Today: April 19, 2024

Captain America: Cast Speak

The all American boy-scout has had a bit of a bumpy ride of late. He’s been defrosted, catapulted into a modern-world and the last time we checked in with the good ol’ Cap he – and the rest of the Avengers – were deep in the throws of a battle against exiled Asgardian god Loki. Not exactly the hero’s welcome the WWII veteran had anticipated. Now, in the latest instalment from Marvel, poor Steve Rogers is left questioning not only his place in the new world but also the organisation he works for, S.H.I.E.L.D. Captain America: The Winter Soldier sees the return of Marvel favourites, Black Widow, Nick Fury and the exciting introduction of other comic book champions and villains. In anticipation of the film’s release, Janet Leigh caught up with Chris Evans, Scarlett Johannson, Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie to talk stunts, storylines and the world of movie superheroes.

With a superhero film like Winter Soldier, there’s always going to be some serious training. How brutal was it?
Chris: It was a little more in depth [than on the last one] just because whenever you can get in the ring and do the stunt yourself you try to because that’s what makes these movies. Audiences are smart. They know when you swap out a stunt person so you try to do everything to the best of your ability. So there was about an intense three month training period … plus I had never actually ridden a bike before. Every time you cut to me on the motorcycle it was just a stunt man on a rig but they really wanted some motorcycle shots so I got into motorcycle school and…I thought I was going to love it. I thought I was going to become, like, a bike guy. [But] nah. It’s not for me! It’s fun, it’s great, but if you’re going to take that kind of risk I’d rather be on a horse or something!

Scarlett, it’s so empowering for women to see you kicking butt. Do you feel like you’re channelling previous superheroes when you’re being Black Widow?
Scarlett: Not really. We work so closely with the stunt teams and what you realise when you’re doing stunts is you just have to kind of drive it like you own it. So I guess, more than really thinking of other people that I’d seen doing it, I just gave it my best and … somehow it ends up looking cool. You just add some music to it and it works! While you’re doing it of course you get so self conscious and feel so goofy but we have the pleasure of the stunt team surrounding us going ‘yes that rocked, it looked amazing!’

We are in the age of the franchises. How close would you say this kind of filmmaking has already come to doing a TV series?
Scarlett: I’ve never done a TV series so I’m not sure but the commitment in time is probably similar… For Chris it’s different because he plays the title character but I never know if I’m going to be back. Also because some of the characters are so interchangeable at this point in the Marvel universe I think, when we were first talking about my character appearing in Cap, I didn’t know if that was the right place for her to be. Certainly those characters don’t really fit together romantically. That would have been kind of forced and strange but the more we explored it, the more we realised that actually they did have a lot in common.

Would you be interested in the Black Widow having a standalone film? Is that likely?
Scarlett: When you work with Marvel, you realise that these films are very fan driven. I think if the audience wants it, then maybe. It’s something we’ve talked about. Certainly the material is there and I think it would be nice to be a part of a superhero film that’s female driven. Not just a character using every opportunity to pose and look sexy but actually has some substance.

Can you describe your character? Who do you think the Black Widow is?
Scarlett: I think it depends. You could explore more of her backstory. Moving forward … there’s an espionage kind of flavour to that character and I think that could be a nice theme that Marvel hasn’t totally touched on yet. Something that’s a little bit more grubby…

There’s this political element in this movie – about state control. What are your thoughts on that?
Chris: That’s the grey area. It’s a matter of how much do we have a right as citizens to know … and how much of a right do the people who ensure our safety have to infringe upon our privacy to guarantee the things we’d all expect. I don’t know? I don’t have an answer! That’s why this is such a good topic to cover in this film because it is so applicable and relevant and it is such an open debate.

Do you believe in conspiracy theories?
Chris: Oh yes! The trickiest thing about conspiracy theories is that you have to assume the conspirers are intelligent enough to pull it off. So there are plenty of conspiracy theories where the weakest part of the argument is that there’s no way these people were that intelligent to make this work so beautifully.

With the comic book franchise there are always really ardent fans. Have you had any unusual experiences?
Scarlett: I actually have to say I haven’t … I’m surprised! I always get excited to see women in the costume at ComiCon or something. I’m always like ‘you go!’ because that’s not an easy costume to pull off. I like the fangirl aspect of it… I like that girls have a female character that they look up to who’s tough and is playing hard with the boys and getting it done – outwitting everybody.

The first movie did unbelievably well. Does that put extra pressure on you?
Scarlett: One of the exciting things is that you have the challenge of keeping … it fresh but still maintaining the integrity of what the audience loves about the character. I’ve never had the opportunity to do that in any other capacity … even doing theatre it’s a different kind of animal.

Anthony, this was your first Marvel film?  How did you find it?
Anthony: I loved it. I think so many actors want to work with Marvel because they treat people well. It’s not the hoopla and the rigmarole of negotiating, then getting on set and then bickering about what happened in the negotiation … I felt from the first moment I was cast till the movie was finished that everybody … was just on set to make a good movie. All the egos and all that stuff were brushed aside. There was never a moment of ‘I’m the diva’ or ‘I’m the producer’, everybody just had a great time.

So what was your favourite moment on set?
Anthony: …The first time I got to fly – as horrifying as it was – it was great. They tether you to a crane and pull you up and let you go … That’s when you look at Sebastian and he goes ‘dude you’re going to diiie’. You see the fear in his eyes looking at you! [But] I wanted to do this movie because of all the action stuff. I feel like who can say that they’ve done that, you know.

Are you active chaps? Do you enjoy the training and physical stuff?
Sebastian:  Yeah well, it comes with the job. We don’t really have a choice in the matter … you need to be disciplined … and get eight hours of sleep and eat right for months at a time while all your friends are out partying.

Anthony: The thing about it is, physical fitness is a lifestyle. It isn’t something you can turn off and on, because if you don’t work out on Monday, the rest of the week is going to be hell. So you have to get yourself up Monday morning and do it. Stay away from the pizza and cheese and sauces!

Sebastian, you got the chance to play the villain and the good guy. Which did you prefer?
Sebastian: It’s nice because you get the chance to do a little bit of both. I feel it makes it a little bit  different. There were different dynamics than being just the moustache twisting [villain]. I didn’t have any of those cheesy lines so I lucked out with that.

Anthony: That’s my thing! Every time I think of playing a villain or I see someone that has the opportunity to play a villain I’m like, you just want to be like Jack Nicholson in Batman you know. You just want to be so big and over the top and hahaha (crazy laugh) grrrrrrrr. But we don’t get those opportunities anymore.

*Spoiler* Was it clear from the first moment to you that Bucky Barnes would turn into the Winter Soldier?
Sebastian: I remember … a few years ago they (Marvel) were educating me on all of that. I was getting really excited looking at them for the next few words, which were hopefully going to be ‘and that’s when we’re going to (turn you into The Winter Soldier)’ but they were never going to say they were going to do that. So no, I didn’t know at the time.

According to George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, big blockbuster films are the future. How do you feel about that?
Anthony: … And you’re talking about the two people that own modern film. Those two dudes, they created this whole genre so I ‘m sure they hope movies turn into that. But at the end of the day you still have to make movies for adults … there has to be some kind of balance. I think you’re seeing that more and more with the Academy Awards. You have movies like Her and Captain Phillips, you have these ‘actor’ pieces that people are appreciating and acknowledging and they’ll continue to be made.

Captain America The Winter Soldier opens in UK cinemas on 28th March.

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