Chris Evans is making (Captain) America great again
By Jim Washburn Globe Correspondent April 22, 2016
Captain America is not hip. In the 1940s, he was an Army corporal who only turned into Captain America once he got off KP duty. Then he’d go fight Nazis, dragging a child mascot along, seemingly untroubled that while he had a shield, young Bucky faced German machine guns with only a winsome smile. Subscribe Now
When Cap was reintroduced in Marvel comics in 1964, he’d been frozen in the Arctic for two decades, and seemed it. Marvel’s new generation of atomic-age superheroes were relatable — they had everyday problems and anxieties, and more often than not had a wisecracking worldview. They fought super villains and hung out in Greenwich Village or at campus protests.
Meanwhile, Cap still ran around in stars-and-stripes pajamas looking for remaindered Nazis to punch. He didn’t have much of a back story, aside from being comicdom’s oldest frozen entrée.
It’s no great wonder that when 1960s parents ordered kids to pare the comic book heap, Cap’s comics often were not the keepers. Even the Submariner — a guy with winged ankles who lived at the bottom of the sea — was hipper than Captain America.
“I collected comics as a kid, and Cap was not one of my favorite characters, for that reason,” says Joe Russo, who co-directs the new “Captain America: Civil War” along with his brother Anthony. “In my head, I used to imagine Steve McQueen playing him, just to give him a little more bite.”
Instead that role has, for at least the last five years, belonged to Boston native Chris Evans. Expanding on the franchise established in Marvel’s previous Cap and Avengers movies, “Civil War” opens nationwide on May 6.
“I had concerns about the character,” says Evans, interviewed recently in a Los Angeles hotel. “When I first played him, my biggest concern was that there is no part of him that has some deep, dark conflict that he wrestles against. He just wants to be a good man, wants to do what’s right. He’s willing to put himself last, to bury his interests for the betterment of the mass. That’s tough to portray nonstop.
“Thankfully, the guys at Marvel found ways to give him some personal struggle.”
Evans may be understating things a bit, since “Civil War” is practically the “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” of the Marvel cinematic universe, given the roiling animosity and more palpable things hurled by Cap and his fellow Avengers in the film. Every time the Avengers save the world, it seems, they inadvertently destroy a metropolis or two in the process, leading to government oversight being imposed on the group. Some Avengers, led by Iron Man, submit to that, while Cap and his faction rebel against being leashed.
The rift widens due to the actions, real or perceived, of Cap’s WWII partner Bucky, who reemerged in the previous Captain America film as the Winter Soldier, brainwashed by Russians and turned into a killing machine. Iron Man wants revenge on Bucky, as does the Black Panther (an African king in costume, the first black superhero when introduced in Marvel Comics in 1966, and portrayed here by Chadwick Boseman), while Cap tries to protect and redeem his old friend. The white-hot fury that Evans’s Cap and Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man bring to their violent clash can be disquieting to even hardened action film fans.
Evans — appearing bright-eyed and bearded in the midst of several days spent promoting the film — gave his interpretation of why it’s so jarring: “This is the first time Cap has prioritized his personal desire over the group’s needs, and it’s like watching a family torn apart.
“It’s easy to watch a film with clear-cut villains. This film is more akin to the struggles we have in life, where instead of good guys fighting bad guys, you have family members fighting family members. . . . There’s so much more at stake to lose than if you’re fighting a villain.”
The actor says he “wasn’t cool enough” to be a comic book fan as a kid. “If I’d had an older brother, maybe he would have introduced me to that, but having an older sister, I was destined to do whatever she was doing. So I was playing with Strawberry Shortcake characters and doing theater and puppet shows in her room.”
‘When I first played him, my biggest concern was that there is no part of him that has some deep, dark conflict that he wrestles against. . . . Thankfully, the guys at Marvel found ways to give him some personal struggle.’- Chris Evans on Captain America’s psyche
Evans studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Institute, and initially devoted himself to stage work before heading into television and film. He was pulled into the Marvel universe to play the Human Torch in 2005’s “Fantastic Four” and a sequel, then was tapped to play his current character in 2011’s “Captain America: the First Avenger.”
“The Winter Soldier” and Evans’s other Marvel efforts are a far cry from “The Winter’s Tale” — which he assayed onstage as a teenager — but he says the approach is the same.
