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TORONTO – This is pretty close to the best of times for Chris Evans. After years of trying to breakthrough to superstar status he finally hit the A-list as Steve Rodgers in Marvel Studios’ blockbuster “Captain America: The First Avenger” last summer. Well, to be fair, he likely solidified himself his global popularity after “The Avengers” was released in May. Over $1.5 million in ticket sales later and you can be sure little boys and girls all over the world will always recognize Evans’ face.
On Tuesday, Evans sat down to chat about his latest film, “The Iceman,” which was screening at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival that evening. Evans says he thought “The Avengers” would do well, but also admits, “third biggest of all time? You never think that much.”
“The Iceman” is almost 180 degrees from “The Avengers. A dark thriller spanning four decades, Evans plays real life psychotic assassin Robert Pronge. The killer and – no joke – part-time Ice Cream Van Vendor was at one time a rival and then partner of legendary contract killer Richard Kuklinski, aka The Iceman. It’s believed the duo worked together in the 70’s and 80’s after Kuklinski, played by Michael Shannon, was effectively let go by his mob boss. It’s a supporting role, but Pronge is a unique and bloody character. And as you might expect, Evans was looking to do something different at the time “The Iceman” script came his way.
“It was just the opposite of what i had just come off of,” Evans says. “You play a certain type of character for a certain amount of time and you kind of just want to find something different and unique. I played Captain America for almost a year straight. I went right from 'Captain America' to 'The Avengers' and I was like, 'I need variety. I need something different.' And this was that.”
Evans also admits, however, that indie opportunities don’t always work out like “The Iceman” has so far (the picture has received strong reviews from Telluride to Toronto). And yet, unlike other actors who insist they never try to balance commercial and independent films on their slate (“it’s always about the script”) Evans has no problem speaking bluntly about the choice.
“You kind of have discussions about your hopes and your ideals and then things change. And you can't always write a wish list. Sometimes things just happen,” Evans says. “[For example,] it’s not like I wanted to play another superhero, but 'Captain America' came along and it was the right thing.”
Working with director Ariel Vromen, Evans came up with a distinct look for Pronge that featured him with long hair and glasses. It’s sort of half 70’s rocker/groupie and half Jersey working class dad. That was because unlike The Iceman there wasn’t much research material available about Pronge. Records showed he was military trained in explosives, but little was known about his private life and good luck trying to find a photo of him on the internet. Instead, Kuklinski’s interviews became Evans' primary source of information. Then again, when you’re dealing with a man that kept dead bodies in his truck freezer while selling kids ice cream out of that same truck, well, you can easily deduce he was a little disconnected from reality.
Evans shakes his head in disbelief when discussing Pronge’s actions, “Isn't that [expletive] up? It is a fact that a large group of little children have probably eaten ice cream cones that were next to corpses.”
In his time off since shooting “The Avengers,” Evans has balanced his publicity responsibilities by fitting both “Iceman” and another indie, Joon-ho Bong’s “Snowpiercer” into his schedule. Bong is the Korean filmmaker behind the acclaimed thrillers “The Host” and “Mother” and Evans says he couldn’t turn down working with someone “so good, so talented.” And with Ed Harris, Tilda Switon and Octavia Spencer also on board, why not?
“It’s a different type of movie and why not take some risks? Why not take some chances? I don't want to do what's been done before,” Evans proclaims. “Let's take some risks! Let's try to do what's different. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. But if it does work, that's special. That's what movies are about.”
Rounding out a trio of Evans’ indies is “A Many Splintered Thing” which the he’ll begin shooting next month. Newcomer Justin Reardon is making his feature directorial debut with “Splintered” and Evans is still having troubles describing it.
“It’s sort of like a romantic comedy. It's the opposite of a romantic comedy,” Evans finally decides. “It's told in the first person. I read about 10 scripts a week and most scripts are like 'Barry stands up and opens the refrigerator door.' This script is written, 'I stand up and I open the refrigerator door.' My character's name is Me. You never know my name. And the girl's name is Her. You never know her real name. There is narration in there. There are a lot of cinematic divides. As someone else tells a story my imagination plugs myself into the story and you cut away to these -- it's just a really unique script."
Continuing, Evans says, “It's like 'Amelie.' It has a lot of these fantastical vignettes and segues. The camera is gonna do a lot of heavy lifting and our director, Justin Reardon, is just fantastic. He's so smart. He's gonna have a real fun time creating [this world]. You don't want to do stuff that's been done before. You want to do something that's different.”
And that brings us to 2013 where Evans will dawn the stars and stripes once more. In fact, “Winter Soldier” should start production in less than six months.
“I think the next Captain America is in March,” Evans reveals. “I probably won't do anything in-between. I'd probably like a little bit of down time. I have to get into shape for that and I like to take a couple of months to train.”
In person, Evans looks cut and muscular, but it’s a huge difference between the bulk he put on to play Cap in “The Avengers.” You can even see a lot of that larger physique in his “Iceman” performance.
“I've lost it all right now. It's gonna be at least two months of training. I am not looking forward to it,” Evans says. “I mean, I like going to the gym, but these are not gym sessions buddy. You don't even know dude. I'm puking at these gym sessions. It's two hours every day and it's brutal man. I don't do a lot of cardio because I'm not trying to lose weight, but gain weight. But, it's big weights and you're just so long. You'll be working out and you'll be, 'How long have I been here? Only 35 min? I still have another hour here.' And you just leave the gym unable to move. You just know you have to do it tomorrow. It's a chore.”
And even at just 31, Evans is realizing all that lifting isn’t as easy as it used to be. Evans laughs noting, “Things are [already] clicking and I'm sore. 'How am I gonna do this?' How does Hugh Jackman? How does he do it? How does a guy in 40's get that big?”
When I suggest perhaps its Jackman’s Aussie genes Evans retorts,”Talk to Hemsworth he's a creation.”
Following comic book lore, “Captain America: Winter Soldier” is expected to feature the return of the seemingly dearly departed Bucky (Sebastian Stan) from the 1940’s to present day. Evans couldn’t confirm or deny that speculation, as he hasn’t even spoken to sequel directors Anthony and Joe Russo yet. That should happen after he finished “Splintered” in December. One thing he was happy to discover was an extended series of scenes focusing on Steve Rogers difficulty living in 2012 America included on “The Avengers” DVD and Blu-ray. Director Joss Whedon cut the scenes from the theatrical release and Evans says he didn’t protest.
“It was a good piece of the movie, but I think it didn't make it because that's for 'Captain America 2,’” Evans says. “I think when you cut the whole movie together I think Joss said, 'That's a different story. That's Cap's story.' So, I guess it's nice that it came out that it shows a little bit richer character for Cap, but by the same token a lot of that stuff that's for another movie. So, hopefully we can kind of still tell that story in a different way for 'Cap 2.'”
Over the years Evans has flown under the radar enough that he’s been able to enjoy some level of anonymity. After the success of “Cap” and “Avengers” that’s pretty much gone unless, of course, he’s grown a beard and is wearing sunglasses.
“If something I want to do is outside - meaning - you can't wear sunglasses inside or you're a [expletive]. So, if it's outside I can wear sunglasses and get away with it. If what I'm doing is like inside and I have to take my sunglasses off? It's a little bit tricky,” Evans explains. “It's amazing the difference between sunglasses on and off. You'd be surprised. Sunglasses on? You can go under the radar. Sunglasses off? It just takes a glance and [you can see someone going] 'I think I…? Oh, that's the.' And then it's over.”
"The Iceman" is expected to hit theaters before the end of 2012.