Captain America: The Winter Solider is set to be one of the first ‘must see’ films of 2014 as Marvel makes a triumphant return.
Anthony and Joe Russo have taken over the director’s chair, while Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan make up an impressive cast list. The directors and actors were in London to chat about the upcoming movie.
- In the film, Steve Rogers keeps a checklist of all the things that he has missed in the last fifty years. If you could recommend anything for Steve to check out, what would it be?
Anthony Russo: I would ask that he check out Captain America: The Winter Solider. And I would want to know if we got it right and if it felt representative of his experience.
Joe Russo: I have just four words… Fifty Shades of Grey. But just the first one.
Chris Evans: I would stick with music and tell him to check out the likes of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin.
Scarlett Johansson: Hmmm… Cake Pops. How do they make those things anyway? They are just so delicious.
Samuel L. Jackson: RedTube.
Sebastian Stan: The Godfather, for sure.
Anthony Mackie: Any Eddie Murphy film before The Golden Child.
Scarlett Johansson: I love The Golden Child.
Anthony Mackie: Anything before that! The Golden Child is included.
- If you could take any character you have played during your career and put it into the Marvel Universe, which one would it be?
Chris Evans: That’s so tough… if I can take any character I’ve played and put it in the Marvel Universe.
Scarlett Johansson: Does it have to fit in the Marvel Universe?
Samuel L. Jackson: He didn’t say they had to fit.
Chris Evans: My movies are terrible; I don’t want to do this…
Samuel L. Jackson: I’d pick Mitch Hennessy from The Long Kiss Goodnight and put him in the Marvel Universe, just because he’s so childlike and would be in awe of everybody in there but he’d claim he’d have a superpower.
Scarlett Johansson: If I could do the voice from Her it would avoid the early morning gym hours, so…I’m gonna choose that one!
Sebastian Stan: Well looking at my brilliant filmography (laughter) I started with Captain America movies, so I’m just not going to even speak right now, I’m just going to pour myself a glass of water…
Anthony Mackie: I’m gonna say Nate Ruffin –
Samuel L. Jackson: – Booty, from The Man!
Anthony Mackie: (Laughing) “Booty from The Man”! “Stellar work on the part of Anthony Mackie!” (Laughter) “Once again making Sam Jackson look good!” I would say Nate Ruffin from We Are Marshall, because he was such a cool, hip cat.
- Captain America is obviously a symbolic character, he’s a really, as Erskine says in the first film, “A Good Man”. I was actually genuinely touched, as corny as that sounds, by all of Steve’s journey over the first film and this film. But obviously, the world’s a lot grittier now and the characters and all the espionage and all the stuff like that. How did you maintain the essence of how Captain America is “A Good Man” in this world with darker characters, obviously, a bit shady, without being corny, how do you keep that at the core, and also how do you get around that? How do you balance off that, and were you inspired a bit by the characters as well?
Chris Evans: He just is a good man. It’s about developing a character. I don’t think the part of him that is a good man is necessarily dependent upon his environment, he’s a good man essentially in a vacuum, he’s just a good person.
He has morals and values and hopefully you can put him anywhere - whether that’s in the 40s, or the modern era or whether it’s a period film or a gritty political thriller. Hopefully the qualities of who he is will somehow still shine through. In terms of not making it corny…I think that’s more of a director question.
Anthony Russo: You know, not making him corny, you cast Chris Evans, right? Chris is able to balance the character between somebody who is self-confident and focused and he puts the emphasis on that rather than on righteousness, which is important, but for us, we always liked the more complicated version of the character. This simple version of the character was never appealing to us.
We tried to put him in a very complex situation and play with the complexity. He starts the movie off in a very vulnerable place. This is the first movie where we really catch up to him in modern day. We see what that means to him on a character level to have missed seventy years, woken up, and found that nobody from his old life is around anymore.
It’s a very isolated place; it’s a very emotionally vulnerable place, so his relationships with the other characters in the movie are even more important because he has nobody. I think that’s basically how we kept him grounded and how we approached the character.
- My question is for Scarlett specifically. Obviously one of the key components of the Black Widow character is this enigmatic past that is still affecting and defining her, but it seems at the end of this movie at least, she’s perhaps a little more receptive to what that entails. So would you as an actress be interested in going there and exploring that and realising it in a film, or do you think that perhaps some things are better left undefined and perhaps stop the character from having this very intriguing mystery?
