Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Hugo Weaving, Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan
Director: Joe Johnston
Genre: Action, Adventure
Synopsis: Captain America: The First Avenger will be a rousing action/adventure epic in the best of the Marvel movie tradition. It's the story of Steve Rogers, a shy young man given incredible powers that must be used to turn the tide of history and save the world. He longs to serve his country in the fight to stop evil. However, his frail body leaves him unfit to join the military. A brilliant scientist offers a chance to participate in an experimental program which turns Steve into the enhanced Super Soldier known as Captain America.
Release Date: 28th July, 2011
The Hero That Started It All
Captain America (the Super Soldier alter ego of young patriot Steve Rogers) marked his first Marvel appearance in March of 1941, eight months prior to the U.S. entry into WWII; the unforgettable comic book cover image displayed a young hero, with the American flag on his chest, punching Adolf Hitler square in the jaw. Such an unadulterated political stance landed creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in hot water, but it also forever announced the arrival of a bold champion for those suffering at the hands of tyranny and militaristic authoritarianism. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby made no bones about the super hero's overriding goal. The staunchly aggressive art created quite a stir, and Joe Simon remembers, "This was the time just before the War, and we were besieged by political activists who used to have big rallies at Madison Square Garden. There would be 50,000 people in the rallies. Some found out where we lived, and these very aggressive people would protest at us and spit on us. The FBI found out what was going on and they assigned agents to be at our offices, just in case." (Marvel Studios President and "Captain America: The First Avenger" producer Kevin Feige observes, "When you have Captain America punching out Hitler in March 1941, before Pearl Harbor, it's definitely a statement, which proclaimed, 'We cannot sit by on the sidelines anymore.' That immediately spoke to Steve Rogers and Captain America as a character.")
Indeed, so imminent was the Axis threat in 1941 that the comic book's creators worked backwards, beginning with their villain and crafting a hero in response (classically, the hero comes first). Joe Simon and Jack Kirby sat down and designed varying versions of Captain America, finally settling on one in particular that founder Martin Goodman loved (Goodman began Marvel as Timely Publications in 1939). Market response was positive and immediate, and the book started selling out.
Many iterations later, Captain America remains, in many ways, relatively unchanged. Joe Simon comments, "They've done a lot of things since I was working on the character, however, we're still reminded who Captain America is and what he is. He is a symbol. He is an icon."
It was not until September of 1963 that Marvel Comics debuted The Avengers, a super group comprised of four of Marvel's most beloved characters: Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, (all created in the 1960's) and Captain America, a character created two decades earlier, earning him the title of "The First Avenger."
Since his debut, Captain America comics have sold more than 210 million copies in more than 70 countries. And now, as fans celebrate the 70th birthday of the super hero, Marvel Studios releases the origin story of how Steve Rogers became the first Avenger, Captain America.
Already well versed in successfully adapting graphic novels to films, the Studio remained firm in its decision to keep the story in the era in which it was conceived. Kevin Feige states, "It is my belief that we could not have created this notion of an interlinked Marvel cinematic universe without Captain America, because he is the start of the Marvel universe-not only in the history of our comics, but within the overall notion of enhanced humans. Whether that human has been bitten by a spider, exposed to gamma rays, or encased in a self-built metal suit, the notion of a super-powered human started with Steve Rogers, Captain America."
So, the decision to tell Steve Rogers' story in the '40s era was a done deal. Kevin Feige continues, "You can't tell Captain America's story without it taking place in that period. Is this the authentic WWII period that you see on the History Channel? Well, no. This film is the history of the Marvel universe separate from the history that we all learned at school-it's a science fiction approach to history. We've taken real life events, real life locations and put the Marvel spin on them, which really gives us the opportunity to explain the origins of the Marvel universe and allows us to tell a story that, frankly, no one else can tell. Plenty of war movies have been made and plenty of WWII movies have been made, but no one has ever made one quite like this."
Director/executive producer Joe Johnston agrees, and says, "You only really get one chance to do an origin story. The 1940s were such an energetic era, fueled by the optimistic belief that 'right' triumphs. Cinematically, it is such a toy box of vehicles, fashion and architecture-and we fill it with the Marvel gadgets and weaponry-it just seemed like a great opportunity to do this story first, then move on."
The accomplished team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely has been writing scripts for 15 years (including all three of the "Chronicles of Narnia"). Stephen McFeely adds, "Captain America is not only such a great embodiment of the American ideal of the time, he also is a prototypical hero-one who wasn't born to it, but had to work for it-with unwavering courage and belief in himself. Although those things can transfer quite well to modern day, if you have a hero dressed up like a flag, it might be a bit more challenging to accept that in a contemporary context. The fact they wanted to do it right, frankly, made it very appealing."
