just go, “Oh, I see that that guy had potential to…” I mean, Bucky to me was always interesting because he was a little bit more…he stood out more clearly in terms of someone who, you know, had flaws. And though he was extremely loyal, and very caretaking, and there were a lot of endearing qualities about him that there were other things that…like, any muscle that you work out too much could sort of take over the rest. So, there were other things about him I always thought that, you know…I was hoping you could see in that first movie that if they sort of amplified that, that he could become something dangerous, necessarily so.
The original Winter Story arc flashbacks to Bucky and Cap adventures a little bit here and there. Does this film allow you to do that? Kind of go back into Bucky territory again, or was it all present day going forward?
Stan: I think it was important that the movie was going to stick to present day. I think we sort of arrived at that, and we wanted, you know…I think that’s what it called for, but there is a level of reminding everybody in terms of reinstating those things to sort of…so that you really do remember what that relationship was.
Right. Right. Obviously, you’re sporting a completely different book for this film. I mean, what was your initial reaction to it? How’s it been, kind of, wearing that new costume?
Stan: “Oh God. What will it look like?” [laughter] I was very open to it, you know? I was very…obviously I’ve never had long hair, I mean…but as an actor, the thing is that you got to get out of that comfortability level once in a while, and I was really excited to sort of not recognize a little bit myself when I looked in the mirror, and between the costume and sort of the overall look of The Winter Soldier, it was nice. Then all the credit really goes to Legacy and the costume team who’ve done, I think, a pretty incredible job in terms of just, you know, going from page to reality, which is obviously really hard to do sometimes with certain characters that look really cool when they’re drawn and then, how do you make them look that way in real life? So it was…I think there was no question that whatever was needed to make him as authentic as possible is where I was at with it.
Did they make the arm…does it hinder you at all when you were doing some the action stuff? I don’t know if they made it like…
Stan: No. Actually, I was always worried about that, but no. It actually kind of informed, in a way, a lot of character stuff for me, because I had enough time to sort of work with it. I think it sort of changed the way I was moving, and it was one of those things where you know, I sat and I thought, and thought, and thought about what it was going to be like on the day, but until you just sort of get into it completely, until it was just on and everything, then that discovery kind of came to light, and it was really neat because I felt like…it just was like the missing piece, and then I was really informed kind of where to go with it.
Interesting for you and Chris, you know, because you created the rapport between your characters in the first movie to not only play a very different side of the relationship here, but also to have the modern day setting, you know? Does kind of feel surreal to have created these characters in the World War II setting and now to play out the continuation?
Stan: It’s just a neat thing. I mean, you know, it’s just a really cool sort of thing. The World War II aspect is, you get to research the music, and the way people talked, and the way they behaved, and the way they dressed, and what their hobbies were. You get to sort of day dream about what these guys might’ve done on a Friday night, and there’s something very sort of like romantic about the way women dressed back then and all that, and it’s cool. You take that, and you bring those…well for him, essentially, bring those…person from that time into the world of today, and there’s a lot of sides to that. There’s a lot of comedy to that because it’s part of sort of having to get to know everything all over again. For the first time, rather. There’s, like, a lot of endearing sides to that. To having someone with such an old mentality yet still very fresh in the world that we know today. Winter might not be there just yet.
How challenging was the physical regimen to be able to train him the way he is now?
Stan: I mean, maybe I walked around the house a little bit with like, a plastic knife in my left hand all the time. There might’ve been some of that, but it’s all in terms of just…the thing for me was, you know, flexibility was kind of like the key factor I think that I was trying to be very mindful of, and obviously that there was so many pieces to the costume and everything. Being able to continue to move freely, and especially the way the team, you know, wanted to take the fighting style of this particular movie and the direction that they wanted to go, it was…yeah.
It was important to be flexible and in shape, at least just in terms of a confidence that you can step on set and be comfortable with what you’re doing and…but a lot of it also just has to…a lot of it is just kind of remembering what it was like when you were a kid and when you’re being able to imagine, and go off on it and be free with that, and so that was like, part of the fun with it. I mean, I don’t know how else to explain it. That tends to be a challenge in itself because, you know, you sometimes take things so seriously, and you want to sort of be in the best of this, in the best of shape, the best of that, but at the end of the day, you got to remember to have fun, and if you just kind of like allow yourself to do that, you kind of just somehow end up doing everything better.
