When the Avengers first assembled in 2012, no one really cared about that out-of-time soldier in the old-fashioned, ridiculously tight costume (“Hey Captain, how’d you do it in the bathroom by the way?”). Likewise, to be honest, no one really cared about Chris Evans. In spite of his remarkable good look and sex appeal, and the fact that he had been in the industry for a decade – his filmography varies from superheroes blockbusters Fantastic Four to critically acclaimed director Danny Boyle’s sci-fi flick Sunshine, Evans ranked nearly lowest among his Avengers colleagues in term of recognition. Anyone would assume that not being a household name at the time, Chris Evans would have jumped at the chance to star in one of the highest grossing franchises ever made – seriously, who would turn down a superhero role in the golden age of comic books adaptation? But Evans did. He said no, several times; Marvel had to go the length from contract adjustment, to Robert Downey Jr.’s personal call to talk the young actor into taking Captain America. As much doubt and anxiety as he had, Chris Evans eventually has not regretted his decision to wear the suit and shield. He should not. Didn’t Chris Evans ever notice Captain Rogers and he himself have so much in common?
The underdog ego
Captain America started out as a scrawny kid from Brooklyn, who had nothing other than his best friend Bucky, and a strong willingness to do the right thing, carrying the weight of everyone else on his shoulder. Among the Avengers, Captain America was clearly out-of-place – he could not understand most of the reference jokes, not to mention he talked like a grandfather, especially around naughty boy Tony Stark. While the rest of the team are either a mighty god of thunder or a big iron suit shooting missles, Steve Rogers strikes somehow as an outdated science experiment; Stark sarcastically put it “everything special about you comes from bottles.”, and he was not completely wrong. During the epic fight, Cap was struggling not only to fight aliens in New York, but also to prove he deserves a place in the superheroes squad. His underdog days seem to leave so strong a mark that even Steve is not ready to let go.
Off the set, Chris Evans himself stated that he felt more related to the underdog Steve Rogers than his superhero alter ego. Since he kicked start his career as a high school pin-up boy from Not Another Teen Movie, it’s quite hard to imagine Evans went through a difficult time during his teenage years. Well, he did not, but it wasn’t an easy time either. Growing up for him was “a bumpy road”, and he was not always the eye candy he is now. The insecurity, however, originates more from his own career. Before he was Captain America, people vaguely remember Chris Evans as heartthrob/ troublemaker Human Torch from the not-so-good franchise Fantastic Four long ago. Worse off, they could even show a picture of naked Evans from Not Another Teen Movie, whipped cream on this crotch and a banana up his ass (a moment Evans admitted to be the most embarassing in his entire career).
As hard as it was for Evans to walk around that set naked, by the time he was offered Captain America it was definitely not easier for him to walk around proud of his past works. “I’ve done 20 movies, and I’m proud of only three of them.” After his first breakthrough role in the mentioned teen movie, Evans landed the lead role in Cellular, the thriller that could have been a big shot. But then again “it did not go anywhere”. That was when Chris Evans bitterly realized starring in a movie “does not mean you have a career”.
It’s not like Evans did not try to diversify his performances, but the right opportunity just did not come. He was in some ways unfairly typecast as the rom-com guy, or comics book adaptation material, not the type serious film directors would choose. In 2006, Evans auditioned for Fracture, in which he would get the chance to star opposite Anthony Hopkins. The audition went great, and Chris Evans even had some discussions with the director; nonetheless Ryan Gosling was finally the one who got picked. (Gosling was a good choice though. It was revealed later that Sir Anthony Hopkins was a huge influence in picking Gosling over other actors). Evans also lost Milk to James Franco. Those two movies, both were well-received, could have totally shifted his career in a whole different direction. Evans had to wait until 2011 for another major break-through, which he was not even sure at the time would be a kick, or would bury his career down to dirt.
The twisted point is that Chris Evans did make good movies, but the things people remembered him in were mostly the ones he was not overly proud of. Take Sunshine for example – Evans cited the film as his best work that unfortunately no one saw. They, instead, hit the cinema to see him in the blue tights of Fantastic Four. Puncture was also a notable revelation of Evans’ true capability and acting range, only that the movie barely made money in the box office. “No one sees my good little movies, man. I would have had a different career if they saw that.” – he laments. Could it be more sad but true? No matter what kind of performance he gave, some people still see him only as a guy in a suit. That’s why Evans had so much doubt when Captain America struck down his career path – he could not afford another bad movie, especially when it’s a movie that big. It was like… Steve Rogers stepping into that transformation machine. It could have destroyed him.
Opposing personalities… not so much
While Steve Rogers is the Boy Scout that could do no wrong, Chris Evans appears to be more of a laid-back, fun-loving guy. Steve wants people to mind their language – Chris could sometimes throw the f-bomb right in the middle of an interview. Steve would respect your privacy distance – Chris would approach people, playfully pinch them, grab their boobs when he’s over excited, and laugh like there’s nothing funnier in the world. The way he talks reminds people of a cheerful grown up Peter Pan, not a well-grounded, mild-mannered soldier.
But when it comes to vulnerability, Chris Evans shows a lot more depth than the happy going guy on the surface. Suffering from anxiety attack, Evans was very unconfortable dealing with the press, which is a part of being an actor. Before taking the role Captain America/Steve Rogers, he seeked help from therapy to prepare himself for the major change in his life style that the franchise would bring about. Yet if we compare his interviews back in 2011 when he was promoting The First Avenger, with recent interviews for Avengers: Age of Ultron, we see how far Chris Evans has gone, from a nervous actor hiding under his cap, cautiously answering questions, to a more relaxed and funny guy who could even play along with interviewers. This nervousness and anxiety are deeply rooted way back when he was in Fantastic Four. Let’s face it: terrible could be a strong word, but those definitely weren’t good movies. And Evans was well aware of that. The franchise opened the door to superstardom, but at the same time took away what he always wanted: the pride of making quality art. The 20-year-old Chris Evans may have been hungry for fame, but at heart he wants to be a serious actor. He signed onto those blockbusters which everyone knows about, and had to go from this press conference to that event to tell people that was a movie worthy of their time – something he deeply did not believe in. That was dishonest. For a guy who was not afraid to frankly admit most of his films suck, sitting in front of the press and telling lies must have been something he would kill to get out of. And didn’t Steve Rogers once say he’s always honest? Chris Evans, pretty much, is, too.
Just a phase of life
Fantastic Four may be bad, but most people would agree Chris Evans actually nailed his part as Johnny Storm. Well, he basically IS Johnny Storm. But Chris Evans has been phenomenal as Captain America, too – he’s made the unimpeachable liberal crusader so believable that fans can’t imagine anyone else in the star and stripes suit. Now, at 33, the actor believes he is growing closer to Captain America – more matured and responsible. Marvel did a great job casting Chris Evans in both franchises – they just kidnap him exactly when he was going through phases of life that perfectly suit the characters.
Chris Evans’ Marvel contract will end roughly around 2018. After that, whether Evans will push his acting career further into the academic area, or choose to halt the acting life to pursue something else, is an open question for him. However great he has been as Captain America, hopefully he will leave the character behind, as maybe he “was meant for more than this”. Da Ly