Chris Evans is a proud Bostonian with the kind of All-American good looks that Hollywood loves. So it's hardly surprising that he was chosen to play Steve Rogers — aka Captain America — in Marvel Comics' multi-billion dollar superhero films.
In person, Evans is about as down-to-earth as you can get, much like his comic book character alter ego. Evans's chiseled features and straight-arrow personality are ideally suited to playing an iconic comic book figure known for his deep sense of virtue and responsibility, in contrast to the often conflicted or troubled superheroes fighting alongside him.
In Captain America: Civil War, that contrast provides dramatic tension with serious consequences. Steve Rogers finds himself in a moral dilemma when he and Tony Stark/Iron Man take opposing views about whether the world's superheroes should agree to be placed under control of an international governing body. Their conflict grows to include other heroes; some fall into line behind Iron Man and others go rogue with Captain America.
"Cap...is a good man and his moral compass is probably the cleanest," Evans explained about the rift. "This is a tough thing. This is what made it so interesting while we were filming, and hopefully what will make the movie great is that nobody's right, nobody's wrong. There's no clear bad guy here. (Steve and Tony) both have a point of view, which is akin to most disagreements in life and politics."
Civil War marks Evans's fifth time in the role of the true blue Captain America, which leaves him only one more film left in his six picture, mega-million contract with Marvel. In the meantime, however, he realized his long-time ambition to direct when he helmed the romantic drama Before We Go. Released last year, the film told the story of two strangers (Evans and British actress Alice Eve) who meet by chance in New York City and whose relationship plays out over the course of an eventful 24 hours. When his days as Captain America are over, Evans intends to pursue his directorial ambitions more intensely, describing himself as "the kind of guy who likes to do everything on the set."
Evans, 35, grew up in comfortable surroundings in Boston, Mass. where his mother served as the artistic director for a theatre company and his father was a dentist. As a teenager he began nurturing serious ambitions of becoming an actor and after finishing high school he moved to New York City and eventually landed a role in the TV series, Opposite Sex. Before becoming Captain America, he played a different superhero — The Human Torch in Fox's original Fantastic Four franchise — and has since earned critical acclaim for his role in the cult action film Snowpiercer as well.
Chris, what is the core of the dilemma facing your character in Captain America: Civil War?
In the previous films, Steve Rogers knew who the enemy was and who to fight against. But this time, Cap is struggling in different ways and trying to figure out his responsibilities. He just doesn't know who to be and Tony doesn't make it easy for him.
What makes it so interesting for me is that for the first time Cap is thinking about his own needs because in the past he's been so selfless. He's always been this very noble and sympathetic character but now he's wondering whether he should keep putting himself last. I was glad that he gets to have a more personal agenda.
Has it been exciting for you to see Captain America and all the other characters evolve over the years in the Marvel Comics universe?
Marvel has an incredible ability to bring all these characters together and make the stories work and make great movies. It's been exciting to watch how Marvel is evolving the characters and bringing their different universes together. They know how to weave it all together.
What is the basis of the conflict between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers?
Tony actually thinks we should be signing these accords and reporting to somebody. Cap, who's always been a company man and has always been a soldier, actually doesn't trust (in that) anymore. Given what happened in (the previous film), I think he kind of feels the safest hands are his own.
These are understandable concerns, but (Cap also) agrees with Tony in a way, and I do agree that to make this work, you do need to surrender to the group. It can't just be one person saying this is right and this is what we're going to do. But Cap has his reasons... Tony and Cap are friends, but on this issue, like it happens so often in life, they disagree as friends and that makes it even more dramatic and difficult.
You're good friends with Chris Hemsworth (Thor). It must be fun for you to keep getting to work together?
What's been great for us is how we've bonded over the years. We've been through this journey together and we were both kind of apprehensive and nervous when we started out in these films. Neither of us knew how things would turn out and we've been able to kind of talk about it and have this brotherly support for each other. I'm very glad to have been able to get to know Chris and become good friends with him.
You seem to be a pretty gregarious guy. Does that make it more interesting for you to play a more reserved personality like Captain America?
I'm very different from Cap. He's very inward-looking and not very comfortable being open with his emotions. I'm very honest and direct with people and I don't like hiding what I think about things. It's not very tough to get to know me.
You've long been nurturing ambitions as a director and recently you got a chance to make your directorial debut with Before We Go. What was that experience like for you?
Directing is something I've been aiming toward for a long time. I love acting and I will always love that. It's very fulfilling. But as an actor you're only a small piece of the overall puzzle and I love being in control when it comes to the process. If I could, I would get involved in every aspect of a film — the lighting, the camera work, the sets. I love all of it. As a director, you get to put all the pieces together and the trick is to bring all that creativity into one satisfying whole.
But I also love the process of collaboration with people who are all very talented at what they do. I wanted to do this film because I felt the story was intimate and small enough that I wasn't taking on too big a challenge the first time out.
Your character Nick in that film is also very different from your Captain America self.
That was another thing that interested me about the story. Nick was very articulate and expressive. He loves to talk and charm people and is very open about his feelings. That was a nice change for me from playing Cap who keeps his emotions and thoughts much more to himself.
Do you want to direct more films?
That's my goal. I love acting from the creative point but I'm not very comfortable with the celebrity that comes with it. The media attention can be tiring at times and also you have to train for months and go on special diets. As a director you don't have to do any of that. You can just throw yourself completely into the process of telling a story and bringing all the creative elements together. That's why directing means so much to me.
I want to be able to tell stories that capture small moments between people that everyone can relate to. I especially love stories about families which explore relationships between fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers. That's why one of my favorite films is Legends of the Fall. I think that film tells a beautiful story about loyalty and pride and family. I would love to make movies like that where small moments have such profound meaning.