“I don’t think stepping into a comic book world means all of a sudden you detach from your training as an actor. You’re still playing a character, someone who has a history and conflicts. He may have superhuman abilities and wear a silly costume half the time, but that doesn’t change your approach. You still have to ground it in something truthful.”
While Evans didn’t receive any particular training on reacting to green-screened characters and events that aren’t there, he says, “That begins when you’re a child. Most kids run around the yard with a bedsheet tied around their neck, talking to nothing and playing make believe. The most fun thing about the Marvel universe is a lot of the time the landscape doesn’t provide you a tangible environment to bounce off of. You are in front of a screen and you talk to tennis balls. So you tap into your child, the part that knew how to let go and make believe a little bit.
“That’s part of the joy of acting. How much of your consciousness can you let go of? What percentage of your brain do you have to leave in reality so you remember you have a line to say and a mark to hit? Then let’s get the other 90 percent of your brain to let go of that, to be listening, reacting, and believing that these things are happening. I tell you, there is nothing more fun than trying to untether yourself in a superhero world.”
Even during a press slog, Evans seems considerably more open and at ease than his Cap persona. In a separate interview Joe Russo maintains, “Chris is very different from the character he plays. He has a very big personality. He’s a lot of fun. He laughs a lot. “
“And he’s much more devious than Captain America is,” Anthony Russo adds, without elaborating.
Evans says he does try to carry a bit of Captain America around with him. Marvel Comics mastermind Stan Lee, now 93, makes a cameo appearance in every Marvel film, “and I always go hang out with Stan in his trailer. He’s the sweetest, nicest, most life-loving spirit. One day he said to me, ‘Don’t forget, who you are off-camera reflects who you are on-camera.’ That’s important, given how people view Captain America as a beacon: He represents something pure and good that we all aspire to. So, in a way I do carry the responsibility of striving to be that way off-camera, which is terrifying.”
He intentionally spends more time off-camera than many actors, explaining, “I may look back in 10 years and say I should have done more when the iron was hot, but I don’t live to make movies. I make movies to live. I love acting, but when I’m done with a film, I take the time to just live. I love to go home to Massachusetts.
“To me, Boston is friends, family, and home. My mother lives in Sudbury. I have a house in Concord, and I have relatives all over. I’ve thought a lot about what ‘home’ means. For me, it’s where my brain stops asking so many questions. You can go to a lot of beautiful places, but even in those places my brain is a very active animal. By no means do I look down on the activity of the mind, but I also think the healthiest thing you can do for yourself is silencing that noise. . . . If you’re able to take a breath, to be still and be present, that’s living life. That’s bliss. Massachusetts is the place where my brain feels the most calm.”
Jim Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the epic showdown Captain America: Civil War, Marvel has the superhero movie down to a fine art. Robbie Collin visits the set and asks: what's their secret power?
It’s a crisp August morning in Berlin, and I’m in what must be the most exciting underground car park in western Europe. Overhead is the International Congress Centrum, an abandoned, asbestos-poisoned, concrete and aluminium monster, glinting in the heart of Charlottenberg-Wilmersdorf, like the hull of a helicarrier that fell to earth in the finale of a superhero movie.
The car park is of the same retro-spaceship vintage: pale, glowing globes for lighting, and a distinctive tangerine tiling on the walls that should give anyone who’s seen The Bourne Supremacy or the final Hunger Games film a tingle of movie deja-vu.
This car park isn’t just a car park: it’s the concourse of Sheremetyevo International Airport, and the subterranean tunnels of the Panem Capitol. As of this morning, it’s also the Bucharest underpass where Captain America and Black Panther have their first public tussle in the forthcoming Marvel blockbuster, Captain America: Civil War.
“Can I even say that?” grimaces Cap himself, aka Chris Evans, in his trailer after lunch, after outlining the premise of the scene he’s just shot. “I don’t want to give too much away. Interviews for these films are hard.” Earlier, Evans was in his full white-and-blue regalia, brawling with co-star Chadwick Boseman on the tarmac, while they were encircled by a swarm of police cars. But now he’s back in mufti: dark tracksuit bottoms and a t-shirt tight enough to confirm not every piece of eye candy in the Marvel franchise is computer-generated.
Captain America: Civil War is Evans’s fifth Marvel Studios film – or seventh, if you count cameos, and he does. The suit feels like a “second skin” now, the 34-year-old actor says, but admits his confidence is a recent development.
