Sure, these days all comic and movie fans can talk about is when it’s going to become officially official that actor Chris Evans has signed on to play the titular star-spangeled avenger in Marvel Studios “The First Avenger: Captain America.” But well before red, white and blue tights were in the cards for Evans, he was in the middle of filming his second straight comic book film for the 2010 summer season, taking on the role of Jensen in the Slyvain White directed Warner Bros. adaptation of Andy Diggle and Jock’s Vertigo series “The Losers.”
While in Puerto Rico to check out the set of the action flick, CBR got a chance to sit down with Evans in his trailer for a lengthy talk on what makes Jensen the ribald member of the Losers team, how he felt Jock portrayed him in the film’s poster, why he keeps making comic book movies and what the best parts of working with director Edgar Wright on “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Universe” were. And while the interview took place long before Steve Rogers came into the picture, comic fans may get an idea for why Evans would be interested in signing up for a second tour of duty in the Marvel Comics milieu.
CBR News: So, Chris, can you tell us a little about your character in “The Losers?”
Chris Evans: I play Jensen. Jensen is a…he’s the computer expert. He’s the hacker in the bunch. Kind of the, you know, he cracks the jokes and I guess provides the comic relief in the comic book and they kind of try to translate that into the script. We’ll see.
I have to ask, it’s sort a joke-around question, but is it in your contract that you’ll only do comic book movies right now?
I know, right? Isn’t it ridiculous? It really is ridiculous. I know. There’s been a string of them. It seems like that’s what everyone’s making. There’s a surplus of them around Hollywood. They make great movies, you know?
Does that weigh into your decision at all? Was there any sort of hesitancy when you got this script and you found out it was based on a graphic novel?
Not really. I mean, it’s such a broad category, you know what I mean? Yes, it’s a comic book movie, but that’s like saying, if you’ve done one drama, you don’t want to do another drama, but it’s such a different comic book. All the comic book movies I’ve done have been so radically different. They happen to all be…you can find them all in the comic book store, but I think they’re all incredibly…they’re all different families.
With so many different ones floating around Hollywood these days, what helps you or what makes you decide which script to choose?
It really has nothing to do with the comic book. It comes down to…it’s a movie. I look at as a movie. Whatever it comes from, whether it comes from a novel, whether it comes from a previously made film; it’s about this movie. Who’s the director? Who’s the producer? Who’s the cast? That’s all that matters. If it came from a comic book, so be it. If it came from anything else, it doesn’t really matter to me.
“The Losers” seems like it’s almost a throwback to a fun 80’s movie.
Can you talk about maybe some of your favorite 80’s films and how do you think it compares to some of them?
Well, that seems to be the tone that they’re going for, especially with Joel Silver [being the executive producer.] All the “Die Hards” and the “Lethal Weapons” and those movies were just…they were great. They had action, but the character chemistry just was fantastic, and it left room for jokes and laughs and it didn’t take itself too seriously. I loved “Die Hard.” Bruce Willis was my hero for a while.
Can you talk a little bit about what scene you were doing today?
Sure. This is towards the end of the movie, [so] I don’t want to give too much away. We’ve been captured by the man who set us up and we think we’re about the kick the can. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll say Zoe comes and saves the day and kind of gets us out of a hot situation.
All the characters have very unique outfits and styles – what’s your look?
Well, if you’ve seen the comic book, Jensen is pretty crazy. He usually wears very bright colors and Hawaiian shirts, and he has the bleach blonde hair and this ridiculous facial hair that I have. He’s definitely a little more wild. I don’t think we went as extreme as the comic book is, but this is probably the most tame outfit I have. He’s usually in, you know, ridiculous reds and pinks and greens and oranges and things like that. It’s fun!
Jock, the artist who drew the comic, did that poster with all you guys when they announced the cast. Do you think he nailed you pretty well when you saw the version of you with the glasses in there?
Yeah, I think so. I didn’t see too much of a difference between that and the comic book. You know what I mean? I think they tried….he has such a specific look in the comic book. I think if you put anyone in the right sideburns, facial hair and Lennon glasses, you know, he’ll look like Jensen.
How much of a comedic take do you bring to this character?
[The writers] try to give him a decent amount of jokes, you know? He’s the goofy one. He doesn’t take things too seriously. He’s the one that kind of loves life and he’s always looking for a joke, so they give him a pretty decent amount.
You’re the computer hacker. Do you know shit-all about computers?
No! I can barely check my e-mail. It’s so funny doing fake computer acting, you know? There’s a couple scenes where I have to…it’s so funny. I know dick about computers, but the props they give me…it’s not just a simple laptop. It’s really hi-tech computer stuff. These, I don’t even know what they’re called, just kind of like hand-held screens with these little pencils and touch-screens and really advanced shit. I’m just clunking around like I know what I’m doing, but I think I pull it off.