Stan: Yeah. There’s definitely a few things. I think I fired some stuff where things got in my eyes and I ended up having, like, particularly in my left eye for a second, I popped a blood vessel, which at first I thought I was, like, going to…I really freaked out about, but then I realized it was like…started kind of dissolving and then became this cool thing [laughter] and it was like…it added to the whole thing, you know? It was like…and then my shoulder…I mean, there’s always things sort of that you discover along the way. You know, I think the most exciting thing was definitely learning some of the fighting style that these incredible stunt guys that we have came up with and choreographed for us. I’m really excited about it. I’m really excited to share it with, you know, the fans and see what they think. I really think we’ve got some very interesting new stuff in this film in terms of that department. We worked really hard on it and so…yeah. We’ll see.
For someone who didn’t see the first movie, is there a way for them to get brought up to speed on the relationship between you and Steve?
Stan: Yeah, I would say so. Yeah. You don’t have to see the first movie to not have a…you know, you’ll have a good time. I think you can still kind of relate with the characters. I think seeing the first movie’s more of a neat trick. I think, if anything, it’ll be a little bit weird because it’s such a…it is a different movie. It’s going to be a very different movie from that particular origin film.
Earlier you were talking about how you sort of tried to layer in elements of The Winter Solder into your portrayal of Bucky in the first movie, but how much of the old Bucky will we see in The Winter Soldier, and how did you work to sort of pepper in those elements throughout this movie?
Stan: My goal is that you’ll get to see that. I mean, the truth of the situation’s like, there’s still…though he looks really different, though there’s different things about him, I mean, it still comes from the same person, you know? I think you’ll get to see that no matter what. I think part of my goal here was to make sure that you see an extension of that version, but sort of like just a different color of that same version, in a way, and I think he’s…you know, he’s still the same guy. He cuts from the same cloth. I mean, in terms of the first movie, all I was really trying to show here and there were aspects of him sort of…maybe when he was…there’s that one shot where he, like, saves his life and he kind of…you see that he’s a sniper and so on. There was just something about his face and his expression when he’s sort of, you know, saved Steve’s life and kind of shot someone without really being kind of ticked by it. I mean, there was just little things like that. Sort of that there was a little bit of an edge to him. That there was something that he was maybe wrestling with a little bit more. I mean, at the time, I think in the first movie, it’s like they’re just trying to, you know, find themselves. Young guys trying to find themselves that have to go to war, so whatever that means. So, you know, I hope that people can kind of track that a little bit when they look at it A to Z.
To kind of get back to the costume, we know that you wear a mask for a good section of the film. What does your voice sound like? Does it just sound like you projected through the mask, or is there a different voice to it?
Stan: Well, I guess you’ll see.
Stan: No. No…I guess that seems to be the most recent kind of thing where your brain goes to it. I was just happier to have a mask to not be doing all these weird facial expressions when I fought. At least, like, in the first sequence of the movie, you know, but I think it’s going to be very different than Bane.
We’ve been told that there is a history, to some regard, between Black Widow and Winter Soldier in this film. Maybe not what the comic books did exactly. Can you talk at all about the dynamic between those characters?
Stan: Well, one of the things that I think, you know, Marvel does so well and I think these films have done so well, is it just…there’s always these possibilities. There’s always that…you know, they don’t forget about that. They don’t forget about any of those little things that have had life in the comic books. So whether they’re going to take that somewhere or not, I don’t know, and I genuinely don’t know, but I think there’s enough there that you could point to it and kind of go, oh wait a minute. What it that? That makes sense. But I don’t think that’s generally going to be explored in this film.
Everything about this film is different from the first one, but Chris is a constant for you. What’s it like…is it important that you guys are kind of in this together as the holdovers from…
Stan: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s like no time’s gone by. I mean, it’s kind of a weird…it’s really neat, you know? We’re like, oh. We just see each other, and we go round two. Here we go, and then we’re back to where we were. I mean, if anything, we just grew up a couple more years and then, funny enough, you find that that experience makes its way to the character as well. Which is kind of appropriate in a weird way because, you know, some time has gone by, and I always thought that was kind of a cool thing about…having had a little bit of time, as opposed to have gone into doing this movie right after the first one, because I feel like I grew up a little bit and then the Winter Soldier to some extent, even though he does barely age to some extent, he is a little bit older as well in the few years that he was not in the homeostasis situation that he sort of was aging a little bit, but…so I think a lot of those dynamics will actually just make it into the film, which will be interesting.
Stan: They’ve been extremely great. I mean, they’ve been very specific on what they wanted. They always had an idea of the film and they’ve been…while keeping that specific frame of mind, they’ve been very open to how we wanted to take these characters, and I had a little bit of time before we started shooting to really kind of sort of talk to them early on about, you know, where some of…where we wanted to take it. What they were looking for. What colors were going to be the right sort of colors to bring, and then where I was going to instinctively want to take him, and they were open to any of those things that I wanted to do. So it gave me a lot of confidence to want to keep going down the path that I instinctively was…you know, tried to follow.
