“Captain America: The First Avenger” director Joe Johnston is not one of Hollywood’s shiny, happy people — the 60-year-old Texas native is known for blunt candor and a withering glare. That’s why I was bit taken aback the other day when I called his cellphone and heard a voice on the other end that actually sounded something close to giddy.
“I watched the movie for the first time a few days ago and I just looked at the first cut and there is so much entertainment value — it’s just flat-out fun to watch,” Johnston said of his Marvel Studios film, which hits theaters July 22. “Maybe I’m somewhat biased — I was there [when we made it] — but, seriously, it’s funny, it’s exciting and there’s great visual effects. The movie is going to be something more than people are expecting. This movie is going to surprise some people. It is the origin story of Captain America but it is also something rare — it’s a period superhero film but there’s great action in it. You don’t normally think of guys driving around in 1939 sedans in an action film but there are some great action beats in it. It’s just a helluva lot of fun to watch.”
It’s not exactly shocking for a film director to be a sunny voice of promotion for his own movie. But I can tell you that Johnston didn’t sound like someone trying to puff up a project; he sounded like a guy who thinks he’s got a winning ticket in his pocket. Time will tell whether Johnston is off the mark but — after knowing him for a while now — I doubt seriously that he’s being anything but earnest in his appraisals. He may be right, he may be wrong, but I don’t think he’s being disingenuous.
I asked Johnston — whose credits include “Jurassic Park III,” “The Rocketeer” and “Jumanji” — who in his cast delivered a performance that took a character in an unexpected direction, and he didn’t hesitate with his answer.
“All actors bring something unexpected to the role because they have to translate what’s on the page and make a real character out of the black-and-white text that’s there in the script. I hadn’t worked with Chris Evans and I wasn’t really that familiar with his work and I didn’t know what to expect. I was blown away by the subtlety that he brought to the role. It was really exciting to watch him. He added layers to the character that were not on the page and layers that were not in the comic books. He made Steve Rogers into a real flesh-and-blood character and it was fantastic to watch.”
What do you think, does Johnston’s firecracker enthusiasm make you any more eager to see his red-white-and-blue adventure film? Or is he just waving his own flag?
— Geoff Boucher (Follow me on Twitter @LATherocomplex)
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