Was there any sort of prep work you had to do with anyone? Someone that came in and showed you don’t do this or do that so you look like you know what you’re doing?
For computer stuff? Oh no, no, no. It’s so quick. The stuff we wanted to look like we know what we’re doing was the military stuff. They had someone come in and we had military training for a few weeks. That’s the stuff that’s probably a little bit more in-depth in the movie, and if you look like a rookie that won’t sell.
Switching gears for a minute, can you tell us what your experience was like while working on “Scott Pilgrim?”
It was fantastic, man. You always say this, and I want to say, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had on a movie, but it’s probably that’s it’s the most recent movie and it feels like it was the most fun. But if that’s an indicator, so be it. It was fantastic. The only problem was that I only worked for 3 weeks. That movie was [worked on for] 5-6 months, and it was just heart-breaking having to leave. I got to do…I was up there before they started shooting, doing some physical training and stuff like that with the cast, and everyone was just so awesome. Just so nice, you know what I mean? It’s so nice working with…I know it sounds obvious and basic, but just nice people. And they’re incredibly successful, phenomenally talented – everyone. Michael Cera and Jason Schwartzman and Kieren [Culkin] and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. They’re all just amazing people and just the kindest, funniest most wonderful people to work with. They just wrapped a couple weeks ago.
You play Lucas Lee, who is in a way a flip version of Jason Lee, who was a professional skateboarder before he became an actor.
Did you think about that? Do you know Jason at all?
No, I don’t know Jason, but someone actually mentioned that. The thing about Jason is, although they do have the similarities of skateboarding and acting, Jason – from the interviews I’ve seen – seems like a very modest, down to earth guy, and he’s incredibly funny and incredibly likeable. Lucas Lee is kind of a guy you’d want to smack in the face. He’s a horrible actor. Jason Lee was hilarious. Jason Lee is a phenomenal actor. Lucas Lee is like from the Steven Segal school of acting.
One of the things about the way Edgar Wright makes movies is that he does these quick cuts and there’s all these little bits. Did you have to do a lot of that, like, turn on the skateboard 30 times and get all those kind of film things?
Yeah, well there’s a lot of quick cuts. It’s not necessarily quick cuts – it’s that he just has the movie edited in his mind already. He knows exactly what he wants. He knows exactly what he needs. You could do one take and he can come up and say, “Look, I got what I needed. If you want another one you can have it but I’m good.” And you just trust him. I’ve never felt so secure with a director. He gets his days because, you know, again, there’s no fat. He’s not working anything out in the day. He’s done his homework. He’s on-set like a machine and I’ve never seen producers give him so much…give a director so much freedom. They really let him do…they have so much confidence that he knows exactly what he wants, and he does. And, it’s funny, you try and…the lines will be written in way that’s very informative, and it definitely indicates a certain line reading, and you try and say “Well, I’ll try something outside – out of the box,” or you give a suggestion and he’s like, “Okay,” and he’ll let you do it. But then he always says “Well, just try it the other way,” and he’s always right. His direction is always spot-on. What he initially wanted is always the right thing. I feel completely safe in his hands. Actually, I have a lot of confidence and faith in that movie. I really think it’s going to come out pretty cool.
So, do you like “Shaunof the Dead” or “Hot Fuzz” more?
I’m going to say…well that’s a tough one. I liked “Shaun” for a while. It was my first experience with Edgar Wright, and I loved it. I thought it was fantastic. The more I see “Hot Fuzz,” the more I think it’s a great movie. They’re just brilliant movies. They’re so well thought out. The guy’s just a wizard when it comes to filmmaking.
I remember when “Hot Fuzz” came out, it was like they announced he was doing “Scott Pilgrim” right before it hit theaters, and everybody was like “Wait. Are they going to do all seven boyfriends in one movie? How are they going to do that?” But then you see “Hot Fuzz” and see how much he crams into that movie.
There’s nothing by accident. There’s nothing that you have to imagine in the post-period of filmmaking…a lot of things have to happen spontaneously. A lot of things don’t go as planned. If you have to cut and paste plot points, if you have to…sometimes you have to edit on the fly and re-think things as they happen. I can’t imagine any of that shit happens in Edgar’s [movies.] There’s no room for it. There has to be a plan from the beginning, and it is executed perfectly. Whatever ends up in the theatre is exactly what he had planned from day one. This is brilliant.
Do you get to do much ad-libbing with “The Losers?”
Sometimes. Sometimes. Not as much as I have had in other movies. Joel Silver and Akiva Goldman have been very involved in the script process, and we did a lot of rehearsals with them. I think we got the script to a place that everyone was happy and agreed upon. And I think going off book a little bit, you know, you just want to say, “Look we all agreed on a certain script. Let’s stick with that script, and that’s fine.” Sometimes that’s the way you make movies, and I’m totally okay with that. Akiva and Joel know what they’re doing, and I’m with that. It actually exercises different muscles. Sometimes ad-libbing can almost be a little bit of a crutch, and it can be something that could turn into a bad habit. I’m not saying that it is. Sometimes ad-libbing is the key to magic.
