Interview: ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ cast

Directed by filmmaking brothers Anthony and Joe Russo and newly released on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D here in the UK, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) is the latest Phase Two instalment in Marvel’s ever-expanding cinematic universe. Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), is now found adjusting to life after being on ice for half a century whilst running missions for Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) S.H.I.E.L.D., alongside his leather-clad Avengers comrade Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). After discovering that a rescue mission wasn’t all that it seemed, Rogers begins to question S.H.I.E.L.D.’s integrity and to contemplate life as an average Joe. Last week, we were kindly invited to a London hotel to interview Evans, Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson and the film’s directors.

On the film’s politically-charged tone:

Chris Evans: Marvel always manages to find a way to entertain. We’re very lucky in a sense in the way this plot is very relevant to what’s going on right now. When people walk out of the theatre they have a far richer car ride home. It’s tough to pick a side because I don’t know all the information, I don’t know how difficult it is to ensure the safety of a nation, I don’t know the threats that happen behind closed doors, I don’t know when someone tells me “Trust me, it’s for your own good” whether they’re full of shit or not. None of us have all the information which makes it hard to form an opinion and that’s what makes it such a hot button issue.

Anthony Russo: We said if we’re going to make something political we want the issues in the film to cause anxiety in the audience because it makes it more immediate. If the anxieties Steve Rogers has are the ones you have when you’re sitting in the theatre, you feel present in the film and it feels very contemporary to you. We read a lot every day so we just started ripping things from the headlines and putting it in the film. For instance, I read that Obama has one of the most fortified cars ever built and that it can withstand an RPG. And I thought if S.H.I.E.L.D had that technology of course Nick Fury would have a car like that because he’s an assassination target. This is how we would extrapolate certain real world concepts.

On the business of blockbuster moviemaking:

Samuel L. Jackson: It’s a bigger business, and it’s more accessible to more people. It’s a viable way to make a living. When I was talking about going into theatre and acting my Moms was concerned about what I was going to do to survive. Now making films, being in films, fame…there’s a lot of ways to get into this business that weren’t available before.

Anthony Mackie: I think that the film business has evolved substantially in the past 25 years. It’s become a global business as opposed to an artistic endeavour. Saying that, a lot of the movies that are made with women in the lead, brothers in the lead, Asians in the lead, wouldn’t be made today because the market has changed. A lot of people now like to go to the movies and see people who look like them because they can relate to them.
On Marvel’s ongoing cinematic success:
SLJ: I think there’s something about the specific characters we play in these movies that audiences can relate to in that they can see themselves becoming those characters. There’s nothing spectacular about Nick Fury aside from the fact that he wears cool clothes and has a great job, but anybody could be Nick Fury. Captain America was a scrawny kid that they did something to and now he has superpowers. Black Widow is someone girls can look at and say “Well if I train hard enough I can be her”. I don’t know what Marvel does that DC doesn’t that makes their movies more successful than the Superman franchise or even The Dark Knight. In the DC world it always seems like the villains are more interesting than the heroes. All of a sudden in this one, the heroes are more interesting than the bad guys. Marvel have also found a way to take the word comic book and actually make comic book films, films that have a sense of humour.

On working with Robert Redford:

SLJ: Robert adds quality to this film, a gravitas that the other films don’t have. The fact that he even wanted to do it speaks volumes about what Marvel are doing. I kind of know him socially because I used to talk to him at Sundance and some other places, Scarlett did a movie with him before, so it was great when he was on set. We had interesting conversations before he started to shoot, he and I talked about golf a lot. So by the time we got in set and our characters have this relationship that is supposed to be old it made sense and it works and the audience buys it. They don’t think that these two guys just met today and you’re sharing some lines with each other. Those kind of things make a difference and Robert was really great.
On multi-picture deals and hectic shooting schedules:
CE: They have dates set when they want these movies to come out and as a result they have to work backwards so you just build your career around that. Signing up for these multi-picture contracts you accept the fact that your life can’t be completely your own. There’s enough downtime to do whatever else you may want to do. It’s never back-to-back, they’re never going to drown you.

Scarlett Johansson: It also takes a lot of time. They’re still working as a small studio in some ways. They’re in a transitional phase. They’re not making four movies at any given time. I think that’s why the films have the quality they do because Kevin Feige and all those guys are overseeing the production and the post-production and the prep of everything and so it would never back up like.
On characters they’ve played that they’d like to return to:
SJ: I wish that – and I’m sure Sam would probably say it too – we had such a good time making The Spirit. It’s unfortunate that the film didn’t really take off as we hoped that it would. I loved playing Silken Floss in that. It was such a fun character; the looks, the attitude, I loved my relationship with Sam in that movie. I would have loved another opportunity to play that character but that’s how the cards fall.

AM: I did this movie called We are Marshall which is a movie about this American football team in 1970. The team was coming back from a game and the plane crashed, killed everybody on the team, devastated this town. But the character I played was really amazing, and it was probably the most fun I’ve had second to this shooting a movie. I would really love to play an older version of him because he was a really dynamic man.

Sebastian Stan: I played this character the first time I was ever on Broadway in this play called Talk Radio. This character was so different from me, kind of like an eighties punk, crazy kid. I remember I had to have white blond hair, it just changed my whole attitude, I discovered music that way.

On strong female roles:

SJ: It’s all relative I guess to your age and what kind of role you’re looking for. Certainly now, actors who are in their younger twenties or even like older teenagers, there’s a lot more opportunities for really great roles for young women than there were when I was that age. I’ve been really fortunate to be very busy with some really great work. Whether that’s just because I’m just searching now or waiting for the right thing or I’m just lucky and it’s a good time is hard to say. I don’t know what kind of experiences other actresses have though.
Mackie on playing Marvel’s first black superhero:
AM: I have been hounding Marvel for about five years trying to become part of the Marvel family. It got to a point where Kevin literally wrote an email and said “Don’t call us. We’ll call you”. I auditioned for Gwyneth Paltrow’s role but they said I was too tall. Playing the Falcon is a huge testament to what Marvel has done over the course of the entire life of the company. Falcon has had three incarnations, and as the African-American culture has evolved so has the Falcon. Instead of them just casting him away and going on to another superhero, they constantly changed him until they got him right. This is the fourth incarnation so it’s all three of them in one, and I’m proud of thinking that I represent the new incarnation of African-American culture as the world sees it. I don’t know if it’s bad to say but no [to a Falcon solo outing]. I really enjoyed doing this movie. I enjoyed coming to work and watching him put his arm on, talking to Chris and hanging out with Scarlett and being around Sam. I feel like the vanity aspect of it is so far beyond where I am with the character. It’s much more important to do a great movie with multiple superheroes than to do a mediocre movie with one superhero. It’s a big party and I don’t like to party by myself.
On Joss Whedon’s upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron:
SJ: If it were me I’d be just crippled with fear at having to try and top the first one. I saw Joss not that long ago and we’ve all been communicating with him. I don’t know whatever he’s doing but he’s pretty focused, calm. He always talks about this is going be the end of us all. He’s very confident and I think he’s somehow managed to introduce other key characters and enrich established plotlines and go even deeper. The script is phenomenal, just great, and I think everyone was thrilled with the first draft.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is out now on DVD and Blu-ray. To read our 4-star review, follow this link.
Amon Warmann