Chris Evans Interview – STREET KINGS

     April 5, 2008

Opening this Friday is the new David Ayer film “Street Kings.” If David’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he previously wrote and directed “Harsh Times,” and he also wrote “Training Day.”

While some filmmakers love to switch genres after every movie, David has once again made a film that deals with the LAPD. Here’s the synopsis:

Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is a veteran LAPD cop who finds life difficult to navigate after the death of his wife. When evidence implicates him in the execution of his former partner, Detective Terrance Washington (Terry Crews), Ludlow sets out on a quest to find the real murderers responsible and bring them to justice. With the help of a young Robbery Homicide Detective (Chris Evans), the two team up to tackle the diverse communities of Los Angeles. Forest Whitaker plays Captain Wander, Ludlow’s supervisor, whose duties include keeping him within the confines of the law and out of the clutches of Internal Affairs Captain Biggs (Hugh Laurie).

To help promote the film, I recently participated in roundtable interviews with most of the cast. In the coming days I’ll have all of them posted, but up first is Chris Evans.

While most people only know Chris as Johnny Storm from the “Fantastic Four” movies, he’s quietly been in a number of other films and he’s got a few more on the horizon. In fact, one of them is called “Push” and it’s a sci-fi film that arrives next year.

Of course…you all know me and as you read the interview you can tell which questions I asked. If it’s about a future film…it was probably me. As always, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the audio of the interview as an MP3 by clicking here.

Finally, here’s a link to the movie clips we posted for “Street Kings.” Again, “Street Kings” opens this Friday at theaters everywhere.

Warning, spoilers are discussed in this interview

Question: You’ve healed nicely.

Chris Evans: Yeah, it’s amazing what they can do.

Question: This is a nice gritty role for you.

Chris: Yeah, thank you.

Question: When you read the script is that something that definitely jumped out?

Chris: Sure, it was nice playing a supporting role. It was nice to be in a piece of the puzzle. It was nice thinking about what David [Ayer] could do with the script. With him the word gritty comes to mind. He’s great at making that authentic street feel, especially given his background, I figured he would be the right guy for the job.

Question: Did you get to visit some neighborhoods you might not have visited otherwise?

Chris: Yeah, yes. We did a ride along with an LAPD officer. We went all over the place.

Question: What was that like, what did you learn on the ride along? I’ve done those and they can be pretty eye opening.

Chris: Yeah, some pretty crazy stories. The thing that really resonated with me was how much he hated dirty cops. All the cops that I spoke with did. I guess in my head I just assumed that corruption was something that was inevitable among police. It just goes with the job, you have to figure with these guys. Everyone has heard horror stories. These cops, maybe they just get a bad rap and are sick of it, they just want to give that illusion, but the cops that I spoke with, the cops on set and that I did my ride along with, they would ball their fists up at me. You could really feel the hatred they had for a dirty cop. It’s the worst thing to be.

Question: Is that why Gates is in the movie?

Chris: Is he?

Question: In the funeral scene, I thought he comes out. Did it seem odd that they were participating?

Chris: Sure.

Question: It is this over the top…

Chris: Absolutely, it definitely has Rampart written all over it, but I don’t know. I think that a lot of these cops had respect for Dave, truthfully. Dave really seems to understand, appreciate, and respect cops. He respects the fact that these guys are still putting their lives on the line everyday. Some are dirty but some are pretty clean. These cops on set just seemed to be happy to be a part of a story that was showing… I think they were just happy that we were holding our guns correctly. I don’t even know if they read the script. It was more about make sure you say this, stand this way, your feet are positioned here, never do that, and that was the stuff they were really, really excited about.

Question: What was it like working with Keanu Reeves?

Chris: He’s great, man. He really is great. He’s the kind of actor that I love to work with. He loves rehearsal and I love rehearsal. I know a lot of actors that don’t care for it, which is fine. I’m a huge believer in it, and in my opinion I think it’s necessary. I can’t even believe that some productions don’t bother with it. Keanu will rehearse as long as you want to rehearse. I think every single one of his lines he has thought out. He, David, and I would sit down and it got to a point where I was like ‘Keanu, that’s just saying goodbye. You are just saying goodbye, its fine.’ But he really, really is determined. He is set on making sense of everything, which is very giving when you are on set.

Question: What did you learn about him as a guy? He’s kind of a quiet, mellow energy, kind of guy.

Chris: Yeah. That’s what he is, he is very centered. I think he’s very present. I think that he is very uncompromising and it’s really refreshing meeting someone who you can’t push them off balance. Nothing you do or say, whether you are talking, whether he is talking to me, a 26 year old whitest kid in the room, or someone like Common or Cedric [the Entertainer] he’s Keanu. He’s not going to try and change who he is for anybody. I think that’s rare in anyone, anywhere.

Question: Did you grow up watching ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’?

Chris: ‘Bill and Ted’s’, ‘Point Break’, you name it. Oh yeah, absolutely. ‘Speed’, I loved all those movies. It was pretty exciting meeting him.

