It's not easy to break free of the action hero stereotype when you've been played Captain America in one of the biggest film franchises of all time but Chris Evans, to his credit, is trying.
Through ‘Snowpiercer’ across ‘Gifted’ and into new movie ‘Knives Out’, the 38-year-old Massachusetts-born actor is spinning the wheel in what is a constant charge away from typecasting.
His newest role, as the somewhat suave, somewhat seedy Ransom Drysdale-Thrombey, is full of vitriol and fun. He stars in a stellar cast alongside Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette and Don Johnson in a ‘whodunnit’ straight out of the Angela Lansbury leftfield.
RSNG spoke to him about his love for Rick and Morty, why he’s being saying ‘eat shit’ a lot, and how his new choice of roles has allowed him to explore dark humour and villainy like never before…
RSNG There’s a lot of black comedy in Knives Out and we spotted a reference to Rick and Morty on your Twitter – how refreshing has it been to explore this kind of dark humour after a long stint in a very different genre?
CHRIS EVANS, ACTOR ‘So much fun. It’s easy to get dragged into a certain way of thinking and feeling, but this character gave me an incredible amount to play with.’
‘Being a villain was something I wanted to do for a long while, and in the sense of this villain, he is a villain way over the top of anything nice or rational. He also goes about his every comment and observation with a terseness that was a lot of fun. For weeks I couldn’t stop saying “eat shit”. I still say it now. Often.”
‘For weeks I couldn’t stop saying ‘eat shit’ – I still say it now. Often.’
RSNG Have you played someone this dark before?
CE ‘I guess the nearest would be Curtis Snowpiercer back in, what, 2013. That was a really dark movie about human nature and our pursuit of justice and fairness, but from the perspective of a bubbling undercurrent. That was a lot of fun too, but in a very different way.’
‘Snowpiercer was important to me though because it meant I had a chance to show many different sides of myself and create a very different character than anything people have seen me do before. When an actor fails to do that they are, in effect, failing as an actor.’
RSNG Are you keeping up the strength and conditioning and what workout do you find the most effective?
CE ‘I think it’s impossible to keep it up in terms of the Captain America levels – that was really on a different planet.’
‘I remember near the start of the franchise, the preparation was the most intensive thing I've ever gone through in my life! Not only did I spend several months trying to add muscle mass, but the producers also wanted me to follow gymnastics courses and take motorcycle lessons.’
‘So I got to all kinds of flips although I'm sorry to say I never managed to reach the point where I could do the kind of splits that Jean-Claude van Damme does, but I don’t think I’m ever going to need to go back to that sort of intensity. It was an uncomfortable program of getting into shape, although it worked.’
‘The roles I am taking now mean I can just do the usual gym routines with nothing too turbo-charged, and that is definitely a relief.’
RSNG Has your lifestyle changed post Avengers?
CE ‘It’s not so much a change in lifestyle that’s been the most profound – I’m doing the same things that I always did. What I am noticing more is my approach towards work. It’s nice to say it, but I don’t feel constrained by the big machine anymore.’
‘Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to be part of something so colossally big that it just picks you up and transports you to these incredible places. But after a while you just want to get out and walk, and creatively, even spiritually, that’s definitely where I am at now.’
‘Even right down to what happens on set, you forget how fast things move on a smaller film. Knives Out wasn’t particularly small, but the way scenes come together it is considerably smaller than a superhero movie.’
‘On a big movie set, everything takes a long time to set up so that you're often waiting an entire day to shoot one scene, or maybe only one part of a scene.’
‘It was similar when I did Gifted a couple of years ago – you quickly realise time isn’t a luxury. Instead, it is always running against you and you have to always be ready to shoot the next scene, so you feel like you're working much harder and more intensely.’
‘The feeling you get on set is really the only thing that pulls you along – that is what defines your sense of purpose’
RSNG Is it tough, while being such a key part of a massive franchise, not to get pulled along by the currents of that and perhaps lose your own sense of purpose, and how do you deal with that as you come out of it?
CE ‘I’ve said it before, but the feeling you get on set is really the only thing that pulls you along. That is what defines your sense of purpose and feeling of accomplishment on set for an actor. It’s actually not about what it does at the box office. I mean, for the investors and the director it probably is, but actors judge movies in a different way and if they’ve enjoyed the shoot they’ve enjoyed the shoot, simple as that.’
‘I don’t think I’ve ever lost my sense of purpose. I’ve certainly lost my sense of belief in a project and I’ve had a few where I just wanted to get away from there as quickly as I could… does that count?!’
WHAT NEXT? Watch Chris Evans in the trailer for Knives Out…