Talking to the cast and crew of Captain America: The Winter Soldier in a big press conference is difficult, because you know some people are going to get more questions that others, and you feel bad for those who don’t get asked that many questions.
What’s interesting (at least for us) is that we saw Samuel L. Jackson, who was joined on stage by directors Joe and Anthony Russo, producer Kevin Feige, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, taking notes during their talk. Was Jackson doodling, making plans for later? No, in fact (as we have the evidence) he was tallying who got the most questions. It seems that Johansson tied with Evans, and that Stan was left with one main question. But that’s what’s going to happen when you have that much talent on stage. Here’s what we got from them.
I’d like to ask Scarlett, this film is full of people not trusting, you know, wondering who they can trust and I wondered that in both of your lives, what does somebody have to do if they really want to be your friend? What trust issues that you might have?
Scarlett Johansson: I trust no one. No, I only trust whoever Sam Jackson trusts. That’s my barometer right there.
It was very interesting to see a more humorous side of Black Widow. This is the third time you’re playing this character and it seems that this character has evolved a lot, what do you think of how this character has evolved in a way? And also by playing this character, do you think you have also changed in a way?
Scarlett Johansson: Well, other than being in physical therapy for the rest of my life, I think this is the first time that we’ve really gotten to see Natasha. We saw a little bit of her in Avengers and we saw a bit of her back story, and we’ll see more of that in Avengers II, but in this film, we really get to see Natasha as a person who gets up, gets ready for work in the morning, has a life outside of just her job once she’s out of the suit. She’s a woman and she has her own kind of reality outside of this even though who knows how far that structure is, but through the film we find both Steve and Natasha questioning their identity, realizing that they were pretty strong people who had their beliefs, but at the end of it, they realize wait, I’ve been this hired hand for my entire professional career, who am I and what do I want and what do I need from someone?
One element from the film that I loved was how you treat your female characters with respect, admiration and the film is almost as much about Natasha’s journey as it is Steve’s. Will we be seeing a Black Widow film sometime in the future?
Kevin Feige: I think it could be great. We’ve got various outlines and ideas of where to take that. As Scarlett has already said, there’s a big element that explores her back story in an upcoming Marvel feature. So the question really is when would we want to take her out of that ensemble to go and do her own thing? In fact, as you saw in this movie, as you’ll see in Avengers: Age of Ultron, she is kind of key to so much of the broader world.
Scarlett, what do you think about being a role model for girls out there who want a female onscreen who helps out her costar who’s a guy?
Scarlett Johansson: I think Natasha is a reluctant superhero. She doesn’t necessarily have a strong moral compass. She started out her career as a mercenary, so I don’t know if that makes role model material, but I think one of the things that’s very attractive to me about the character is that she uses her feminine wiles as part of her job, but she doesn’t rely on her sexuality or physical appeal to get the job done. She’s smart. She thinks on her feet. She’s a leader and she has a lot of foresight. Those are all qualities that I think it’s wonderful to celebrate for young women and it’s really rad for me to have my friends’ kids kind of look up to that character and dress up like her at Halloween and play with the boys and be rough. I always say, “The widow always wins.” And it’s true. And that’s a nice sentiment.
Chris, when the first film came out and you were very candid about concerns you had – not about the role itself, but about its impact on you, a loss of anonymity, feared concerns about typecasting and now this is the third time through with the Captain and more to come. How do you feel that process has evolved?
Chris Evans: Had I not done the movies, it would’ve been the biggest regret to date and there are plenty. It’s changed everything for me. I mean not just what it’s enabled me to do outside of these movies, but it’s so comforting knowing that you’re making good movies. It would be a nightmare to be trapped in this contract and be making films that you’re not proud of, but Marvel has the Midas touch, so every time you suit up, you know that you’re making something of quality. It’s rewarding on every level, so thank God I had the right people in my life pushing me to make the right decision.
Mr. Mackie and Mr. Evans. I love you two guys together in this film. I love the camaraderie between you two. I wanted to see if the two of you could comment about working together and also what you guys think is a nice addition of having Falcon in this series?
Anthony Mackie: Well, we just got cast in the remake of Lethal Weapon, so we’re excited about that.
Chris Evans: I’m playing Danny Glover. I’ve known Anthony for a while now. This is our third movie together. It’s funny. Everyone that I’ve worked with up here, it’s familiar and it’s old relationships, so when I first met Anthony, it actually wasn’t on a movie set. We got along very well. We’re very similar people. So we hit it off very well offset and then this is like I said…
Scarlett Johansson: Where did you meet, Chris?