Question: We were talking about the three of you, but we know what Keanu says, what does David say? Does he step back and let you guys talk or does he …?

Chris: David is great, he’s our anchor. He is our sounding board. He has invested the most in the story, and since he is such a story teller, he’s a writer first. There is no question you have that he can’t find. If you say ‘David, I don’t know if I would say this.’ He will say ‘Okay, lets say that when you woke up this morning your alarm didn’t go off so you are already late.’ He will have this whole, out of nowhere, invent this entire back story that somehow fits what is going on, on the page. If the audience never even picks that up, you as an actor have a more layered, internal dialogue. There is a lot more going on, that before we started shooting he went and took acting classes. Not a lot of directors would do that, I think he loves the acting process, and he respects it. It’s great to have that on set. I think that Keanu and I both benefited from that. Between takes he will walk up to you, just look at you, and size you up. You are like ‘What?’ he’s like ‘Good.’ And walks away. Wow, this guy just wants to make sure that you are in it, from the time you show up on set, to the time you leave, get your head right. His is always on, and it’s wonderful. It was a great environment to act in.

Question: What other kinds of challenges are you looking for as an actor? You have done big budget blockbuster type things, and I’m sure this was a choice. You have reasons you wanted to do this. You could have probably taken a bigger payday for a blow up movie.

Chris: Sure.

Question: How are you charting your career path right now?

Chris: I want to go where the good directors are. At the end of the day I want to be a part of good movies. You could find a great role where you have a handicap or this amazing script that challenges audiences, but unless you have a good director, someone who can tell the story and translate from the page to the screen, then it’s lost. I’ve sent that happen, I think we’ve all seen scripts that have potential that went nowhere. For me, it’s about the director. I want to be a part of good films. Not only is that what drives my decision for purely selfish reasons, I just want to be a part of quality work, but as an actor its so rewarding to trust your director. The fun of acting is exploring and trying things, stretching. You are less inclined to do so if you don’t necessarily trust your director. At the end of the day they have the power to cut and edit your performance in any way. If you do one take or one scene, one way, two or three times, then you try something a bit broader, the director and editor have the ability to string this performance together that maybe wasn’t what you intended. It’s nice when you trust the director. They give you a note and say ‘Try it like this is in the next one.’ It’s not what you thought you would do, and it seems kind of strange, but I have so much confidence in this guy that I’m going to go explore a little bit. I’m going to try and stretch and maybe something amazing comes out of it. That is where acting is a real treat. When you have a director that you just are safe with them, it’s liberating. It’s very educational.

Question: You recently were in Hong Kong and filmed ‘Push’. What was that experience like and can you talk a little bit about your character?

Chris: Sure. Hong Kong is a tricky place to be for 3 months. I think its tricky to be away from home, when you are anywhere for 3 months. It’s a science fiction action movie. It’s very much like the show ‘Heroes’, which is a great show. It’s a group of expatriates living in Hong Kong, with special powers. Some are telekinetic, some are clairvoyant. Long story short there is a branch in the government called ‘Division’ who are out to find these people and detain them. There is one girl, Camilla Belle’s character, who is exceptionally powerful. She threatens to bring down that whole branch of the government, who is hiding in Hong Kong, and it’s Dakota Fanning and my job to find her and help keep her hidden.

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Question: What was it like working with Dakota? Is she aware of some of the mocking stuff that people do on SNL about her?

Chris: I’m sure she is, but she’s like an alien. You forget that she’s 13 years old. She is so mature. She is wonderful, she is a phenomenal actress, phenomenal actress, and nothing is lost through her age. She is not going to be one of the ones that are going to fall off after puberty. Her parents are unbelievable. Her heart is unbelievable. She is so kind to everyone and it’s so genuine. It’s not this rehearsed, forced, façade, she is just an unbelievable human being. You forget when you are speaking with her that she is a child. You start saying things you probably shouldn’t so you have to really monitor yourself because you start looking at her as a peer, as an equal. Like we are going through the same thing because I’m 26 but she’s 13. She is unbelievable and she’s the real deal.

Question: Would you do a 3rd ‘Fantastic Four’ movie?

Chris: They got me if they want me, we are all contractually obligated, and so I’m shit out of luck there. I don’t think there is going to be one. I think if there was going to be one we would have heard about it by now. I tend to think that they are probably going to let that one go.

Question: What about ‘The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond’?

Chris: I did that right after this, I went to Louisiana, and then after that I went to Hong Kong. That’s a Tennessee Williams piece. It’s one of the only screenplays he’s ever written. It’s one of the only pieces he’s ever written that hasn’t been turned into a film yet. It was a real treat. I come from a theatre back ground, and a lot of the people involved are theatre crazy, so it was pretty much everything an actor who likes rehearsals would love. We were down there, Bryce Dallas Howard is the lead off of me, and she’s unbelievable. She will rehearse until you cannot rehearse anymore. Our director loves Tennessee Williams, loves the piece, and is from the south. It’s a period piece that takes place in the 1920’s in Memphis. We got to have dialects, fun wardrobe, and it’s a part I haven’t played before. He’s this kind of very internal, very troubled, poor, farm hand whose father is an alcoholic. His mother is committed. He has a lot of social difficulties and issues in a nutshell. That was just a treat. It was so much fun. It was wonderful.