Scarlett: Well you’ll get more of Widow’s backstory in Avengers 2…
Samuel L. Jackson: Really?
Scarlett: I think her backstory… she has a rich past as you’ve already described, she definitely comes from a really dark past…I think she’s had to desensitise or dehumanise in a way to be able to do and see some of the things she’s seen and participated in willingly.
I think she’s just now grappling with the fact that she may be experiencing some trauma from that, or at least she has feelings about things. Maybe she doesn’t sleep so well at night. It’s just sort of hitting her right now that she’s kind of been acting as a sort of “gun for hire” and in doing that she’s never really made any active choices and that the rug has sort of been pulled from under her feet.
So I think more interestingly would be to follow the progression of that story, bring her back home and see where that kind of leads to. But of course, that’s all in my imaginary next instalment. We’ve thrown the ball around a little bit but nothing is in the works right now.
- My question is for Samuel. In this film, your character has slightly more dramatic meat than in the other Marvel films, perhaps a little more to the humour that you bring while this is more of a serious tone to your performance. I wondered how that affects your experience when acting in this particular film than the others?
Samuel L. Jackson: I approach it all in the same way. You show up, you look at the relationships, what’s going on, take it all seriously, and still have as much fun as you can on the inside of it. I’m really glad that we saw more of Nick and what happens with him, how he reacts to situations, but as usual he’s always trying to be three steps ahead and all of a sudden when he finds out he’s been used and he wants to find out why.
He uses all of the tools that he has at his disposal to have that happen. As usual, part of that has to do with subterfuge and diversion, even down to fooling and hurting his most trusted compatriot. We actually shot a scene where that’s explained.
We had that moment, but I’ve been told it slows down the film in a significant way, and they don’t want to slow it down, but…when you get the DVD and you click on my face, there’s a hidden feature (laughter) that will allow you to access that scene and you’ll see more of what that means between he and Black Widow.
But it was joy to be able to go into Nick’s workplace and to find out who he is in depth in certain ways and to expose some of the stuff through conversations that Robert Redford and I had filmed.
- Anthony and Joe, is this true, is there a lot of stuff from the cutting room floor? Can we expect to have many deleted scenes on the DVD and Blu-Ray?
Joe Russo: We were actually fortunate to have enough time to work on the script and prep the movie, prior to execution. I think there are six or seven minutes of deleted scenes. Not a particularly large amount.
- It used to be for where the films would stand alone and the one thing Marvel has done fantastically well as actors and writers and directors is create that universe. I’m wondering if that affects the approach to making the movie, when you don’t just have one story to tell, you’ve got a piece to tell, but you’re already planning to go up against Batman in two years time. Does that have to be a longer game, as it were, in the way you approach it?
Joe Russo: It is, it is a giant mosaic, and it’s a very ambitious undertaking. It’s probably as ambitious as movies have ever gotten in terms of scale and the amount of films that they are making that are interconnected.
The real secret sauce is Kevin Feige at Marvel, who is this auteur producer who is quite brilliant at what he does in terms of keeping that interconnectedness, but also focusing on the movie at hand. He’s very good at not putting any constraints on the movie he was working on because he has the belief that if you’re thinking about the future you’re not going to make the best movie you can right now.
He really tries to make the best film he can and then figure out what the next move is from there, so it’s a very organic process.
- There’s a lot of physical action going on amidst all the other stuff. What was the biggest challenge for you guys, were there any injuries?
Chris Evans: I mean there’s always injuries, whether you end up in a cast or not. Doing stunt work is physical stuff, and even when you block a punch, that punch lands somewhere, so you’re always going home with bumps and bruises and we’re all getting older, so it has lasting effects.
- Was there anything in particular?
Chris Evans: Any fight with Frank Grillo! (Laughter) He doesn’t know how to pull his punches! Mack, you must know this!
Anthony Mackie: Yeah, we were hitting each other for real.
Chris Evans: You hit for real! If you don’t block Frank Grillo’s punch, you’re gonna get knocked out.
Anthony Mackie: That’s because he’s an actual boxer.
Chris Evans: He’s a boxer! And he doesn’t know anything but 100%.