He arrived on the Avengers set two months before his 30th birthday, and remembers the relief he felt halfway through the shoot, when his debut Captain America film, The First Avenger, was released and “wasn’t a horrible bomb”.
“I was so nervous about the character not being well-received by the fans that I just let Marvel do what they do, because they know the character best,” he says. Spool forward two years, and Evans was on the set of Cap’s second solo film, The Winter Soldier: a fan-favourite released in 2014 that strayed from the familiar superhero template into surveillance thriller territory (they even cast Robert Redford).
The Winter Soldier took three quarters of a billion dollars, almost two thirds of which came from non-US audiences. That’s not bad for a character conceived amid the star-spangled patriotism of the early 1940s, and which the Hollywood Reporter described in 2008, with understandable scepticism, as “perceived as a tough sale overseas”.
Evans cheerfully admits he can’t personally account for the series’ success. “I don’t really understand it,” he says. “There have been plenty of superhero films that have had trouble hitting the mark.” He’s just happy to be back on set, chasing franchise newcomer Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), saving old friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), and punching Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in the hashtag-friendly ideological title fight that’s at Civil War’s core.
Are you #TeamIronMan or #TeamCap? The answer depends on whether you believe, a la Stark, that the Avengers should be kept in check by a superhero registration act, or whether they should be left alone to fight for truth and justice in the Captain American way.
Evans’s ground-level bewilderment at the Marvel enterprise is understandable (he’s not even sure if the scene he’s just shot takes place in Germany or Romania). The studio has gone from Hollywood upstart to $4 billion Disney subsidiary in a breakneck eight years, with 13 films in the can, only one of which – 2008’s The Incredible Hulk – wasn’t a decisive commercial hit. This isn’t easy to replicate: just ask Warner Bros, who spent a reported $400 million on Batman v Superman in order to tee up their own superhero franchise, only to end up with a divisively dour, commercially unconvincing white elephant that whetted few people’s appetites for four years of more of the same.
It’s still a good seven months before the release of Batman v Superman, so the various Marvelites I meet on set are talking only in general terms. But Stephen McFeely, one of Civil War’s co-writers, tells me over a mid-morning bottle of water on the ICC forecourt that he’s uneasy with Hollywood’s obsession with darkness.
“I suppose Civil War is dark in that it has people you like on both sides fighting,” he says with a twang of reluctance, “but ultimately there’s nothing more cartoony than two superheroes fighting. It’s what you do when you’re eight years old: you have two action figures and smack them together. So we hope this film does not feel laden down with self-importance.”
If anyone here has a grasp of the bigger picture, it’s Nate Moore, Marvel’s 37-year-old vice-president of production and development, and a Civil War executive producer. He’s hanging around on set to check that CivilWar’s two-brother director team, Joe and Anthony Russo, are staying on schedule, “planning for contingencies”, and fretting about what’s going to happen tomorrow in Leipzig, where the final shots for the film’s crowning action sequence – a 12-person #TeamCap vs #TeamIronMan showdown, featuring the hotly anticipated debut of the new Spider-Man, played by 19-year-old British actor Tom Holland – will be captured at Leipzig/Halle Airport.
Moore talks about the Marvel operation in a way I’ve never heard a studio talk about their output before – he makes the films sound like fast-food Pixar. They may be rolled out fast for mass consumption, but each one is hammered and burnished to a golden gleam, with constant planning meetings, meticulous micro-management and a fix-at-all-costs mindset. Joe Russo will later chucklingly refer to the “endless dialogue” between writers, directors and producers and “the famous Marvel reshoots”.
It can evidently be gruelling. Joss Whedon, the director of the Avengers films, recently said at the Tribeca Film Festival that he was “beaten down by the process” during the making of the second, Age of Ultron, and “came off it feeling like a miserable failure”.
On Civil War, says Moore, even the film’s centrepiece battle royale was endlessly torn down and rebuilt “so that each character would have a proper moment, a proper story beat, and people who love any individual character would feel like their character was serviced. That’s pretty difficult.”
Moore joined the studio in 2010 via their now-defunct Writing Programme, a kind of screenwriting hothouse where five writers tore through as many Marvel comics as quickly as they could, scouring them for ideas that might somehow work on screen. One of his pet projects was Guardians of the Galaxy, a then-unknown 25-issue series Marvel turned into a $775 million summer blockbuster in 2014; he still harbours hopes that another obscure and short-lived series, Runaways, might eventually follow a similar route.