Question: What is it like being part of the whole young Hollywood thing? Have you had to deal with any paparazzi or anything?

Chris: No, I really don’t. I’m never in the ‘UsWeekly’ or anything. I’m not really. It’s been great, I’m in the sweet spot right now. I’m able to work and I get to do what I love, but no one is waiting outside my door. I can go out and have a few drinks and not worry about someone popping a photo of me smoking a cigarette. It’s not a big deal.

Question: Are you hanging out at ‘The Ivy’ or on Robertson?

Chris: I guess I don’t go there, and that’s probably why.

Question: In terms of young Hollywood there are the kind with really gilded careers and those who are in it for the fame. When you are all shoved in the same room is it weird to see that?

Chris: I’m sure there is, I don’t know if they can be categorized by how they spend their off hours. You could have somebody who enjoys going to clubs and drinking and partying, who is actually a phenomenal actor, and in it for all the right reasons. By the same token, someone who never leaves the house, who wants nothing to do with paparazzi but they are fame hungry beyond belief. I wouldn’t necessarily judge based on ‘UsWeekly’ pictures.

Question: How would you describe Disco?

Chris: He’s got a chip on his shoulder. The back story that David and I worked up was that I think this is a kid, and I love this I thought it was perfect, whose older brother was a golden boy. His whole life he was probably Ben’s younger brother. I think his brother was a star football player, probably went to Harvard, probably the object of his parents’ affection. I think this kid has a little something to prove. If you take him and put him anywhere else he would be the golden boy. He’s still a great guy. He’s talented, an over achiever, probably will succeed at anything he puts his mind to, but he’s had to live in a shadow for a long time. I think he’s eager to step out of that, which unfortunately leads to his demise.

Question: In ‘Street Kings’ when was it that you really had to stretch to get that feeling, that moment you wanted?

Chris: I know this is the easy answer, but the death scene. It seems like a strange thing, dying. There is no way to know, it’s impossible, and I can’t draw on personal experience. I can’t substitute anything, I have no notion of what it would feel like. You can only imagine it would be that shock of ‘I can’t believe this is actually happening, I can’t believe it.’ I’ve been in a few car wrecks and things like that where you have that moment of disbelief. ‘I can’t believe this is how I’m going to go.’ And it was tricky at first, I remember I did it where I just got shot and looked straight ahead. I thought that fear would almost take over your entire face, where nothing is happening, and so much is going on inside. Your face is almost completely blank and you have a glossed over gaze. It just would emit fear. After two or three takes David came over and said ‘When Keanu comes down you got to look at him.’ I said ‘No, I think I should just look away.’ He was like ‘Trust me, they look to you for help. They look to you for help.’ I said ‘Jesus fucking Christ, David. Okay, I’m looking at Keanu, good point. That’s probably exactly what they would do.’ But that was tricky. You don’t want it to be cliché, you don’t want it to be… it was tricky. Death scenes are always tricky. You want to make sure they are good, and that people in the audience feel it.

Question: Were you able to leave that on the set? Did you have to go home and shake it off?

Chris: You are a little shook. I remember coming back to my trailer and my eyes ended up getting really bloodshot, just from all the exertion. You look like a different person. We did the take a bunch of different times, by the time I actually got to go back and see myself, with all this blood, I looked like I was dead. It was strange, but that’s the thrill of acting. You get to step into something that you probably never would normally.

Question: Have you encountered your costar Jessica Alba since she got into the Mommy zone?

Chris: No, I haven’t. Good for her though. That’s great. I haven’t seen her.

Question: She seems like that really nurturing type person.

Chris: Oh, she’ll be a perfect mother, it’s probably what she is meant to do in this life. She really is incredibly maternal, and incredibly caring. She does put herself last with the people that she loves.

Question: What else do you have lined up?

Chris: Nothing. No, I got nothing right now. I’m just trying to wait, be picky, and make sure I make the right move. Where I am right now a couple of missteps could be my last ones. I just want to make sure that this is a marathon and not a sprint. I think now is the time where I actually have to start being picky. They say your career is not based on what you do, its what you don’t do. I’m trying to make sure the next one is something great.

Question: Are you going to participate in the Easter play at your church?

Chris: No, we are going to have a whole bunch of Easter games at my house.

Question: Egg hunt?

Chris: Egg hunt, egg toss, egg races. You name it.

Question: With directors, writers, and movies you have been a part of, is that something that you would want maybe focus on later? Maybe directing or writing?

Chris: Absolutely 100 percent.

Question: Do you write?

Chris: I do write. I’m still too insecure to show anybody, but hopefully that will change. At some point they are going to have to read it so hopefully that will come with age.

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