‘Captain America’ director: ‘Our Bucky isn’t a sidekick … there’s a darker edge’

Feb. 02, 2011 | 3:57 p.m.


captain america and bucky Captain America director: Our Bucky isnt a sidekick ... theres a darker edge

Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers and Sebastian Stan plays Bucky in "Captain America: The First Avenger," from Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment.

Captain America has been throwing his mighty shield for 70 years and his sidekick, James “Bucky” Barnes, was right there at his side in that first comic book adventure in March 1941. The star-spangled hero’s junior partner is also making the leap to the silver screen this summer in “Captain America: The First Avenger” but don’t expect the grinning teenager from the vintage wartime comics — this won’t be your grandfather’s idea of a superhero sidekick, according to director Joe Johnston.

captain america and bucky in all winners Captain America director: Our Bucky isnt a sidekick ... theres a darker edge  On Sunday, viewers of the Super Bowl will get their first real look at actor Chris Evans in action as Captain America with the airing of the initial television commercial for the July 22 film — and the ad also offers a glimpse of actor Sebastian Stan  (“Gossip Girl,” “Kings”) as Bucky, but this version is more “Band of Brothers” than he is boy wonder.

“Sebastian brought something really interesting and slightly on the dark side and really compelling to watch — when he’s on camera, you’re fascinated by watching him,” Johnston said. “In a great cast, I thought he really stood out and brought some unexpected things to the role. Everyone brought something to the movie and a lot of them brought something great but I was most pleasantly surprised by what Chris brought and what Sebasatian brought in a much smaller role as Bucky.”

I stopped Johnston and asked him to back up a bit — a dark side to Bucky? That’s not what most fans think of when they reflect on the traditional portrayal of the character during his wartime-era adventures. “Yeah, that’s true, but Sebastian has a dark, slightly quirky side to him — and that’s the case when he’s in character or not — and he brought that to this movie. ”

“You know, he was originally up for the lead, for the Steve Rogers role, but he didn’t have quite the same earnest, I-want-to-fight-for-my-country aura that Chris has for this role. Sebastian has a little bit of the bad boy, he’s a little bit of the James Dean type and that goes somewhat counter to the general perception of Steve Rogers. He wasn’t quite right for Captain America,  but I think he’s perfect for Bucky because, really, he can have a little bit of that dark side.”

captain america panel Captain America director: Our Bucky isnt a sidekick ... theres a darker edge

Vintage panel with Captain America and Bucky (Marvel Comics)

Viewing Bucky as a blank slate gave the writing team — Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely and Joss Whedon — and Johnston a chance to tilt the tone and texture of the partnership between Captain America and Bucky. In the the late 1930s and early 1940s, comic book sidekicks such as Robin the Boy Wonder, Captain Marvel Jr., Toro, Speedy and Wing were a familiar gimmick of the publishing sector and viewed as a way for young readers to imagine themselves fighting alongside their favorite masked men. In the comics, Bucky’s biography has changed through the years but the familiar back story presented him as the 15-year-old orphaned son of a soldier who is the unofficial mascot of U.S. Army Camp Lehigh. When the boy accidentally discovers that a clumsy private named Steve Rogers is secretly Captain America, he dons his own costume to join the hero in battle against Nazis and other enemies of America.

iron man vs winter solider Captain America director: Our Bucky isnt a sidekick ... theres a darker edge

The Winter Soldier, right, tangles with Iron Man (Marvel Comics)

None of that would fly well with 2011 audiences, Johnston says, so the character has been retro-fitted by the Hollywood factory.

“We took some liberties with the relationship between the two guys,” Johnston said. “In our story, Bucky is already in the service, he’s already joined up and is being sent overseas while Steve is still struggling to get in the army. That’s different than what you may have read in the comics. It adds a nuance to the relationship that pays off later. They’re closer in age, too — they’re virtually the same age. That’s not the case at all if you go back to the old comics.”

In the film, both Rogers and Barnes are orphans and grow up almost as brothers. Rogers is too sickly to enlist in the service and instead he volunteers for a dangerous and secret experiment that might make him the first of an army of super-soldiers.  That fact changes the physics of his friendship with Bucky, and the movie jettisons the hero’s almost paternal treatment of Bucky. This version of Bucky Barnes is less wise-cracking and more of a crack shot with his service rifle.

“In the comics, he’s like Robin is to Batman,” Johnston said, “but this is not that at all.”

In the pages of Marvel Comics, the adult-age Bucky has been a far more complicated figure, especially over the last decade and in the hands of writer Ed Brubaker. A  new chapter was added to his history — he survived World War II but after a major memory loss was programmed to become a brutal Soviet operative called the Winter Soldier — and then he dons Captain America’s costume when Rogers is assassinated. Will any of those elements play out in the future films being guided by Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige? Time will tell.