Anthony Mackie: That’s because he’s a mean person.
Scarlett Johansson: Frank Grillo beat the sh#t out of me. (Laughter) I’m forever wounded from these movies. I have old injuries from Iron Man 2 days that I just keep re-injuring. That’s part of the joy. It’s part of the process, I guess.
As Chris said, as you sustain more injuries over time and it hurts for longer and things like that. I like to be able to do as much of the stunt work as possible. I think you take a little bit of a risk with that, but I’d rather that than having to hand off my scenes to a stunt team, as amazing and capable as they are all the time. I’d rather do some of it and have some battle wounds, that way I can compare bruises!
Sebastian Stan: I feel like I got pretty familiar with Chris’ kneecap like once or twice. (Laughter) I don’t know, we were doing everything so quickly and we prepared for months doing those fight sequences so I honestly wouldn’t feel anything until I was in the car on the way home when I couldn’t get out of the seat when I got dropped off at the hotel.
- And Sam? You weren’t on the end of a Frank Grillo punch at any point, but…
Samuel L. Jackson: Me? No!
- Any injuries?
Samuel L. Jackson: No! I use my stunt man extensively! (Laughter) I have no issues with him being hurt, that’s what he’s paid to do and he loves it, he’s from a stunt family. His father was a stuntman; he and all his brothers are stuntmen.
Before they could eat breakfast in the morning their dad kicked them down in the stairs in the morning, or made them jump out a window to come downstairs to get their breakfast, so…(Laughter) I use Kiante [Elam] more than…my god, he works more than me sometimes.
Scarlett Johansson: Why didn’t I learn that from you? After so many movies. I’d come in limping going “I hurt so bad!”, it’s like, “Why don’t you let other people that are better than that do that job?”
Samuel L. Jackson: It’s way better to stand there, they throw a punch, you duck out of the way, they fight, and you get up and go “Urgh!” (Laughter) and then run off and do the next guy, that’s it! Believe me, it’s good for you!
- Scarlett Johansson. Captain America has his shield. Falcon can fly. You only have two small guns, have you ever asked for anything more to protect yourself in the film? And the second question is how do you identify with Black Widow?
Scarlett Johansson: Well I have a bite, I have a Widow’s bite…and uh…you know, all kind of things that come out of my belt. And I have my wit, of course…(Laughter)…My sensational wit. My kung fu-like wit. And I think part of the Widow’s fighting style and what makes her so charming is her size against her opponent and it’s to her advantage that she’s fighting these big dudes and she’s kind of quick thinking and quick on her feet.
Chris Evans: A mouse that’s hard to catch.
Scarlett Johansson: A mouse that’s hard to catch! And I think that any character that you play you have to be sympathetic towards because you know, even if that’s a villainous character, that’s what you always have to have, that likeability to you. I think this character has a certain unexpected humility to her. She has that soft underbelly…and I have that same soft underbelly.
Samuel L. Jackson: That you do. That you do.
- A question for Mr. Jackson. I was wondering as a fully paid up member of the association of spectacles wearers, how do you cope with the wearing of the eye-patch in these movies? When one eye is closed it must affect peripheral vision, it might mean you bump into other actors, scenery, and stuff like that, or is there any advantage wearing the patch? Does wearing the patch improve your putting?
Samuel L. Jackson: I learned to turn my head further. But the interesting thing about the patch, which I didn’t discover, until Captain America, the first one, was, because I didn’t have that many lines to say…was that all of a sudden I had dialogue and I would learn it the night before when I got to work…I could only see half the page when I put the patch on!
So I discovered that I have to actually learn my lines with one hand covering my eye so that my mind will absorb what’s going on in there. And that’s the one thing, but I put up with both my eyes open, don’t you?
- Scarlett, you are a musician as well as an actress, I was wondering if the rest of you have any hidden music ability and if you would like to do “Captain America: The Musical”?
Anthony Mackie: I can deal with the trumpet a little bit. Growing up in New Orleans, you have to learn an instrument, so I could deal with the trumpet.
Chris Evans: The trumpet?
Anthony Mackie: I’m nice on the spoons. I can do a funky beat. (Drums beat on table) Aww, sh#t. Some turntables, you know…
Samuel L. Jackson: So other words, no.