Chris Evans: A library.
Anthony Mackie: Right.
Chris Evans: And so – we just – we just got along and so it was very easy having just kind of a repartee with him offset and I think that translates onset and you can tell right now, the guy is life, he’s energy. He just brings a certain type of spark that you need on film and you need off as well.
Anthony Mackie: I agree.
Kevin Feige: The key to making these movies different and unique each time is to, I wouldn’t say take chances necessarily, but to be able to move pieces around on the playing board and be able to subvert expectations. In terms of the big event that happens in the movie that changes everything, that was part of the plan for quite awhile – to mix things up and for the world to be very different at the beginning of Avengers II than it was at the end of Avengers I. But also the Russos – in terms of tone – in terms of action, when we met with Joe and Anthony, they were very clear and had very lofty ambitions, saying things like, “We want to do the best car chase in any Marvel movie and maybe the best car chase of all time.” I said, “Well, that sounds good. Let’s try that.” And referencing the best choreographed fight scenes from the last 30 years as inspiration and damned if they didn’t pull it off.
Joe Russo: For us, it was just a function of tone. I mean, the source material from Brubaker is – it’s an espionage film.
Tell me about working with the great Robert Redford.
Chris Evans: He’s amazing. It was pretty intimidating that day, because he is a living legend, but it’s always such a treat when someone you look up to that much lives up to the expectation. I mean he very easily could’ve come onset and hijacked the film, not just as an actor, but given his past as a director and his experience. He very easily could’ve taken over. He showed up with the utmost professionalism. He knew his lines. I think the first day we filmed, we shot until 1:00 in the morning and he stuck around for my off camera stuff. I mean it was like it was his first movie. So he really is such an example of what it is to be great.
Samuel L. Jackson: I met Robert in a lot of different situations when I was going to Sundance when I was a younger actor, when he had a more active part in that process and I missed an opportunity to do several films with him over the years. And that morning when I got there to work with him for the first time, we sat down and we talked about a lot of different things. We talked about golf. We talked about life. We talked about movies. So by the time we got onset, it did look like we spent time together or had some past and some darker and more medieval state of counter insurgency.
And it was a great experience. He is everything Chris said. He’s professional. He knew his lines. He wanted to do it. He wanted to try them different ways. He wanted to, you know, make things better and that’s part of coming into the Marvel universe. People come in and they see what we do and they kind of want to blend into it and make things better, and as we continue to do it, things do get better.
Anthony Mackie: Is that true?
So how did you adapt your styles that you’ve learned directing those episodes to a multimillion dollar action film north with a budget in the nine digits?
Anthony Russo: It was actually ten digits, but we’re not talking about that. The processes are very different. But you still go to set. You’re still directing actors. You’re still working with the crew. You have an infrastructure at Marvel that’s very different than anywhere else in the world, which is an incredible infrastructure, very talented, very intelligent people, who are there to help you get your vision across, but we always say comedy isn’t very different from action. It requires choreography. So when you’re doing like a good comedic bit, it’s all about the choreography and the timing of it, which isn’t very different than stunt work or, you know, a fight in a movie. It’s all a dance. So we didn’t feel like it was that big of a stretch for us. It felt like every day that we’ve been onset for the last 15 years.
Scarlett, how did you prepare physically for the role? It seems to be pretty intense? How challenging was it to do those stunts?
Scarlett Johansson: I had come off of doing a Broadway run, which is pretty much the most physically challenging thing you can do and I felt like if anything was going to prepare me to have stamina, it was that, so everything seemed like a piece of cake after treading the boards for that long and I think I was in pretty solid shape from that run. And then, you know, just maintaining it. Boring. Get up at 5:00, go to the gym, you know, all that stuff that’s horrible, not glamorous at all, and train like a dude and then eat a bunch of lettuce and whatever. That’s how it goes. Nothing fancy.
There’s a Spiderman and an X-Men movie coming out next month and you seem to be setting up so much within the Marvel-Marvel/Disney-Marvel universe here, I’m wondering if you can tell me how much of any influence you have on these other Marvel films that come out of different studios?
Kevin Feige: It’s limited. It’s very limited with the other studios. Mainly for two reasons. One because we’re quite busy building – building our own cinematic universe and also the contracts are very old and the approvals are very limited.
Anthony Mackie: Quite busy making better f—in’ movies. Sorry! I thought that my mike was off.
