Overseas, the release of Captain America: The First Avenger is being met with glowing reviews from audiences and critics, all of whom are enamoured with the movie’s retro set pieces, fun action scenes and snappy humour. The film, which debuts in the UAE on September 1, sees 30-year-old American actor Chris Evans adopting the role of Steve Rogers: a military volunteer who becomes the iconic Marvel comic-book superhero, originally created in 1941 during World War II to inspire American patriotism. Evans is no stranger to superhero roles, having played the Human Torch in the 2005 and 2007 Fantastic Four films, also inspired by the Marvel series. This latest role, for which he is signed on for six movies, is likely to make Evans a household name and, considering the box-office success of Marvel heroes in the UAE (Iron Man 2 was the fifth highest-grossing film in the country in 2010, with takings of over Dhs8.2 million), we’ll be surprised if that doesn’t include the Middle East.
What was it about this role that made you think, ‘I want to play that guy’?
If you’re playing a character all day, you’re going to take a piece of that character home. With Steve, you couldn’t want to play a better guy. He has nothing. He’s short. He’s little. Girls want nothing to do with him. He’s sick. None of it makes him a bad person. He doesn’t turn on anybody. He still chooses to be a good guy, and it isn’t for anybody. It isn’t so someone can tell him ‘good job’. It’s a really pure existence. I know one person like that. If you’ve got to be stuck playing a character for the next 10 years, I’m glad it’s him.
It took five minutes and a couple of injections for Steve to become Captain America. How long did it take you?
We did two hours of training every day for about three months. I’ve been in the gym a lot, but the eating… I’m very skinny naturally, and if I don’t work out I lose weight so fast. You get to a point where you’re just like, ‘I can’t eat another piece of chicken,’ but you have to. I felt bloated for three months.
Do you think it’s bad that it takes muscles to become a chick magnet?
When he was wimpy, girls looked the other way. It sucks to say it, but isn’t that the world we live in? The good thing is the muscles don’t change Steve. It’s not like he gets the muscles and all of a sudden, he’s like, ‘Whoa, I’m a hotshot and forget this moral rubbish. I’m going to be a smooth operator.’ He understands the value of what he didn’t have and remembers it when he gets it.
How weird was it for you to watch yourself as a wimpy guy?
Not weird at all. I was wimpy my whole life. When I saw it, I was like, ‘Oh, that was me, freshman year.’ It’s hilarious, actually. My family and friends all saw the trailer and they were like, ‘That’s you, man.’ I’m going to release a couple of photos. I need to show some photos of me when I was 15 and 16. It’s not too dissimilar from early Steve.
Was that your biggest concern? Why were you thinking of rejecting the role?
I’m not very good with fame. It’s fun, but try it for six months and I guarantee you’ll have days where you’d give anything to turn it off. It’s a huge commitment. It’s a six-picture deal – they could spread that over 10 years. What if I don’t want to act? What if I want to move to India? What if I meet a woman I want to marry, and make 10 babies with and live on a farm? Can any of you make a decision [that lasts] for the next 10 years of your life?
Marvel heroes are characterised by their internal conflicts. Spider Man is propelled by guilt; Iron Man is arrogant and learns humility. What about Captain America?
That’s the issue. When I first read the script, I thought, ‘There’s a risk of being bland. I don’t know what his internal struggle is. He starts out a great guy, he ends a great guy. Where’s the conflict?’ But there’s a time where he has to remember why he’s been given this power.
Director Joe Johnston said you texted him to thank him for making a film you were proud of. What generated that pride?
It’s a good movie. I’ve been part of movies that, when I’ve been to see them, I’d have give the money back if they could have taken me out of the movie. I didn’t feel that way about this.
Yet you had concerns about this project because of previous disappointments. What were those concerns and how did you make up your mind?
You can work on a script until you’re blue in the face. I’ve been part of movies for which I felt the script was just right, but they still didn’t work. At some point, you’ve got to let go and trust your director.
Captain America is in UAE cinemas from September 1.
Hayley Atwell on her Captain America co-stars
Starring alongside Chris Evans as Peggy Carter, Captain America’s love interest, 29-year-old Brit actress Hayley Atwell shares her reactions to her famous colleagues
On Hugo Weaving: ‘When he was in his Red Skull outfit, I was absolutely terrified. He stood differently and there was this evil in his eyes – I don’t know how he’d been able to generate it in the space of about 24 hours. It was quite alarming, but he has a great sense of humour and he’s great fun.’
On Tommy Lee Jones: ‘Very funny, with a very dry sense of humour, which the Brits love, so I lapped it up. He comes in and does his part and then, you know, goes off fishing or writes an opera or something.’
On Chris Evans: ‘Chris is actually a great tap dancer and a really good singer. He was great fun.’
Russia, South Korea and Ukraine have accepted Marvel and Paramount’s offer – made to a number of foreign territories – to drop the first part of the film title, and will screen it as The First Avenger. The decision was made after it was anticipated the words ‘Captain America’ would have a negative impact on its popularity.