In Johnston, Marvel found an ideal director to helm the project. They needed someone who not only wanted to tell the story, but who could also give the story a heart. Joe Johnston began his career early on in special effects, worked at the prestigious Industrial Light & Magic, and shared the 1982 Oscar® for Best Visual Effects for "Raiders of the Lost Ark." His gifts as a story teller and his familiarity with the technical aspects of bringing a vintage adventure tale to life made him an ideal director for "Captain America: The First Avenger." Kevin Feige remembers, "Whenever we had a conversation with Joe [Johnston], it always came back to the fact he didn't want to lose sight of the character, didn't want to lose sight of Steve. Yes, of course, there will be amazing design and a great look, but let's make sure the audience goes along with him on this ride. He was the right guy to make the story feel contemporary, make it feel modern, relevant and cool for audiences."
Coincidentally, Joe Johnston had a lifelong fan in Kevin Feige, who explains, "I've been a huge fan of Joe Johnston almost my entire life, right from his design work on the original 'Star Wars.' His career has been leading up to doing a Marvel movie that is cutting-edge, that is contemporary, that has a heart. His film 'October Sky' is an amazing, relatable piece of filmmaking. Any other director would come in and want to play, because it's set in the 40's and it's fun, things like that. And that might have left us with something hollow, with the main character coming from a design perspective, and we would have lost the heart of the movie. Joe Johnston, however, was always in sync with the producers and reiterated that the movie had to be about Steve Rogers and his journey."
As the script began to take shape, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Kevin McFeely were constantly working to make sure the story of Captain America dovetailed perfectly with the other existing characters and plotlines in the Marvel Universe. Christopher Markus says, "We would check in with other projects or they would check in with us, because we wanted to ensure the connective tissue was there-for example, Howard Stark plays a fairly prominent role in our movie, and his son is Tony Stark, Iron Man. The connections have all been there from the start."
The writers began with the blueprint found on the pages of Captain America comic books. The screenwriters immersed themselves in that world and hungrily pored over stack after stack of issues. In telling the tale from the beginning with Steve Rogers, the story would need to give rise to the entire Marvel universe, a fact that the writers did not take lightly. "We are the midwives who help give birth to this whole thing," jokes Christopher Markus.
"Exactly," adds Kevin McFeely, "there is an organisation called the S.S.R. (Strategic Scientific Reserve) in our movie that will later become S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) and you feel very important-in a somewhat unimportant way-to be dealing with the genesis of these well known things that figure so prominently in this universe."
After some extensive reading of the source material, the screenwriters arrived at the conclusion that the real draw for audiences is the character of Steve Rogers, before he becomes Captain America. Kevin McFeely says, "It was important from the get-go that audiences identify with and care for Steve Rogers as a character, before he becomes an icon."
Joe Johnston comments, "We get to know Steve Rogers as a character first-and I think that's what's made him such a phenomenon for 70 years. He doesn't have any super powers per se-his powers are basically what the human body can do, but taken to a level of physical perfection. I have to say, that's what appealed to me about the character and about doing a film. It's about a guy who, in a matter of minutes, goes from a 98-pound weakling to the perfect human specimen. As such, Steve Rogers has all kinds of issues, both physical and psychological, and it's very interesting for me to take those issues and explore them in a really good, really fast-paced action story."
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, Chris Evans' name remained. Kevin Feige comments, "We all really liked Chris Evans 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."
Joe Johnston picks up, "We realised that Chris Evans 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."
Chris Evans, at first, experienced a little hesitation when approached about the project. The scope and scale of the commitment was a little daunting. Chris 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 Chris Evans on the character, not the action movie-concentrating on who Steve Rogers is. Chris Evans says, "It was a really good story, even independent of the super hero aspect. Steve Rogers 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."
Chris 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," Chris 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 Chris 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- Kevin Feige summarises, "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 empathise 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.
Tommy Lee 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."
Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely could not believe their luck with the casting of Tommy Lee Jones. "It is absolutely insane to think that anything that you write will ever come out of the mouth of Tommy Lee Jones," says Christopher 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 Steve Rogers, his brave heart and valiant nature result in Captain America-but Johann Schmidt's ruthlessness and desire for power render him an hideous monster with a hunger for world domination.
