Our comic book superheroes are an all-American bunch, but a majority of them are played by actors not from around these parts. Green Lantern star Ryan Reynolds is from Canada, Christian Bale (aka Batman) and Henry Cavill (the new Superman) hail from Great Britain, and Aussies Hugh Jackman and Chris Hemsworth play Wolverine and Thor on the big screen, respectively. Fittingly, the one guy who is American is the man wearing the red, white and blue togs of Captain America. In Captain America: The First Avenger (directed by Joe Johnston and coming out in theaters July 22), Chris Evans — a native of one of the original 13 colonies, Massachusetts — stars as Steve Rogers, a scrawny weakling who’s rejected by the U.S. military in the 1940s but then signs up to be a test subject for a top-secret super-soldier serum. Now supersized, Rogers becomes an American hero during World War II, taking on Hydra and their evil Nazi leader, the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). I ventured up to New York City for an exclusive cover shoot with Evans and Thor star Hemsworth, his on-screen pal in the upcoming superhero team-up The Avengers (co-starring the likes of Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson), for this weekend’s summer movie preview. I’ll have more from my interview with Hemsworth tomorrow and Monday, but read below for what Evans had to say about being Captain America and check him out in action in this trailer.
Photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures
One of the striking things in the movie is you coming out of the military pod and looking crazy buff post-serum. How much training did you endure to get into that condition?
Ugh, so much training. It was tough. I’ve always been in the gym and worked out and things like that, and I’ve had to get big for other films, but nothing like this. They flew a trainer over from London – I was in Boston working on a film, and we did three months prior to shooting. We were working out every day for just about two hours, sometimes twice a day, and it was just grueling. I’ve never trained like that in my life. I’m just getting back into it now and gearing back up and trying to get big again.
So, lots of eating?
Lots of eating. That’s the hardest part. You’d think that would be the fun part, but sometimes you’re full. You just don’t want to eat. I have to. I’m a naturally skinny guy, so to try and get mass like that, it’s not easy. I have to make sure I’m taking in a lot of protein.
In the Marvel comics, Cap is a guy who went from the 1940s to modern times when he’s found encased in ice by the Avengers. Assuming part of that will be in The Avengers movie, your Cap will have to live in a world that’s very different from what he’s used to.
Yeah, at least there’s some meat on the bone. You want to play a character that has conflict – that’s what makes a character appealing to an actor, getting to find an arc and a reason, something to chew on. And that’s a lot. If you woke up one day and it was 50, 60 years in the future and everyone you knew had passed away and the entire world around you is different — you don’t have a friend, you don’t know anybody, you don’t know anything — that’d be a lot to take in. It’s exciting as an actor to try and tackle that.
What’s this I hear about a “Captain America song”?
There is a Captain America song, but I don’t sing it. Initially in the film, when he becomes Captain America, long story short the serum is destroyed and they can’t reproduce the experiment so I’m the only super soldier there is. The U.S. government won’t allow me to go to war because it’s too risky and they can’t afford to lose me, but they use me as a propaganda tool and they send me on a USO Tour. So there’s a whole Captain America song, and they try to make him a little bit of a celebrity to try and sell bonds. There is a Captain America song, and there was a week of shooting, and I had that song in my head. I couldn’t stop humming it! It was so annoying. But it’s a funny sequence actually.
They Benjamin Buttoned you a little bit and digitally made you a 98-pound weakling at the beginning of the movie. What was it like seeing that part after you’ve just gone and worked out hard for three months?
Well, it wasn’t that foreign to me because that’s what I looked like for a big chunk of my life. [Laughs] When I saw it, I was like, “My family is gonna die.” This is what I looked like for all of all middle school. Up until maybe sophomore year, I was a pretty skinny kid for a long time. It looks pretty normal. It was a crazy process doing that stuff. They went back and forth on the type of technology they were going to use. Initially, they were just going to do body shrinking, and then they thought, “Well, maybe we can get another skinny actor and put Chris’ head on it,” and I really, really was against that. I said to Joe, “Look, I know we want this to look good and this effect to not be distracting from the film, but it has to be my performance. I don’t want to share this. Your body is a huge piece of the acting puzzle, and I don’t want to have somebody else’s body tell the story that I’m trying to tell.” So they did some tweaking and they did a bunch of tests and we went back to the initial plan to shrink my body. Anytime my body’s completely still, if I’m lying on that bed or if I’m sitting in a chair not moving, it was easier for them to put my head on a smaller body. But anytime there was movement or action or acting involved, Joe and I were pretty adamant about saying, “Look, you’ve got to shrink me down.” And they did. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I’ve seen a couple different scenes of the shrunken stuff and it looks amazing.
And we’ve seen how the Red Skull looks now, too.
