Chris Evans goes from all-American superhero to junkie crusader in this week’s Puncture, a dark indie film about the late Mike Weiss, a lawyer who, despite being addicted to drugs — or perhaps because of it — took on the health-care and pharmaceutical industries to champion the “safety point syringe.” Weiss (played by Evans) thought he was out to save hospital workers from HIV/AIDS and other infections caused by accidental needle sticks, only to discover through his work that needle reuse was behind a large percentage of HIV/AIDS cases worldwide. Is Evans secretly on a mission to save the world himself — even if it’s just from bad movies? Vulture chatted with the actor about his savior complex, shooting Captain America in New York City, and why he knows so little about geek culture.
You’re playing a savior character who’s also deeply flawed: He goes on drug binges and has “sex therapy” consultations with prostitutes. Actually, this might be your most sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll part to date, only without the rock and roll.
That’s part of the thrill of playing this character. You’ve got the fun lawyer scenes, where he’s got the gift of gab, but he’s also really dark and has these horrible addictions. He’s certainly an antihero. The more I talked to his [real-life] brother, his father, his co-workers, roommates, everybody, it seems that everybody loved him, and everybody hated him. Anytime you meet somebody who’s really brilliant, there’s an innate selfishness that goes along with it, because they’re so alone, and that isolation is damaging when it comes to trying to maintain relationships. Especially if you’re a drug addict, even a functioning drug addict.
Did you know anything about the safety needle issue before you signed on for this movie? And do you think the film is going to make a difference?
God, no; I knew nothing about it. And I’m still a little vague. It’s constantly changing. The safety needle is now in certain hospitals, but hopefully this movie will raise awareness. I don’t know any form of art or entertainment that can affect people the way movies can. I know it sounds ridiculous, but they can change your world. They can change your views. But by no means should my mission, to make movies, be compared to his. He was trying to save people’s lives.
And he’s very different from your other man-with-a-mission, who we saw rampaging through the city last week.
The Cap! Yeah, different guy. Very different guy. [Laughs.]
What was it like shooting in New York? And how does the destruction of the city in this movie compare with all the times that New York has been destroyed in other movies?
Mmmm. Where is it on the scale? I can’t give too much away. Captain America dies. No, I’m joking. [Laughs.] Yeah, it was cool shooting in the city. It was tricky, though. It was chaos. A little wild. A little awkward. You’re in your suit, and there’s a shit ton of people out there watching. It’s like some form of street theater. So you got to stay focused and get your mind right, because it’s easy to get distracted. But it’s nice to see the support.
With Puncture, there’s no sequel — he can’t come back. With Captain America, you’ve got six pictures, what with the solo sequels and the planned Avengers series.
And that’s partly why I was hesitant to sign on at first, because it’s ten years if you do all six pictures. Can you make a decision for the next ten years of your life? But the best thing about a franchise is when you wrap each film up, you can watch it and say, “What did we do well? What can we do better? Where can we take this guy?”
Prior to this, you did two Fantastic Four movies, The Losers, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Are you a closet comic book geek?
Actually, no! I don’t know what it is, but it’s purely coincidental. I mean, I’ve read a lot of them now — a lot of Fantastic Four and Captain America — but it’s not really my thing. I know, I know [winces]. But I appreciate it, and I almost wish I had read them as a kid. I spent my youth watching Bugs Bunny or some dumb bullshit, and this stuff is incredible. The more I read them, the more I’m like, God, there’s really complex story lines, and intelligent dialogue, and beautiful artwork.
What do you geek out about, then? Anything you obsess over?
What do I geek out about? What am I? Hmmm. I love movies. I watch movies. I like big, sweeping epics, like Ed Zwick stuff: The Last Samurai, Legends of the Fall, Blood Diamond, Glory. Movies that feel like they’re Braveheart, like they cover time and emotional journeys. Period films. Movies with grand scores and beautiful cinematography. Epic films.
Like What’s Your Number?
Bingo! [Laughs.] Right up my alley, that one is. But I like epic movies. There just aren’t a lot of them out there. If there were, I’d try to make them. Movies are a strange thing. Movies like Puncture don’t get made that often. I’m shocked it got made, you know? It seems like the studios are either making giant blockbusters, or really super-small indies. And the mid-level films I grew up on, like Back to the Future and all those John Hughes movies, the studios aren’t doing. It’s hard to get them on their feet.