Moore was hand-picked by Kevin Feige, the studio’s elusive but all-powerful president, to shepherd The Winter Soldier through production: after that film’s success, Feige was keen to bring back the same “family” for the sequel.
That includes the Russos, and also co-writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who are lurking on set in case of last-minute rewrites. “Sometimes you get there on the day and the door you’ve written about turns out to be a window, and you have to adjust a little bit,” says McFeely. Sometimes, too, the cast want to tweak their dialogue – most often Downey, who’ll often rework his dialogue with the two writers to make it “more organic”: i.e., more Downey-esque.
“He has Tony’s entire trajectory mapped out in his head,” says Markus. “So he’ll say, ‘I think this is why I do these things,’ and we’re like, ‘That’s very interesting.’ So we’ll turn a wheel or two and his idea falls into place.”
Anyone familiar with Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s original Civil War comic-book series will be aware that the story ends with what should probably only be described in the vaguest, spoiler-skirting terms, as a ‘tragic event’. That would have made for a heck of a cliffhanger in the film too, but Markus and McFeely think that a major character’s death in a film has to count for more than it does the comics, where it’s rarely ever final.
“The audience’s instinctive reaction is ‘they’re not really dead’,” says Markus. “It’s not as powerful a card to play as you think….If you’re going to do it, you have to be fully committed to never seeing that character again.”
But, adds McFeely, that's not to say it’ll never happen. “It’s a question that will come up a lot more on the next Avengers movies,” he says. "Because that could the the end of one person’s story – or a lot of people’s stories.” A sideways glance to Markus. “But we don’t know who."
And Feige has to sign it off too. “We talk to him when we can get him,” says Markus. (Today, he’s at Marvel Studios HQ in Burbank, California.) “He’s a very busy man, but he’s deeply involved in story. He sees – and has seen, since he was the only one working for this company – how the whole thing is going to play out.”
It was on Feige’s instruction that the spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. was revealed to be riddled with Nazi-sympathising Hydra double agents in The Winter Soldier: “Occasionally, he’ll just come and drop a bomb like that and leave,” says Markus.
Feige’s “singular vision” is the Marvel secret, says McFeely. “Very often at other studios, this person has a final say on one thing, that person has the final say on another, and they may or may not be talking to each other.”
“But it’s also a complete faith in the properties,” picks up Markus. “There is very seldom somebody saying, ‘We’d get in a lot more 18-24 year olds if Captain America rode a skateboard’. You get that at other studios, where they’re just trying to dial up the knobs.” But Marvel’s confidence, he continues, is “purchased with its own success”.
“If there had been five bombs in a row, you can bet Cap would be on that skateboard,” he darkly adds.
By mid-afternoon, the Russos have a moment to talk. The Captain America/Black Panther clash is in the can, and the brothers look so tired, you might think they’d been stunt-doubling for both. The Winter Soldier’s success notwithstanding, these Italian-American boys always seemed doubly counterintuitive choices as Marvel helmsmen: one-time protégés of Steven Soderbergh, they’re midcentury European art-house buffs (their favourite film – this goes for both of them – is Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player), who made an unplanned swerve into comedy in 2002 with the Soderbergh-produced ensemble caper comedy Welcome to Collinwood. That in turn led them into the sitcom business: first Arrested Development, then Community, with the Owen Wilson rom-com You, Me and Dupree in between.
What’s in it for them, they say, is the sheer scale of the canvas they’re working on. The Winter Soldier allowed them to play in the 1970s conspiracy-drama sandpit, and in Civil War, they've indulged their love of Brian De Palma and David Fincher psychological thrillers.
Anthony, the older of the two, says the one thing they’ve always tried to avoid is making a superhero movie, with the familiar three-step arc: gain powers, learn to use them, battle monster. “We’ve seen those,” he says. “They’re just not interesting at this point.” Instead, they enjoy grafting comic-book characters onto more venerable genres – “mad-scientist-style,” as Joe puts it.
“Kevin [Feige] enjoys it as much as we do,” he says. “It’s become necessary to make these movies distinctive. You have to find something new to do.”
“And if you’re not a high quality film,” continues Anthony, “you’ll be dead by Friday 6pm. Social media alone will kill you. There’s nothing to hide behind any more.”
