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Casting Captain America
Casting Steve Rogers/Captain America was a long and arduous task. On paper, his character goes from one extreme to the other, from put-upon reject to dynamic leader. Where do you find someone who can start off as a shy, undersized adult, capable of gaining audience sympathy and respect, who transforms into a tough, believable leader, able to legitimately challenge an elite force of Hitler's most unscrupulous soldiers? Filmmakers went through many names who, for one reason or another, were ticked off the list.

Chris Evans found his way onto the list, having previously collaborated with Marvel, portraying Johnny Storm/Human Torch in "Fantastic Four” and its sequel. As the list grew smaller, Evans' name remained. Feige comments, "We all really liked Chris and, it's funny, his name was there from the start—it's just, as filmmakers, we took this roundabout journey back to him. Like once you clear the forest, you can see the tree at the center.”

Johnston picks up, "We realized that Chris met with all the criteria, everything that this character needed to be. He was charming. He is boyish, but still capable of being a man and being a leader. He looks like he's just walked out of the comic books.”

Evans, at first, experienced a little hesitation when approached about the project. The scope and scale of the commitment was a little daunting. Evans says, "I was scared and nervous—this is a huge property for Marvel and is a character a lot of fans care about. I'd be lying by saying I wasn't massively apprehensive at first, but it's a role that is an honor to play and I really wanted to do him justice. I couldn't be more grateful for the role, but…well, just a little nervous at the same time.”

To help alleviate his concerns, filmmakers called a meeting, and pitched Evans on the character, not the action movie—concentrating on who Steve Rogers is. Evans says, "It was a really good story, even independent of the super hero aspect. Steve has a lot of shortcomings and still chooses not to become bitter or jaded about it. He's a good, honest man, a noble man, and, as a result of those virtues, he's given a gift. When he becomes Captain America, he's able to balance his new life with his old set of morals.”

Evans continues, "There is something about his ‘red, white and blue' that made me feel like I wanted to be this guy. Chucking his shield to beat the bad guy was great, but truth be told, Captain America's physical capabilities fell pretty low on the totem pole, when you look at some of the other abilities in the super hero world. What makes him appealing as a hero boils down to a number of things: he's the guy you want to follow in to battle; he's the guy you want to lead you, not because of his bravery or courageousness, but because he's a good man and he would make sure you made it back.

"As far as building my character is concerned, I really concentrated on looking at the comic books that dealt with his transformation,” Evans says. "It's the story of the making of a hero, something that starts before he even has the suit and the shield.”

With the key casting of Evans, "Captain America” filmmakers off to a strong start. The myriad of other "Captain” characters runs the gamut of all types, a full company of international players to tell the origin story. To do this, Marvel continued its unofficial-official policy of choosing performers first—Feige summarizes, "We tend to let the role tell us what it needs and never to just cast a face, never just cast a look, but cast someone that you can empathize with. It's exciting to think that all these characters might have the opportunity to run into each other in any other movie, because we continue to build this Marvel universe. You never know who is going to walk on-screen next, so we needed to make sure we were casting the best people from the beginning.”

The net was summarily cast wide, and Marvel assembled a stellar and varied lineup of performers, from fresh faces to lauded veterans. Academy Award® winner Tommy Lee Jones is Colonel Chester Phillips, Captain America's commanding officer; the versatile Hugo Weaving plays Johann Schmidt/Red Skull, the nefarious head of HYDRA; and Academy Award® nominee Stanley Tucci is Dr. Abraham Erskine, the creator of Project Rebirth, and the man who personally selects Steve Rogers to become the program's first subject. Golden Globe nominee Hayley Atwell plays Peggy Carter, Captain America's military liaison; Sebastian Stan as Steve's closest friend, Bucky Barnes; Dominic Cooper as wealthy industrialist and inventor Howard Stark; and Toby Jones as Arnim Zola, a Nazi-collaborating scientist. Joining Captain America's ‘Howlin' Commandos' are Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan, Independent Spirit Award winner Derek Luke as Gabe Jones, Kenneth Choi as Morita, Bruno Ricci as Jacques Dernier, and J.J. Feild as Montgomery Falsworth.

Tommy Lee Jones stands as one in a generation of actors at the top of his profession, having gotten there by countless superb performances, practically patenting the character of the ‘American in charge' in the process—a man of few words who can command an army, an investigation, an agency by the sheer gravitas of his demeanor. He is also blessed with a wicked sense of humor and the brains of a scholar—in short, he seems born to play Colonel Phillips.

Jones comments, "I play the Colonel, sort of this gruff military man in charge of the unit that produces Captain America. I think there's always sort of one of ‘me' in these films, but I like what Joe [Johnston] and Kevin [Feige] have tried to do to make it unique. This is a comic book movie, but this one also seems to strike a particular chord that is resonating right now on a national level. But not to get too big and heavy about it, they're meant to be fun, thrill rides, so I'm just going along with that. I get to yell at some people, order guys around, say something funny every now and again. It's a good time.”

Markus and McFeely could not believe their luck with the casting of Jones. "It is absolutely insane to think that anything that you write will ever come out of the mouth of Tommy Lee Jones,” says Markus. "In dailies, he'd be in scenes and give a great line reading—it would play perfectly and we'd have to stop and think, ‘Wait, he didn't just say that himself, we wrote that.' It's still a little unbelievable to us, hearing him say our lines.”

In "Captain America: The First Avenger,” Steve Rogers faces one of Marvel's most notorious villain—the Red Skull, a.k.a. Johann Schmidt, a villain first introduced in March of 1941. Before Steve Rogers received his body-changing injections in Project Rebirth, Johann Schmidt received a prototype of the serum, designed to enhance the existing powers within a man. For Rogers, his brave heart and valiant nature result in Captain America—but Schmidt's ruthlessness and desire for power render him an hideous monster with a hunger for world domination.

Big shoes to fill, indeed, but Johnston already had Australian actor Hugo Weaving in mind for the role following their collaboration on "The Wolfman.” Johnston wanted someone who could shine through the prosthetics needed to portray Red Skull, someone whose acting wouldn't get lost behind the mask. Weaving certainly proved he had that skill with this performance in "V for Vendetta,” where he turned in a fully-rounded performance from behind a completely static mask.

"The important thing is to keep Johann Schmidt the character on-screen for as long as you possibly can, so that when Red Skull is revealed, the audience knows him as a man—basically, the same way that Steve works better if you know

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