Oh, that looks so badass. You’d be talking to Hugo on set and he’d be wearing that thing, and you kinda want to just touch it. It looked so good! It didn’t look fake — it looked like there is a man with a red skull standing next to me who is evil.
Did having two Fantastic Four movies under your belt help in knowing at least the fervent, comics-loving fanboys you’d have to deal with?
Sure. It’s great to get an experience of the press tour and the craziness and the workload after filming. Filming is one thing, but all movies are relatively similar. The work comes in the form of press. You go all over the world and you don’t sleep and it’s just answering a lot of the same questions thousands of times and trying to promote this thing you’ve worked on so hard. But the good thing about Fantastic Four is everyone wanted to talk to Jessica [Alba]. No one wanted to talk to me! [Laugh] It was great! I got to sit in the background and be there, but not have to really carry the load. This is obviously different. It’s nice to have had a little taste but yeah, it’s gonna be nothing close to this.
Do you enjoy that extra responsibility?
No! My God, I hate it! [Laughs] I almost didn’t do this movie because I hate that so much. It’s just not for me. I don’t know, it’s a strange thing to talk about yourself. You have to look at it as a job, you have to look at it as work. If all of a sudden you stop – at least if I stop — in the middle of an interview and look at myself, I become very uncomfortable, very nervous. It just feels strange. I feel false, it doesn’t feel right. This movie is a lot of that – it’s gonna be a lot of press. I have a little bit of an anxiety issue. I wasn’t making whatever movie I wanted to make – you still have to struggle — but I was very happy, very content, with what I was doing. I’d make a movie every now and then and I’ve made a good living and I got to do what I loved and I managed to stay out of the public eye, and I was very happy. This was one of those things where it was like, “Alright, if you do this, there’s really no off switch. There’s no rewind. You’ve got to make sure you’re ready and that you really, really want this.” A lot of times, people only see the good part and they forget how tricky it can be. For some reason, I only saw the bad. [Laughs] When I first got offered the movie, I just only saw the negatives and ran from it.
What changed your mind?
The fact that I was scared. I said to someone close to me, “I was offered this movie and I think I’m going to say no.” And she said, “No, you’re not. You’re going to do this movie.” I said, “Why?” And she said, “Because you can’t live your life based on fear.” That’s a really good point: I think I’d end up having more regret if I didn’t do it because I was scared than if I did it, and whatever comes, comes. At least I wasn’t a coward.
So what happened in sophomore year that beefed you up? Did you get into sports?
I did play sports, yeah. I think I just started caring a lot about girls and saying, “Alright, maybe I should try and work out, I guess.” I think that’s what you’re supposed to do. And I had a lot of buddies who played sports and everyone was always in the gym. So around 14, 15, I started working out a little bit. There was a summer when I was going into my senior year of high school, I lived in New York City and I interned at a casting office – that’s how I kind of jammed my foot in the door. But that summer, I had no friends, I was 17, I couldn’t go to a bar, I lived in a s***hole in Brooklyn, so I’d go to work and then I’d come home and sit in my room all night. I just did the prison workout — pushups, pull-ups, little dips on my chair — for the whole summer. At the end of that summer, I think that was when my body changed a little bit.
Between The Avengers and the Captain America sequel in the works, have you figured out what else you’ll be doing not involving a costume or a shield?
I have a movie [Puncture] that’s coming and will go to the Tribeca Film Festival. It’s a little indie. It’s nice to get independent films in there. It’s a completely different feel. Sometimes in movies like [Captain America], there’s a lot of money involved, and as a result, everyone is paid a lot of money to make everything look perfect. You’ve seen these movies – it’s art, it’s gorgeous. But as a result, it’s very tedious. Some days, you really sit around, and you go home and you’re like, “Man, I spent maybe 60 percent of my day sitting on my ass.” A little indie movie, you go go go. You’ll burn through seven or eight pages in a day. On a film like Captain America, you might get a page. With the indies, you come home and you really feel like, “I made a movie today. I went to work and I worked and I was an actor for a living and I was told I had to be ready all day. There was no rest. I had to be there.” You really feel like you got your hands dirty. Sometimes this just feels a little slow, so it’s nice to get back to some indies.
With Cap, you are in the spotlight and the star. In The Avengers, there are at least seven A-listers involved. Do you feel a little more comfortable with that situation?
Oh, I can’t wait. [Laughs] I’m hoping they only want to talk to Robert and Scarlett. Please! That’s all I was thinking about with The Avengers: Just get through Captain America and then I can disappear into the background come press time. The movie’s one thing – obviously you want to act and it’s fun to make a film and play a role, but come press and interviews, I have no problem being way in the back seat and trying to let everyone else take the heat.