This much is clear: Bucky won’t be in mascot mode when he gets his first Hollywood close-up.  “Our Bucky isn’t a sidekick and there’s a darker edge. This is a much more interesting relationship.”

— Geoff Boucher


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31 Responses to ‘Captain America’ director: ‘Our Bucky isn’t a sidekick … there’s a darker edge’

  1. Kaz says:

    The potential for the Winter Soldier storyline to appear on film has upped my interest in the Captain America films because Brubaker brought so much life and conflict in Steve and Bucky during that storyline.

    I'm really looking forward to the film (would be even more thrilled if 3-D wasn't shoe-horned in).

    • Sharon says:

      Bucky and Cap will have a fallout towards the end of the 1st film and then Bucky will seemingy die and Cap will get frozen. In the 2nd film Cap will face off against the Winter Soldier.

      • Moira says:

        I hope that he don't get frozen again.I hate that sence play. I hated people dying. What did he do wrong?They sould make a Happy ending.Better Story.Where He doesn't go bad.Once been good hero,he doesn't think much of beening a hero.I Like that song.One tin soilders. They sould put that song on the avengers. with words.Listen people to a story that was Writen. chours.

      • Moira says:

        I love Capton America.They sould Create Song from One tin Soilders.I love that song. Put it on the Avengers. I hated when they America Died. Frozen in the ice.What did he do wrong?

  2. brettghampton says:

    I love the character of Captain America and the long history of stories that have been done involving the character. I'm excited that a serious effort has been made to bring Cap to the screen. While I'm sure that Joe Johnston is putting together a very entertaining film, the more I read about his take on things, the more I realize that he doesn't have enough faith in the comic book stories to bring THOSE stories to life. We're getting a Cap in a makeshift costume created because he's going to be a USO attraction. Uh-HUH. A Bucky who's already in the Army ahead of Steve, not a capable teen sidekick (created to give teenage boys someone with whom they could empathize while reading Cap's adventures). We're getting a Red Skull who appears as a normal human being some of the time, whereas in the comics, he was ALWAYS the Red Skull and you never saw him looking like anything BESIDES a "red skull."

    • DanBOY says:

      'he was ALWAYS the Red Skull and you never saw him looking like anything BESIDES a "red skull.'

      Umm Red Skulls first appearance was as a human. Hitler made him his secret project. Trained him to fight and then made him wear the Red Skull mask.

  3. Kyle Garret says:

    While I appreciate the Brubaker's run is mentioned, it's only mentioned for bringing Bucky back, not for the fact Brubaker has told flashback stories that portray Bucky exactly how he'll be in this movie.

    It would be worthwhile to mention that this new version of Bucky has been around for a few years now, and originated in the comic books. We haven't seen the old version in quite some time.

  4. Nix says:

    Hot. I look forward to the slashfic.

  5. Dumdum Dugan says:


    I am excited. Now I wonder if the Winter Soldier will be a factor in the Avengers Movie. This movie started off looking shaky to me, but the more I read the better this movie looks. That is good because if they mess up Cap . . then there will be many an upset fanboy taking to the street to riot. Myself included.

  6. WRTRPROD7 says:

    Why, oh, why does every comic book character have to be "dark and edgy?" Is that the only two words hollywood knows? Look what they're doing to Superman. What's wrong with clear cut lines of right and wrong? Optimism? Innocence? No, everything has to be dark and edgy. So boring….

  7. Guido Merkens says:

    Enough with the Winter Soldier nonsense. Captain America the comic book has been a mere shadow of itself ever since Heroes Reborn was hoisted upon us, and even though there were vestiges of the old glory here and there (not the Brubaker stuff but Mark Waid's take) it has mostly been drawn out, depressing and LAME. Bucky was the only character that stayed dead and then they had to ruin even that. The beauty of being a comic book reader is that you can deny all of this dumb retcon ever happened…Spider-Man never had a clone, Dick Grayson is still Robin and BUCKY STAYED DEAD. I think everybody on this thread will agree that if you gotta pick one Cap, it's gotta be by the King. Jack Kirby's Cap was numero uno. Let's see if they get it right. Those were the comics that were read by hundreds of thousands of people. Winter Soldier was read by tens of thousands, if that.

  8. Mike Rex says:

    I agree with WRTRPROD7…The "dark and edgy" thing is just so tired. You know what film wasn't dark and edgy, and changed Hollywood from the ground up? Star Wars (1977).

    The truth is, in art it is much easier to capture misery than it is to capture joy.

    • Norm Richmond says:

      you know what movie was dark and edgy? the Empire Strikes Back and it was by far the best of the two trilogies. Lets face it, fanboys are impossible to please. He's not blond enough, he's not wearing the suit. Bullsh*t. This movie looks to be realistic and a helluva lot of fun. Don't like it? Don't go see it.

