By Edward Davis | The Playlist November 1, 2010 at 1:32AM
Reluctant Actor Now Says "I Can't Believe I Was Almost Too Chicken To Take The Role"; Is Signed On For 6, Not 9 Films
The recent issue of EW obviously has an abundance of new images from Marvel Studios' "Captain America: The First Avenger," but within that article there's a bunch of interesting behind-the-scenes factoids about the making of the Joe Johnston-directed film.
First, and most interesting, is the fact that the film's lead Chris Evans didn't want the role and at first Marvel didn't want him either.
You'll recall the early wish list reports of Ryan Phillippe and John Krasinski; Evans wasn't even on that list mostly because of his affiliation with another Marvel film franchise, "The Fantastic Four" (Evans played the hero the Human Torch). But eventually as Marvel broadened its search for Captain America — presumably because none of the auditions were panning out, not to mention fan outcry at the thought of Krasinski in the lead — Evans emerged as a late frontrunner due in part to his role (perhaps his finest performance so far) in Danny Boyle's sci-fi film, "Sunshine" (evidently "Scott Pilgirm Vs. The World" director Edgar Wright also gave Marvel head Kevin Feige a strong endorsement that worked wonders).
Evans originally wanted no part of the film, though, least of all the lead, due to several factors. Fear seemed to be the chief one, as was the idea of being hooked into the role for what seemed like an eternity (Marvel originally wanted to sign him for nine films; part of his deal was reducing that to six pictures). Another issue was a fear of a spectacular disaster on a big, attention-getting tentpole. "I've made some spotty films and I didn't want another one on this scale," he said. The idea of reaching a new plateau in fame was also scary in what seemed like a no-win situation, "I remember telling a buddy of mine, 'If the movie bombs, I'm f*cked. If the movie hits, I'm f*cked."
Eventually, Evans realized he needed to man-up and just accept that every opportunity has risks. "I was just scared," he admitted, also noting that he turned down the role at least three separate times. "I realized my whole decision-making process was fear-based, and you never want to make a decision out of fear."
Marvel — who might be changing the film's title to simply "The First Avenger" in foreign territories so as not to alienate international audiences — were ok with his reluctance as they felt it reflected a depth and maturity they wanted in the character. "He has brought a whole different level to the character that I didn't know existed — more real, more complicated, more vulnerable," Johnston said.
While Johnston seemed like an odd choice initially for the director's chair, especially after his spectacular bomb with "The Wolfman" early this year, EW notes that it was his past work that got him the gig, particularly "Raiders Of The Lost Ark," a touchstone picture for the tone they wanted to hit and one that Johnston won an Oscar for with his visual effects work (his WWII-era super hero flick, "The Rocketeer" from 1991 didn't hurt either).
As for the storyline, evidently the original plan was a narrative that bounced Captain America from the 1940s and back into the present day, but that's been abandoned now for a picture that completely stays within the WWII milieu (of course the frozen-in-ice-and-dethawed-decades-later device Marvel used in the comics to bring Captain America into the here and now will still be utilized; essentially the end traps him in ice and he's discovered in the prologue to "The Avengers" film).
Those worried about a jingoistic film out of step with contemporary viewpoints, perhaps better suited to the pro-American Ronald Reagan era of filmmaking shouldn't worry. "I never wanted to make this movie into something of a flag waver," Johnston said. "We were very careful about that in the screenplay." Wisely, Johnston realized the suit is out of touch too, but there was a way to handle that. "You can't really take him seriously in his flag pajamas," the director said, "We knew we had to almost make fun of it today and the only way we could do that is if he himself felt like an idiot when he wore it."
Evans is aware that he still might be playing "Captain America" by the time he's 40 (he's 29 now) and that might sideline his directorial aspirations (yes, he has them), but evidently the actor has come to terms with it all. "When I first put on the suit I was absolutely terrified, but once I started working I could see this was going to be a good experience. Then I started going, "Wow. This is really cool. I can't believe I was almost too chicken to play 'Captain America.' "
The film starring Evans, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving , Dominic Cooper, Toby Jones, Sebastian Stan, Neal McDonagh, Samuel L. Jackson, Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones is currently shooting and will hit theaters in post-converted 3D next summer on July 22, 2011.