It is often the case in this business that when actors are out promoting movies they have a filter on that keeps the real honesty at bay. That’s definitely not the case with the blazingly truthful Chris Evans, whose new indie film, Puncture, opens in limited release today from distributor Millennium Entertainment and who is also coming off the summer hit Captain America: The First Avenger, which has grossed $364 million worldwide. He is currently back in “Cap” mode shooting the all-star Marvel flick The Avengers, which Disney and Marvel release in May. Evans, in his guise of Captain America (aka Steve Rogers), is signed up for three Captain America and three Avengers films, having previously appeared in two Fantastic Four films as Johnny Storm/The Human Torch. So it’s no wonder in his down time between superhero travels he is proud to get the chance to do a small, true-life drama like Puncture, in which plays Mike Weiss, a drug-addicted lawyer who takes on a giant health supply company while trying to overcome his own problems with the needle and other demons.
When I talked with him, he made no apologies for doing the films that pay the big bucks. But to drum up interest in this tiny film for which he is receiving the best reviews of his career, he will even be out making personal appearances at the Landmark Theatre in Los Angeles, where the movie opens this weekend.
“I’m going to keep doing everything I can. I usually hate press, but that’s just because I make bad movies. Problem is I’m just used to making movies where you’ve got to lie. If you work really hard on something and you know it’s not something you would want to see, you still have to find a way to sell it. It’s your job. It’s so rare to be proud of something,” he says, emphasizing that he is not dissing movies like Captain America, which received good reviews and an impressive 78% overall fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes (Puncture has a 78% fresh RT rating among top critics and 60% overall).
“No disrespect to Captain America. I love that movie and had a fantastic experience, but sometimes those studio films, some of the artistic integrity falls through the cracks, not on that one, but sometimes that does happen. But when you have a minute between these ridiculous films that have you under contract, you can do do a film like (Puncture)”, he says.
He says the problem making those big studio behemoths that he is so associated with now is that you sit in your trailer for five or six hours a day on a very tedious schedule that lasts six months. “This movie we had five weeks, and you come to set and better know every single word of dialogue, you better know exactly what you’re going to do; you get two takes and we gotta move. And you come home every day on these movies and you really feel like, ‘I made a movie today, I acted today’. You feel like you were part of something. You come home and you feel like you’ve created. Not to say you don’t feel that way on Captain America (laughs), but it’s just different on an indie film where everyone’s here for a passion. No one’s here for the paycheck,” says Evans, who comes from a theater-trained background but hasn’t gotten as much of an opportunity in movies to display his real acting chops — until now.
“I’m pretty candid when it comes to this type of stuff. I have no reason not to be. My career has been spotty (laughs). You know, as an actor, you do what you can and not all my movies have worked out. It’s not easy to make a good movie, so it’s rare to be part of something you can be proud of, and I’m proud of this. I have made movies for 10 years, and I am just so used to making movies that you somehow excuse, in the press element of it, and try to find a flowery way to tell people to go see this piece of shit. Unfortunately, that’s the way it’s been for me, which is really too bad. But the first time I saw this movie I texted these guys I was so happy and I said, listen I’m going to do whatever I have to do to get people to see this movie, and it’s obviously a limited release,” he says of the battle to get traction for the film.
Although it has a couple of good bookings in top theaters in LA and New York, Millennium has a very limited marketing budget, and the film’s one-sheet showing a disheveled Evans holding a needle looks more like a horror film than a serious drama like Leaving Las Vegas, which it more closely resembles. It will be an uphill climb as Millennium, which is known for more mainstream fare like the recent Conan the Barbarian (released through Lionsgate), is not exactly thought of as the kind of indie house that knows how to nurture films that require special handling. But if the movie does manage to catch on in the indie marketplace, Evans could even find himself in the year-end awards conversation. It’s the kind of raw performance other actors will relate to.
As for future projects, Evans will also be seen next week in 20th Century Fox’s romantic comedy What’s Your Number? opposite Anna Faris. The sequel to Captain America likely won’t be slotted until 2014, leaving him plenty of time to find another challenging role like Mike Weiss.
“I remember leaving the first meeting with directors Mark and Adam Kassen, saying ‘Well, I hope you just keep me in mind,’ and they said ‘Chris, we want you,’ and I couldn’t believe it because I am so used to fighting for (good) roles,” he says. “It ended up being one of the best professional experiences of my life.”