Is it much different than working with Joe Johnston?
Stan: Everybody’s different. You know, it’s all…yeah. Everyone’s different. There’s two of them. [laughter] That does, you know…sometimes helps because you’ve got…there’s a lot going on and it’s one more voice that can communicate to you.
Is there one that was easier to convince about your ideas than the other?
Stan: No, I think it just depends. I mean, I wouldn’t say there was one sort of…you know, any moment that comes to mind, necessarily, where one’s more distinctive than the other. I mean, I just…it’s just one of those things where you’re…and same with Joe, you know? It’s like, you really need to trust your director. You have to. You know, I could’ve sat for months and months and thought how something should go, but it ultimately is their job, and it’s great when you have directors that you can trust and they can go, “We’re good. We got that.”
I’m curious for your own personal taste because the two films are so different. What plays to your excitement? Do you prefer films like this one, or kind of like the more adventurous type? You know, like the first Captain America. Which one do you prefer? Like, what plays more to your personal taste in terms of what people watch?
Stan: I mean, I love the first one. I loved working with Joe. I loved the first one because I feel like it was so hard to really do it…to pay it the right respect, the right way, and as an origin story, it’s hard, period. It’s hard to translate that the right way, even now to 2013 audiences, you know? And I thought that was done really well, and though I thought that was fun, it’s just one of those things where I feel like it’s the same with the audiences. I feel like…just get that feeling like you’re ready for something else now. You’re ready for the next sort of thing, and I think we needed to bring it to that level. So everything kind of about this one, I would say, became more brutal in terms of just sort of how fearless everything…you know, it seems like it’s brutal and not so much riding on consequences. That’s how the feel of this movie feels, at least, and that was the idea that The Winter Soldier would be ultimately, is coming from that same cloth. So, I think from action-wise to just everything, it’s on that scale.
Like we mentioned at the top, when you were cast in this role, as comic book fans, we couldn’t help but be like, oh Bucky. Well, then he becomes Winter Soldier. Then he becomes (spoiler) Captain America. Now that you’re actually doing this story, does it have you thinking about what arc they might go?
Stan: I hope I’m not 45 by the time that happens. [laughter] I hope I’m like, still strong enough for it. I don’t know. I really don’t know, man. It’s hard to…like you said, it’s one of those things where it’s very easy to start daydreaming about, but it’s like, I don’t remember, personally, myself, feeling more present in an experience than I have felt in this. Like day-to-day moment. Just present. I mean, there’ve been times where we’ve been shooting where I honestly didn’t…I couldn’t even think about what was coming next week. So, you know, it’s a great question that I’m sure will hopefully keep coming up, and there’ll be an answer one day, but who knows.
Well on that note, did you know that you wanted to tell The Winder Soldier story in the second film? When did you kind of know that you’d be coming back? Were you uncertain for a while?
Stan: Well, like I was telling them, I really didn’t know up until about a year ago. Until about, literally around this time. I actually think it was around Comic Con…
They announced the title at Comic Con.
Stan: They did, and my friend called me and told me that that was the title, and then I was like, I can’t believe it. I had no idea that was going to be the title. So, there you go.
Stan: It’s just so interesting because he stood out to me a little bit in the comics. You know, he’s sort of like this tragic character that you’d fine in Shakespeare or something. I mean, I’m not trying to, you know, get all actory and all blah blah, and I just…what I mean is just that there’s…you know, it’s like this guy’s eternal struggle to try to find himself and just trying to be a good person in all the sense that he’s learned that he’s supposed to be. Then this thing happens to him, and then he goes on this whole path of relearning about himself and what he has to live with and all of the things that he’s done, and all…you know?
It’s such an interesting, heavy sort of…but rich kind of character, and it’s just so exciting. I mean, it’s never black or white with him. There’s always all these other things. There’s so much more to the character, and later on, and eventually when he tries to find his place back in the world, but even when he’s sort of quote unquote brainwashed, or what not, there’s still that…he’s still dealing with these dreams, and nightmares, and so on that he doesn’t know where they’re coming from, you know? And it’s kind of like taking a really unstable person and putting them…one of the most dangerous weapons, and just go. Go into the world and see what happens. It’s kind of…it’s a cool ride that way.
Click here for all our Captain America coverage or browse recent links below:
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- Kevin Feige Talks CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, Hiring Joe and Anthony Russo, Introducing the Winter Soldier & the 70s Conspiracy Thriller Genre
- Directors Anthony and Joe Russo Talk CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, Landing the Job, Core Relationships, Easter Eggs, and the Talented Cast
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