- Sebastian, any musical talent?
Sebastian Stan: Nope, no musical talent. Just good old karaoke, you know? That’s all I’ve got.
Anthony Mackie: Which we’re doing tonight at The Dorchester!
Samuel L. Jackson: I played instruments when I was a kid. I played trumpet, French horn, and flute. And I’ve learnt to play various instruments for different films like guitar, piano, and cello…but I don’t keep up with any of them.
- And Chris?
Chris Evans: Yeah, I played the piano and the guitar!
- Not at the same time, surely?
Chris Evans: Nope, at the same time, it’s amazing! You should see it, it’s really good!
- My question is for Sebastian. You previously said you’ve got a nine-picture contract with Marvel…
Anthony Mackie: Damn, kid!
Samuel L. Jackson: That’s what happened to the rest of my deal!
Anthony Mackie: You know who’s paying for karaoke!
- Could you possibly see your character becoming Captain America in the future?
Anthony Mackie: I hope so in nine movies!
Sebastian Stan: I have no idea, man. I mean, I really don’t know. I’m still trying to realise that I’m sitting up here with these guys, you know…(Gestures to everyone but Mackie). Wherever those two fellas want to take the story, is where I’m going so…(After Mackie jokingly gestures, Stan acknowledges him)…and also, this guy.
Anthony Mackie: Thank you! Damn, man. You just cut me out!
Joe Russo: We’re going to use this press conference actually to announce that Anthony Mackie will no longer be with Marvel…(Laughter)…Falcon was one-off…Iron Fist is taking over!
- Captain America 3 is going to up against Batman and Superman, you may have heard of them. Do you have plans to suitably up the ante; do you think you might see another Avenger?
Joe Russo: Celebrity boxing match! That’s what we’re working on right now, you know? I don’t know, I think who said this best…two cars are speeding at each other, one of them is going to have to veer out of the way at some point, so…
Anthony Mackie: Hell yeah! You got that baby, you tell ‘em.
Joe Russo: Listen, I think Marvel announced that date originally, if you go back historically and look at Marvel and I think Sony have been trading off on that May date for a long time and I think when Warner Bros. decided to move that film, they moved it to the May date.
So I can see where Kevin says “I’m not moving off that date, so…”
Anthony Mackie: Boom.
Joe Russo: I don’t think that there’ll be anything to up the ante other than that hopefully we make a great movie and everybody is very excited to see it. What is it, May 5th, May 6th?
Anthony Russo: All we can do is just focus on making the best film we can make and when and how it gets released there’s other factors involved.
Samuel L. Jackson: And Marvel we have heroes, and there’s DC where you have interesting bad guys.
Anthony Mackie: We have Chris Evans, baby, deal with that! (Laughter) Yeah!
- I got a question from my six year old son, it’s for everybody. The Avengers are obviously his heroes, who is your hero? That’s his question to everybody.
Chris Evans: That’s a good one…
Scarlett Johansson: Like our life hero? Or a superhero hero?
- I guess he meant life hero.
Chris Evans: It’s so generic but I’ll say my parents. They’re the ones who shape you, make you, and teach you how to love and how to feel pain and happiness and cope.
It’s everything from birth until you’re in your teen years, that’s where you’re really forming who you are. I’ve really got to tip my hat to my parents, they’re my heroes. Good luck everyone else following that up!
Scarlett Johansson: David Bowie! (Laughter) That’s my hero. For obvious reasons.
Anthony Mackie: Samuel L. Jackson.
Samuel L. Jackson: I look at the young people that put their lives on the line for us, so we do have the freedom to make movies like this and tell stories like this because we do have a volunteer army now. And those young men and women are going out there to put their lives on the line and go to different countries and they’re there. To make sure that we can do what we do. I admire them greatly.
Sebastian Stan: Well, my mom, definitely, and probably Jim Carrey. I was obsessed with Jim Carrey growing up, so it led me to acting, I guess.
Anthony Mackie: My two brothers. I mean, I spent the first 12 years of my life with them beating me up, and the past 22 of my life applauding me and building me up, so my two brothers.
Joe Russo: I can’t decide if it’s Superman or Batman…(Laughter)…Maybe if somebody made a film and put them both in that movie? Together…?
Captain America: The Winter Solider is released 26th March.