In preparing for this role, did you go back to the graphic novels? Was there anything you were able to find there that helps you with your character or was it simply from the script?
Sure, well, you know they were very similar. A lot of scenes from the script were taken right out of the graphic novels, so the hardest thing was when you see a scene in the script that was from one of the comic books, and you’d say, “Well, okay. This is the tone I should have and this is the way it’s going to be shot,” and that’s not necessarily the case. You’d think, “Well, I have a complete idea of what this scene’s going to be based on the fact that I’ve kind of already seen it in comic book form almost as a storyboard.” When you go out on the set, it’d look much different or have a different tone or a different feel. You’d say “Okay. I have to stop using the graphic novels as a reference. That was that. This is this. Let me get direction from my director and I’ll go from there.”
You know, it’s a starting point for certain scenes. You just have to ask. You just have to talk to Sylvain. “I know there’s scenes in the movie – is it like the comic book?” And he could say “Yeah, it’s actually going to be…even the shot where you do this and the shots through the hand and that’s what this shot will be.” So okay great. Or he could say “No, forget the comic book completely,” and [then I have to] say “You just tell me what you want, and you’re the painter. I’m the paint. Tell me what you want.”
Obviously a film like this could lead to other sequels. For you, as an actor, are you a little nervous when you sign onto something that might be a multi-picture kind of thing? Or are you sort of like, they’re only going to make it if it’s, you know…
Well, that’s the problem. You think they’d only make it if it’s good. The problem is, they only make it if it makes money, and that’s good and making money are not synonymous. That’s why you avoid those multi-picture contracts. Sometimes you have to do it, you known – movies like “Fantastic Four,” those massive movies. They say, “Look, if you don’t want to sign a multi-picture contract, we’ll find somebody else.” Movies like this, you can negotiate. I think most actors would avoid trying to do multi-picture contracts, just because you never want to have your arm twisted in any way. Even if it’s a fantastic movie, even if you can’t wait to make the sequel, it’s just always better in any respect, in any aspect of life to not be forced to have to do something.
Is there a certain type of role or script that you get more than others?
I don’t know. Not really. It’s so funny, my agent and I always joke about this. It’s so funny, the climate or whatever the opinion is of me within the acting world, my agent said it’s so funny how hot and cold it gets. You know, sometimes he’ll submit me for a comedy and they say “Well, Chris Evans…does he do comedy?” And he’ll say, “Of course!” But then submit me for a drama, and they say “Does he do drama?” And he says “Well, yeah. He’s done like five of them.” So, not really, to answer your question in a very round about and vague way. Not really. It’s all across the board, you know? A lot of times I’m going into rooms with people really only knowing me from “Fantastic Four,” and I don’t know if you can all that comedy. I don’t know what that is.
Of course, I have to ask you – Fox has gone on record that they’re planning on rebooting “Daredevil, and they’re going to reboot “Fantastic Four.” What are your thoughts on this?
I think it’s great. I’m sure it’ll be a great movie. They do that with a lot of movies. Sometimes sooner, sometimes later. “Batman,” “Superman,” “Incredible Hulk.” Sometimes it’s a 10-year gap, sometimes it’s 5-years, sometimes it’s 20-years. I think there’s room to readjust the tone in “Fantastic Four” as it was for “Batman.” You know, “Batman” took on a very cartoony feel towards the end, and even in the beginning it was a lighter movie, even though it was Tim Burton. It was still a lighter film, and the newer Batman’s have just been amazing, so I’m all for good filmmaking. If they can go make a good, dark, edgy “Fantastic Four,” right on.
Would you object to going back to doing “Fantastic Four,” or are you sort of like, “I’ve done this and let’s have a new team do it?”
I guess it would depend. I mean I’m never against revisiting…well, I guess I should say, “Not yet.” I’m never against revisiting genres or character types. If I played a doctor in one movie, I wouldn’t be against playing a doctor again if the director was the right director. I think at the end of the day you’ve got to work with the directors. I do what I do because I like making good movies. It’s fun to act, but if you just loved acting alone, you could sit in your room and act. You could act in a vacuum. You want to make good products. You want to make good films. I love movies, and good movies come from good directors. Like I said, since there isn’t this massive surplus of films out there, if a good director offers you a chance to make a good movie, you take it, even if you say, “Well, I just played a character like that.” Who cares? You’re a great director. “Scott Pilgrim,” I played characters similar to that guy, but there’s no fucking way I’m going to say no to [Edgar Wright.] I’m doing your movie. So if “Fantastic Four” got rebooted and Christopher Nolan was going to direct it and said “Do you want to play Johnny Storm again?” I’d be in those blue fucking tights.
“The Losers” opens April 23, 2010.