Given Batman v Superman’s 38 percent Friday-to-Saturday box-office tumble on its initial weekend, the Russos’ words seem eerily prescient – but the early enthusiasm for Civil War (the latest tracking figures suggest the fifth-biggest opening of all time) suggest they won’t be bitten by them just yet. And should the predictions come true, who knows what’s next? The wait for the first ever Truffaut-esque superhero film starts now.
One of my favorite things about interviewing big stars is when they prove that they are just as human as we are. Chris Evans was a stand out interview for me because he is so down to Earth. He came in the room smiling and left smiling. And that smile is infectious. We were all laughing and giggling. He may be Captain America but he makes jokes like he was just a normal guy on the street. Except being amazingly attractive and beyond talented. We were interviewing Paul Bettany about his role as Vision in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War movie and Chris Evans just walks on in to the room we were in and tells us hello. Best end to an interview EVER! Him and Paul hugged and laughed together. It was great. Just typing up our interview makes me want to see the movie again which will be in theaters on May 6th!
He told us that the hardest scenes to shoot were the ones with Robert Downey Jr. He had absolute respect in his voice when talking about RDJ and I was amazed by his answer.
Chris Evans – I think it’s harder doing scenes with Downey, because he’s such a force. He’s so good and he owns the oxygen. He comes in the room and he’s powerful and the spine of the film is that conflict. There’s a limited amount of scenes where it’s really just us, when we’re not fighting, just us talking. That’s the framework for the conflict. If you don’t invest in those moments, the conflict is going to be sour and fall flat. So those few scenes that we have where it’s just him and I were really intimidating, to make sure you match him. He’s scary because he’s so good. He’s just good at anything he does. He changes things on the fly so you just want to try and keep up sparring wise so that you can kind of hang with him. Those scenes were the most terrifying.
We asked Chris what his favorite superhero was growing up and I swear to you that all of us were hanging on his words when he started talking about his big sister. I have two big sisters and I know exactly how he felt growing up. I would have done anything for them to play with me because they were so much older and cooler than anything.
Chris Evans – Oh I didn’t have one. I had an older sister and I think anyone who has, you know, siblings. It’s funny like that’s why I want when I have kids, I’d love for my oldest child to be a girl, because I think it softens up the boy. We had my sister, me, and then my brother. You know, whatever Carly wanted to do, we did. So we, you know, My Little Pony and Care Bear that was it. I’m like you- just being in Carly’s room was a big deal. Just being in Carly room, you’re like (stage whisper to his younger brother) don’t mess it up, don’t- just sit here whatever she gives us to play with, that’s what we’re playing with. And she’d give us the fuzzy the My Little Ponies, the cheaper plastic ones.
Like most of the ones that we had, we were like fine, okay. You know, it was My Little Ponies, Cabbage Patch, Care Bears. I wasn’t cool enough to- I didn’t have a brother being like, GI Joe, you know, I, was, you know, a lot softer than that. So comic books were not on my radar. I liked Star Wars, which was maybe the coolest thing about me, but that was my dad being like please, please like Han Solo and I was like, but Tender Heart Bear! It’s not untrue, it’s really sad
Robert Downey Jr. Puts His Son to Bed Under Superhero Sheets (But Not Iron Man Ones!)
As one of Marvel’s most valuable leading men, Robert Downey Jr. frequently uses his superhero connections for good. He visits fans at children’s hospitals, invites special guests to attend movie premieres with him, and the Captain America: Civil War and Iron Man star seems happy to share his wares with his own kids, including son Exton, 4.
When PEOPLE caught up with Downey Jr. and his Civil War rival Chris Evans (a.k.a. Captain America) recently for a lively chat about finding humor in their superhero status, Downey Jr. revealed that he’s a big Captain America and Chris Evans fan, something he shares with his son.
“I was tucking my boy in last night when he fell asleep and I put a Captain America blanket on him,” Downey Jr. told Evans.
“Did you?” Evans asked in disbelief.
“Yeah, so that’s the last time I saw your face,” Downey Jr. said. “Keeping my kid safe.”
And lest you think the compliments were one-sided, Evans spent plenty of time talking about his Civil War costar.
“People know Downey as a phenomenal actor, but he’s a really great writer too, he really is,” admitted Evans. “It’s just crazy working with him.”
“My character’s name isn’t in the title,” Downey Jr. playfully interjected.
“But it’s just nuts working with someone like Downey where you’re just kind of like, ‘You’re Downey! You’re Downey!’ What am I supposed to say?” Evans added.