  9. Shakira says:

    I hope in this film series, they will include:
    Rikki Barnes, Battlestar, Sharon Carter, Demolition Man, Diamondback, Falcon, Golden Girl, Nomad, Rick Jones.

    I look forward to seeing the following villains in future sequels, you know these words, guys! Come on, sing along!
    Baron Zemo, Batroc the Leaper, Crossbones, Doctor Faustus, Grand Director, Hate-Monger, Protocide, Serpent Society, Serpent Squad, Sin, Viper

    • Tmiller says:

      Yeah, I agree. I hope they just have a parade at the end of the sequel that includes all these people, especially Batroc the Leaper. I don't care if it makes no sense.

  10. Anti-plagiarism says:


    Looks like you guys have a plagarist. Look at their lede

  11. Nivekian says:

    I agree with some of the posters here, Johnson doesn't even seem to really like the character that much given all the "it's going to be different" talk. Bad enough he felt so ashamed of the costume he turned it into some puffy football uniform looking thing, and has a character that hated using guns for years, using guns. And don't give me any of that Retcon nonsense either, for 40 years in the comics he never used a gun, or killed people. Only recently have we seen that revisionist crap to make the character "edgy" to easily amused comic 'fans" who need ever character to be Batman or The Punisher.

  12. paul says:

    i think everyone has it all wrong: Bucky see Capt die (frozen), Bucky becomes Winter Soldier, Capt wakes to Sam Jackson Nick Furry, Cap gets pissed off because of the "new world," Cap becomes Nomad, Nomad and Winter Soldier fight, Nomad dies (thus ending the second movie), Avengers Movie starts with Caps funeral, Avengers Assemble with Steve Rogers and Bucky as cap.

    Well, one could hope huh?

  13. Watson says:

    Spiderman's artist,

    When is Marvel going to figure out that we fans don't like the artist who have been drawing Spiderman.? Steve Ditko’s art has been going on sale, and has out sold the entire artist who has been drawing Spiderman. So when is Marvel going to get it through it's thick skull that we don't like the artist that have been drawing Spiderman. Disney, Marvel is not listening to us fans take charge!

  14. Marc says:

    Will Bucky wear a costume in the new film? Does anyone know?

  15. Moira says:

    Come on let us sing His And Yum a long they mighty shield.Capton America Avengers. What a Sad Story I heard About,What love And Hate. World hates one other. What the world superheros coming to,Bad e for children.To watch that.They love Avengers. Load of Bulldogs. Cats and Dogs. meaw woof. R meaw, SF.Come on come lets us go,Watch Mighty shield blow. It blow up! Broken glass, Lost all hop. What a Team.I miss you America. May REst in Peace.Someone take our glory.Sleep will.America Song,he don't sing.Red white and blue.America America is calling you.He throw mighty shield.SF

  16. Moira says:

    Too me I don't like red Skulk They killed cap. It's be the other way around.What side are you on?Who side are you agaisnt. Evee bad men, Men i was superhero Kickbutt.

  17. Moira says:

    Hi it EM.SF.Were at The Statue Of Liberty,There Capton America Becky. Video on,There Ironman,Thor Wasp.They ask who hell I am. They didn't get involved. Laaa Ha aha ahah.I laught out loud to myself.Dame it. To Dame bad,Iam Out of luck. Owell, I tried. Don't get angey With me pay. Look it spiderman He on bouncing, Capton America Trying climb up he fallin down, Ironman goes to save him.What a hero.SF.

  18. Moira says:

    I love you Chris EVans,Anyways Eveans If you don't em,I still love you.Flame on. Fanistic. Jugde. Cute. What a Body. I wonder what be like to go into that,what ever you call it. Hello anyways. Maybe i meet you one day. Please don't sore.I just asking.You don't want me to asked, I won't bug you again.It was rither a life time. Cause i had the time of my life. mighty shield.When Capton america throw is mighty shield.I love the pictures. I seen Some Images, It Look tha t bad.Too Me he can proble kick it off. Just hop don't ice. I hate that part.Cause runied the cap.I miss you America Rest in peace. So sad.cause he sad.Too Bad they can't make another DVD.I wish they put more aVengers. I love rest of the team.WAsp fly awayWE Mighty one..

  19. Moira says:

    Poor Guy,What MArVel Should Create,Beter Storyline A HAppy Person.He doesn't He is a Failer, ASmaed OF Being called a hero. They Better get o krack on it, I with I could Be there and talk to him.Wasp.What a Lucky Lady.IAm A Betterfully.What She thinking about when looking around room at the hero that he doesn't feel anymore. Holding out for a Hero. Redbarren.Snoopy.

  20. Moira says:

    I Asked For Capto nAmerica To Email, Me He Turned Me down.Doesn't be involed.He Hurt my feelings. I hurt theres.Told I was A Dumass.DSS.Movie,IAm Avenger.Hello America I still love you.forgive me.Joking.Flame on.

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