By Stephanie Holland / Senior Staff Assistant
By Stephanie Holland / Senior Staff Assistant
As one of Marvel’s earliest heroes Captain America has always held a special place in the hearts of comic book fans.
He first appeared in 1941 in “Captain America #1,” as scrawny Steve Rogers, who volunteers for Operation: Rebirth and through scientific advances becomes Captain America.
The origins of Rogers’ story is being told in the Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures release “Captain America: The First Avenger.”
The film, which stars Chris Evans in the title role, hits theaters July 22.
Evans is no stranger to comic book roles, having previously appeared in the “Fantastic Four” movies, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and “The Losers.”
Even with that experience Evans admits that he was hesitant to take on such an iconic role.
“It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time. There are so many people who are so passionate about the film,” said Evans in a conference call interview. “A movie like this, you either win big or you lose big, and that’s daunting. So it certainly was in my head, and I was extremely apprehensive.”
Though he had those previous roles to draw on, Rogers is unlike other superheroes, in that he volunteered for service. This difference wasn’t lost on Evans.
“I think most superheroes, they either were born that way or they were given their powers by a freak accident. I think Steve Rogers is the only person who was really chosen,” Evans said. “Steve was chosen for his values and his morals,…because of who he is, and that’s a pretty admirable quality.”
The film is directed by Joe Johnston, whose previous directing credits include “October Sky,” “Jumanji” and “The Rocketeer.”
Johnston also worked on the effects team of the original “Star Wars” trilogy and won an Academy Award for his effects work in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
With all the moving pieces involved in making a film of this magnitude, having Johnston behind the camera provided Evans with a lot of confidence.
“Joe Johnston is fantastic. I had an amazing working relationship with him. He’s one of the best directors I’ve had the pleasure of working with,” Evans said. “He listens, he has no ego, he’s such a collaborator.”
Evans felt Johnston’s directing style really helped the atmosphere on set.
“He’s so interested in everyone’s opinion, and that makes for such a seamless process,” he said. “You feel heard and you feel involved…It is a giant collaboration, and he really goes out of his way to make sure that you feel listened to.”
“Captain America: The First Avenger” co-stars Tommy Lee Jones as Rogers’ commanding officer Col. Chester Phillips, Stanley Tucci as the scientist behind Operation: Rebirth, Abraham Erskine and Hugo Weaving as the evil Red Skull.
Working with an actor like Weaving was certainly intimidating, but it also made Evans work harder.
“Everything about Hugo belongs on film. And it’s intimidating and exciting to be able to work with such an iconic character, but at the end of the day, you’re just so happy that they cast the right guy for the job,” Evans said. “He’s only going to make the movie better.”
Though comic book fans are famously critical and protective of their favorite heroes, Evans tried not to let online commentary inform his performance.
“You have to make a decision early on when you decide to do a movie like this whether or not you’re going to let that stuff affect you, because there’s going to be an avalanche of opinion and critique, whether it’s good or bad,” he said.
Those same fans are also extremely loyal and that was something Evans wanted to respect.
“These movies wouldn’t get made if there wasn’t a built-in fanbase, they just wouldn’t,” he said. “So at the end of the day, your loyalty is to the people who are passionate about these comic books, so you want to make sure that they’re happy, first and foremost.”
Captain America is unlike other heroes, in that he isn’t mired in depression or haunted by his dark past. He overcame his adversity to become a hero when the nation needed it most.
That aspect of the character is what Evans relates to most and what he hopes the audience relates to.
“I like the fact that he’s not jaded. Life has dealt him a pretty lousy hand, but instead of being jaded and bitter, he manages to rise above and be a good man and do the right thing, regardless of the misfortunes life has dealt his way,” he said. “That’s an impressive attribute, that’s something that I think everyone can try to aspire to. And for that reason, I really thought it was a special superhero story.”
As Marvel continues to expand its Avengers universe on film, Evans is slated to appear in “The Avengers” in May 2012 with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Clark Gregg and Samuel L. Jackson.