A week ago, I was on my way to meet the often-stealthy members of S.H.I.E.L.D for a Captain America: The Winter Soldier debriefing. But someone or something didn’t want me there.
I reminded myself that I’m not just a GeekMom writer, I’m a superhero—I’m Hygena from Stan Lee’s Who Wants to be Superhero? I had a mission! I had been called on to bring our readers important declassified information from the expanding Marvel Universe. I could do this!
But every superhero has a weakness, and I discovered I have two: L.A. traffic and mommyhood. Still, I could not be deterred from fulfilling my mission, which was to bring you an update from this panel with actors Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan, and Anthony Mackie, plus directors Anthony and Joe Russo, as well as producer Kevin Feige.
The appearance of Johansson at this press event is likely of double-interest to GeekMom readers, since she’s soon to be a mom herself. How serious the actress and future mother would be treated this time around remained an open question.
As GeekMom’s founding editor Corrina Lawson wrote back in February in her Cliffs of Insanity column, at prior press conferences, Johansson was diminished to mostly dieting questions. By comparison, Lawson raised the issue of the Black Widow character being overly sexualized in the Avengers comics. And the actress herself quipped in Entertainment Weekly that she’d have to wear “pasties” just to get a Black Widow movie made. Would the tone change with Captain America: The Winter Soldier?
The question that our readers wanted an answer to most was if there will be a solo Black Widow movie. “I think that could be great,” said Feige, who runs Marvel. “We’ve got various outlines and ideas of where to take that… there’s a big element that explores her backstory in an upcoming Marvel feature… as you’ll see in (the Winter Soldier movie) and Avengers: Age of Ultron, she is kind of key to so much of the broader world.”
Johansson agrees there are a lot of avenues to explore for her character. “I think Natasha is a bit of a reluctant superhero. She doesn’t necessarily have this strong golden moral compass. Let’s not forget, she started out her career as essentially a mercenary.”
As to what Johansson finds attractive in the role, “[S]he uses her feminine wiles as kind of a part of her job, but she doesn’t rely on her sexuality or…physical appeal to get the job done,” she said. “She’s extremely smart, thinks on her feet, is a leader, and has a lot of foresight. Those are all qualities that I think it’s wonderful to celebrate for young women.”
Would producers view Johansson differently once she is a mom? “I don’t know. I’ve been in the industry for 20 years (and) the way roles have become available to me changes as I grow older. You hope to have a career that has longevity and reflects the (personal) experiences you’ve had. It’s what we all hope for—men and women alike.”
On the evolution of the Black Widow character, Johansson said, “This is the first time that we’ve really gotten to see Natasha as a person who gets up, gets ready for work in the morning, has a life outside of just her job once she’s out of the suit. We find Steve (Rogers) and Natasha questioning their own identity, realizing that they thought that they were strong people that had their beliefs and morals, but at the end of it, they (question) their entire professional careers and young adult life and who (they are), what do (they) want, and what do (they) need from someone? Both of these characters are left (at a) cliffhanger at the end…cresting the wave of having this huge moment of self-discovery.”
Physical preparations for superhero movies is always a challenge, and Winter Soldier was no exception. “I had just come off of doing a Broadway (play), which is pretty much the most physically challenging thing you can do,” Johansson said. “I felt like if anything was going to prepare me to have stamina, it was that. Everything seemed like a piece of cake after treading the boards for that long. I was in pretty solid shape from that run.”
But, she said she found the physical routine of keeping in top shape less than inspiring. “Boring. (You) get up at 5 o’clock, go to the gym, all that stuff—it’s not glamorous at all. You train like a dude and then eat a bunch of lettuce. That’s how it goes: nothing fancy!”
And on the subject of the physicality of roles, Cap himself, Evans, addressed how it felt to wear the famous suit. “It always feels like it gets tighter. I thought it was supposed to get more comfortable, (but it) got worse,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with the fact that you know you’re making good movies. If you were disappointed with the previous film, it’s going to be hard to mentally prepare yourself for living in that thing for four or five months, but since Marvel just can’t stop making quality movies, it’s exciting and it’s humbling and it’s an honor to jump back into it—no matter how uncomfortable it is.”
After a special screening, I was amazed to see Robert Redford as a cast member in this latest chapter of Captain America. On working with Redford, Evans said, “He’s amazing. It was pretty intimidating that day, because he is a living legend, but it’s always such a treat when someone you look up to that much lives up to the expectation… He showed up with the utmost professionalism… He really is such an example of what it is to be great.”
Jackson agreed, saying, “I met Robert in a lot of different situations when I was going to Sundance, when I was a younger actor, when he had a more active part in that process, and I missed an opportunity to do several films with him over the years. That morning when I got there to work with him for the first time, we sat down and we talked about a lot of different things: golf, life, movies. So by the time we got on set, it did look like we spent time together or had some past and some darker and more medieval state of counterinsurgency. And it was a great experience. He is everything Chris said.”
Evans had previously expressed some concerns regarding being typecast in the Captain America role. This being his third time in the role, his concerns seemed to have ebbed. “Had I not done the movies, it would’ve been the biggest mistake of my life… It’s changed everything for me… Marvel has the Midas touch, so every time you suit up, you know that you’re making something of quality. It’s rewarding on every level. So, thank God I had the right people in my life pushing me to make the right decision.”
Finally, Joe Russo spoke on his role, along with his brother, in directing this action movie after having directed genre shows such as Community and Arrested Development. “The processes are very different… You have an infrastructure at Marvel that’s very different than anywhere else in the world. An incredible infrastructure, very talented, with very intelligent people, who are there to help you get your vision across. But we always say comedy isn’t very different from action. It requires choreography. The timing of it isn’t very different than stunt work or a fight in a movie. It’s all a dance. So we didn’t feel like it was that big of a stretch for us. It felt like every day that we’ve been on-set for the last 15 years.”
Captain America The Winter Soldier opens in theaters nationwide Friday, April 4, 2014.