Downey Jr. said Evans has come into his own over the last few years, becoming more comfortable with his fame and place in Hollywood — even if he might not admit it outright.
“Evans plays very low status, he’s extremely shrewd,” he said. “You’re very shrewd. You can’t see it right now.”
For more from Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Iron Man? No, here’s why Captain America is Marvel’s most important Avenger franchise
By David Betancourt May 2 at 10:00 AM
On his 75th birthday, Captain America stands tall on screen.
JUST WHO is the single biggest character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Ask a typical comics-convention line and the most likely answer is Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. Tony Stark lights up every Marvel scene he’s in, whether he’s armored up or not. There’s a reason why Marvel pays mightily to ensure each return of Downey’s breakthrough superhero.
But what if we reframe the question to ask: Which Marvel Studios character has the best solo movie franchise?
Well, with Friday’s domestic release of “Captain America: Civil War,” the film’s title character will surely move to the top of Marvel’s cinematic totem pole. The Star Spangled Avenger’s new movie might even match the mega-events that are “Avengers” movies.
Of course, “Civil War” essentially is a team-up movie, too, but there’s a reason the filmmakers chose Cap to build such an event around.
At the center of the Cap-franchise success is actor Chris Evans. He has grown into being a perfect fit for the role, despite his initial uncertainly over accepting the role. (Evans had already played a Marvel hero on screen, of course, as the Human Torch in the dated “Fantastic Four” movies.) Marvel’s persistence in landing Evans to play Steve Rogers over multiple pictures has certainly paid off. The studio knew Evans was its Captain; it just needed Evans to figure that out.
(Rewatch Evans’s “Fantastic Four” performances now, by the way, and you can appreciate Evans’s underrated range. As Johnny Storm, Evans was a free-flying, hotheaded pretty boy who took nothing seriously — the polar opposite of the straitlaced moral leader that is Captain America.)
Marvel and Evans, of course, have had to grow and mature the character’s franchise. 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” mostly served its purpose, telling its World War II origin story (and introducing key MCU characters Agent Peggy Carter and Cap’s best friend, “Bucky” Barnes).
Adding to the glow of the Cap franchise, though, is the consensus that its second film, 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” is better than its first film, and early reviews suggest that the third installment might well be even better yet. Contrast that with the “Iron Man” franchise, in which the first film, it’s generally agreed, is the best in the Tony Stark trilogy.
The Captain America franchise has been buoyed, too, by the coming-aboard of the Russo brothers to steer the proceedings. Under Joe and Anthony Russo — who direct “Civil War,” too — the second film took on darker and more political tones than most MCU outings.
“The Winter Soldier,” as I’ve stated before, might well be the best Marvel movie ever. Yet if “Civil War” can surpass “Winter Soldier” creatively, it would achieve the uncommon feat of a third film in a franchise being the best of the bunch.
Marvel smartly continues to foster its next generation of cinematic heroes. But for now, Captain America remains the biggest gun as the best solo Avenger on film, given his cinematically chiseled body of work.
Joe got into some more specifics, detailing how they accomodate the various ways their stars like to work. Chris Evans is technical, Chadwick Boseman is method, and Robert Downey Jr. is organic.
Of course, we work differently with different actors because they’ll have a different process. Chadwick is a very method actor. He shows up on set in character, stays in character, stays in accent because he finds its helpful for him to be transformative.
Chris is an extremely technically gifted actor. All his work is done before he gets to set. He understands the script, he understands what he wants from the scene and he nails it.
Downey is very organic – the process with him. He really wants to get under the skin of each scene, so what we’ll do is on a Sunday before we shoot his scenes that week, we’ll go over to his house with Markus and McFeely and we’ll go through his scenes and he’ll do a lot of improv and there’s a lot of discovery. If there are great lines that come up, we re-work them into the script and we work the scene in so that the story structure — so that there’s still finality to the story structure, but we get his passion and emotion in the content.
Speaking more broadly, Joe detailed their approach to giving actors the space, simplicity and focus they need to focus purely on the scene at hand without getting derailed by overthinking it.
Our language — the way that we deal with most actors is we don’t like to get very complicated because we don’t want them to think too much because we find it takes them out of the moment. We roll the camera for extended takes, we’ll do six, seven, eight takes in a row because we find by take two or three they’re not thinking about anything other than what’s happening in the scene. They become very present to the scene, and the more you stop and people have a smoke or go to the restroom the more diffuse the energy can become and the more diffuse the focus can become.