Chris Evans will reportedly carry Captain America’s shield

March 23, 2010 | 7:42 p.m.
Chris Evans

Over at the Heat Vision blog, our distinguished competition anchored at the Hollywood Reporter, there was a major scoop Monday as Borys Kit reported that the casting scramble for “The First Avenger: Captain America” is officially over. That role of the greatest patriotic superhero belongs to Chris Evans, a fellow with previous experience in the Marvel universe.

Here’s an excerpt from Heat Vision:

Sources tell us the actor has not only accepted Marvel’s offer, first detailed on Friday, but that the dealmaking moved so fast it’s now all about dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.

Marvel would not comment on the development, and CAA, which reps the actor, declined comment.

Evans was offered the role in Marvel Studios’ production last week, but there was some question of whether he would accept. Factoring in to the choice was the fact that Evans played Johnny Storm, the flame-covered superhero known as the Human Torch in Fox’s “Fantastic Four” movies. 

The Fantastic Four films may reside in the Marvel universe in the minds of fans, but, of course, as a Fox enterprise, it’s separate and distinct from the Marvel Studios continuity. Same goes for Sony’s “Spider-Man” films and Fox’s “X-Men” movies.

More interesting, to me, is the test ahead for Evans, who will have to tap a different side of his acting craft to play the intensely earnest, dedicated and wholesome Steve Rogers without letting the character drift into two-dimensional cornball. The “Fantastic Four” films were awful (especially the first one), but Evans did have a spark as the self-absorbed wiseguy in the group. It’s a far tougher challenge to play an un-ironic hero in a period piece.

Avengers 4

I remember talking to Gabriel Macht, who portrayed the title role in “The Spirit,” rooted in another 1940s-era creation, and he moaned about the vintage dialogue and retro sensibility of a square-jawed hero who was plucked from the era of serials and dropped into a CG age. “You say it as honest as you can,” he said with a tight smile. Well, we all know how that turned out.

“Captain America” is being directed by Joe Johnston, and when I spoke to him a few weeks ago, he said one of the big challenges of the project was finding an actor who could present two physiques on screen — the “98-pound weakling” look of Steve Rogers and then the ripped-muscle frame of his heroic alter ego after receiving a dose of the ultimate performance-enhancing drug. Evans will be tested by that body-shaping, but also by the need to win the hearts and minds of 21st century movie-goers with an FDR-era champion; that will be especially interesting to watch as the movie ventures overseas, where the name of the film might smack of jingoism.

I hope the film does well. I think the maverick candor of Johnston is a breath of fresh air in Hollywood, and Evans (much like Chris Pine of “Star Trek“) has a sly intellect at play behind his eyes that makes him fun to watch on the screen, even in those creaky “Fantastic Four” films. If the actor pulls off this double-duty in the Marvel universe on film, maybe he’ll get a new nickname — the torch of freedom. If he doesn’t pull it off? Well, a demoted Captain America film will severely undermine Marvel’s audacious plan to bring together all their franchise heroes for the Avengers movie.

– Geoff Boucher

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