Kevin Feige: It is what it is. Those contracts are very old with the other studios. I expect they’ll be making Spidey movies at Sony for a long time and X-Men movies at Fox for a long time and I hope we keep making MCU movies for a long time at Marvel.
There was a lot of source material you could’ve used from the first Captain America movie considering that it was 1940s. If you can, what other source materials were there and what made the Winter Soldier so distinct?
Joe Russo: Well, the source material for this is that Brubaker’s run about the winter soldier from 2005, and as we said, it’s tone is very different from the first film. So that was the source material we drew on obviously, and Joss has said this, it’s called the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it’s not a direct interpretation of that, but it’s borrowing tone and it’s borrowing characters and it’s borrowing themes, but that was the strongest source material for this movie.
Mr. Jackson, There’s a lot of monumental twists and turns. Can you just talk about the first time you received the script, what went through your mind when you first read it and what excited you the most about the Winter Soldier?
Samuel L. Jackson: I’m always excited to do more and Nick seems to grow with each film and I realized when I was reading it that it was a bit more than just a comic book feature, that it had intrigue and I’m sure a lot of young people are going to be surprised when they get in the movie and watch it that they actually have to think about something other than what’s going on. You’ve got to figure out a plot. And that always excites me. And it’s always a great, great joy to know that I’m going to be back in a space with all the people that I enjoy working with and being able to do things that I did on a very small scale when I was a kid. I mean this is, you know, a dream come true. You sit there and you read comic books when you’re a kid and you wonder if there’s a world like that. You grow up as an actor and they start making movies like that and you wonder, “How can I get in that movie?” And then next thing you know, you’re inside it and you’re kind of like, “Yeah.” So, you know, that’s – they’re all pluses there.
Sebastian, I know a lot of actors like to build a back story, but this character is kind of a man of mystery. Did you do any research looking back at the source material, the comics or anything like that. And, Scarlett, I want to ask you real quick. You’ve done a lot of interesting roles lately. Is this a fun character to come back to? Does it feel very comfortable coming back to her?
Sebastian Stan: Most of the work on the character I had done before the first film, when I was first educated about it and then I tried to implement some of those things in the first film not knowing at the time that we were going to be doing this film. When it came to the role that I was going to play in this film, even though it was a different version of a character that we were introduced to, at the end of the day I was trying to kind of walk away from it having left some type of mix of the new with some of the old aspects that you would sort of remember when you would see it in its entirety.
Scarlett Johansson: I’ve never really had the opportunity to keep coming back to a character and I have the good fortune of playing a character that’s evolving with each installment that you see her in, so I have to understand who this character is and where she comes from and have this rich back story and I think the exciting thing is just scraping away at a little part so each time I reveal kind more of the bigger picture of her. It’s a very complex character, which is wonderful for me, because over the period of time that I’ve played her, I’ve also grown – obviously, it’s been like six years, so I feel that this story is sort of becoming – the character’s story is more enriched as my own experiences are.
Hi, Chris, you spent a lot of time in Cap’s suit now and I want to know, when you first put it on when you come back for each outing, how that feels. Does it still feel as exciting when you pick up the shield?
Chris Evans: It always feels like it gets tighter. It’s like I thought it was supposed to get more comfortable. I feel like this got worse. I’m not joking. That really happens. They always make improvements on it and once you get a good sweat going, it loosens up quite a bit. It’s exciting. Again, a lot of it has to do with the fact that you know you’re making good movies. If you were disappointed with the previous film, it’s going to be hard to mentally prepare yourself for living in that thing for four or five months, but since Marvel just can’t stop making quality movies, it’s exciting and it’s humbling and it’s an honor to jump back into it no matter how uncomfortable it is.
My question is for Mr. Russo and Mr. Russo. With the first film, Captain America is getting to punch Nazis and who doesn’t love watching a Nazi get punched in the face? With this film, and bringing it into the modern setting, you have to deal with modern politics, and America’s role in the world. How did you thread the needle as it were to maybe avoid taking this film towards anything too recent?
Anthony Russo: We’re making a political thriller and we might have done the opposite of what you’re asking about. We tried to run at what’s happening in the world today with the movie. We were thinking about what’s going on in the world with preemptive strikes and the president’s kill list and then the whole Snowden thing came out after we were shooting, but that was the tip of the iceberg of all of the other sort of elements that were going on in the world that we were thinking about. I mean we tried to give the movie some sort of – make it reflective of our real world condition and our real world stakes even though it’s a fantasy expression of what that is.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier Opens April 4.