The first time I saw Chris Evans in a film was the aptly titled Not another Teen Movie and despite that film being a severely underwhelming experience, his performance was one of the few bright spots.
He had the natural charm, likability and, if you’re so inclined, good looks to boot; traits which are hard to come by in Hollywood if you don’t already possess them. From Not another Teen Movie to Captain America, it’s fascinating to see how he’s morphed from a young actor in teen movies to headlining one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters.
Evans is not someone who particularly enjoys the limelight…
Beginning in small roles in independent film and TV, Evans first burst on the scene with thriller Cellular, where he had to rescue Kim Basinger’s Jessica Martin from her kidnappers. Proving he could anchor an action film he was hired as Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four and was arguably the best thing in it (a trick he would repeat later on his career), playing Johnny Storm as the casual playboy who soaks up all the attention. It couldn’t have been further from his persona as he describes himself as someone who’s very “self-conscious”.
Perhaps being self-conscious has played a part in the roles Evans has chosen; for the most part eschewing big Hollywood productions for smaller, more interesting ones. Evans is not someone who particularly enjoys the limelight (he doesn’t appear to loathe it either), referring to in a great deal of his interviews of being able to go about his life and “not worry about someone popping a photo of me smoking a cigarette”.
…there was a desire to prove himself in more challenging roles.
He returned to play Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer in 2007 but you sense there was a desire to prove himself in more challenging roles. These parts weren’t particularly glamorous and they certainly weren’t leading roles; playing a determined astronaut in Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, an inexperienced cop in David Ayer’s Street Kings or taking the part in an adaptation of Tennessee William’s Loss of a Teardrop Diamond. These weren’t films that were destined to be commercial hits.
Push, an attempt to capitalise on comic book movies, was a return to leading man status and he followed that film with two comic book adaptations (The Losers and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). Evans, repeating his trick from the Fantastic Four, was arguably the best thing in both films (he was almost certainly the best thing about the former). However they failed to gain traction at the box office which made his Captain America casting all the more interesting especially as he rejected the opportunity to do so several times.
…is Captain America as good as its leading man?
Citing the contract he would have to sign (an obligation of six movies), Evans fretted over whether he could commit and live up to a character as adored as Steve Rogers. He had support for the role from Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr, who commented on his ability to be “communicative”. Captain America director Joe Johnston acknowledged that Evans was right for the role as he “comes off as basically a really good human being”. Perhaps the main reason for him joining the production is his belief that “at the end of the day I want to be a part of good movies”. So, is Captain America as good as its leading man?
Images courtesy of Chris Evans, Sunshine and Fantastic Four