Most actors do indie films hoping to catch the attention of Hollywood, land a studio movie, and become a star. Chris Evans is doing it backward – he’s using his status as Captain America in The Avengers franchise to make sure movies like his TIFF film, The Iceman, get made.
In The Iceman, Evans plays real-life assassin Robert Pronge, a killer so cold-hearted he stows his victims in the ice-cream truck he drives. The 1970s shaggy hair and oversized glasses he wears free him up to be looser, wilder and sexier than we’ve ever seen him. At Monday afternoon’s press conference, when the film’s director, Ariel Vromen, asked the audience, “Who didn’t recognize Chris at first?” most of the hands went up.
Later, sitting in a hotel conference room doing interviews, speed-dating style, I found myself staring at Evans’s arms. What is he hiding under that snug cashmere sweater, I wondered – it looks like a line of tennis balls. Then I realized they were his muscles.
“Captain America, he’s – he’s a certain way, and that’s fine,” Evans said. “But I went right from Captain America to The Avengers, so after playing the same guy for a year I had to do something different. I thought, ‘This is gonna be fun.’
“I don’t want to give too much away about what kind of a person I am,” he continued, “but on a daily basis I have a hundred moments where I think, ‘I kind of want to jerk the wheel when I’m driving.’ Or I’ll sit atop a building and think, ‘What if I stepped off?’ I don’t – I have rational thought and restraint – but I think a sociopath starts small, just kind of does things, regardless. There’s a freedom to it, and that freedom becomes addictive. The more you get away with, before you know it, you’re a pretty nasty person.”
As research, Evans spent a couple of days “acting wholly on impulse – reacting blindly and without thought, to get a taste and a flavour of that sensation,” he said. “And the problem is, it’s fantastic.” He laughed. “Luckily, I only worked on this film for seven days. I think if I had done that for three months, I might just flip this table and walk out.”
Evans turned down Captain America at first. “It’s a six-picture deal, and that can spread over a decade. That’s a huge decision,” he said, “especially since my life goal isn’t to be a movie star. Maybe in a year I’ll want to direct or write, maybe not even make movies any more. Maybe I’ll want to be a musician, move to the woods. I don’t know. But making that decision, there’s no room for ‘I don’t know.’ If in three, four years I feel I’ve lost my anonymity, compromised something that has affected my quality of life – too bad, buddy. You gotta get back in the suit, do a six-month movie, then a huge press tour. It was terrifying to make a decision for my future self, since I don’t know who I’m going to be tomorrow.”
Of course, he snapped to, and realized if he runs the contract, he can take care of his extended family, his future family, and their future families, too. And the bonus is, his marquee clout will let him land pretty much any indie. “When you’re in The Avengers, those films are available to you,” he said frankly. Then he laughed again. “Playing the most straitlaced guy on the planet affords me the opportunity to play the lunatics I want.”