Big shoes to fill, indeed, but Joe Johnston already had Australian actor Hugo Weaving in mind for the role following their collaboration on "The Wolfman." Joe Johnston wanted someone who could shine through the prosthetics needed to portray Red Skull, someone whose acting wouldn't get lost behind the mask. Hugo 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 Rogers works better if you know him as a scrawny kid," says Kevin Feige.
Hugo Weaving admits to knowing very little about the comic book characters, or indeed, just how iconic his character is. Hugo Weaving discloses, "I knew nothing about the Captain America stories, and I have a very limited knowledge of super heroes in general. It's been an education for me to become part of this world. Johann Schmidt is a German officer who has an interest in a power beyond an Earthly power and, as far as villains go, I think that makes him all the more interesting."
Stephen McFeely notes, "One thing that makes him distinctive is that he splits from the Nazis and winds up killing Nazis. Even our bad guy hates Nazis! You love him just as much as you hate him, and Hugo Weaving just takes that and runs with it in ways you cannot even imagine."
Hugo Weaving admits that once cast, he had to put on blinders, as it were, in order to get to the heart of his character: "There are so many different stories and differing images of Red Skull out there, I just wasn't sure where to go-do I dive into the comics, or work from the script? I felt that the best thing I could do would be to work off the particular version of Red Skull in the script, as Marvel developed this particular story line for him. No matter how long the character has been around or how many appearances he has made in comics or in pop culture, the only thing that is pertinent for me as an actor is to try and understand what the character is and what he's trying to achieve. And that is all on the pages of the script."
Hugo Weaving's signing on was also a bit of a reunion, not only for director Joe Johnston, but also for director of photography Shelly Johnson and production designer Rick Heinrichs-all four had worked together on "Wolfman." Hugo Weaving says, "I thought playing Red Skull would be fun to do. When they first showed me the visual images of him, I thought at least it would be a challenge to play such an iconic villain. And getting to work with these guys again was an added bonus."
The love interest in "Captain America: The First Avenger" is Peggy Carter, played by British actress Hayley Atwell. Peggy Carter is as tough as they come in the comic book world and works for an operation known as the Strategic Scientific Reserve, an organisation on the forefront of technology and developing new ways to fight the enemy.
Hayley Atwell comments, "The most appealing thing for me when I read the script was that I could relate to this woman being in a male-dominated environment. She has a fight in her, which I always find very attractive in a character, and she has a mystery about her. The developing relationship that she has with Steve Rogers means that it's not just your everyday love story. She has a career, she has a lot of self-respect and she's pretty sick and tired of men not taking her seriously in the Army. I think that makes her formidable, particularly to Steve Rogers. No matter what he turns into, he's still this little guy at heart, who never had any experience with women. It's like he goes from primary school to university with nothing in-between."
Kevin Feige comments, "The women in Marvel movies help the super heroes understand who they are as they go through these journeys-in a way that makes them their equals. I feel that these stories work best when you have someone like a Peggy Carter standing up to Steve Rogers and putting him in his place. She's very much the moral center for Steve as he goes on his journey to becoming Captain America. So this is definitely a wonderful opportunity to explore and expand the great female characters we've had in our past films."
Any life experience Steve Rogers had prior to becoming Captain America was thanks to his friendship with Bucky Barnes-in many ways, Bucky is what Steve would like to be. Both are brave, but thanks to Bucky's physicality, he wins fistfights, has more confidence with the ladies, and most importantly, is declared fit for service when Steve is rejected.
Like the character of Captain America, Bucky Barnes appears multiple times in various Marvel books, so casting was a challenge-the actor needed to be right for the project, but could also be able to take the character in different directions, should the opportunity present itself. The producer remembers, "Sebastian Stan self-taped and sent in his own audition for the role of Steve Rogers, not Bucky. But we were such a fan we told him about Bucky and that we'd updated his character to make him a bit more of a peer, the big brother that Steve never had."
Sebastian Stan embraced the role of Bucky: "I play James Buchanan Barnes, more commonly known as Bucky. He's similar to Steve in many ways, and I think that's why he relates to him-they're both orphans, both have a self-reliance and independence. But Bucky has sense of responsibility towards Steve and would do anything to protect him."
As to the relationship that exists between the transformed Captain America and soldier Barnes, Sebastian Stan explains, "Once Steve becomes Captain America, he becomes the symbol. Bucky was always trained to do the stuff around the edges, so that makes me key to Captain America's efforts. I really like that, because I thought it added kind of a different facet to my character."
Like Hugo Weaving, Sebastian Stan was faced with trying to find the 'real' Bucky within the multiple Marvel appearances of the character, but filmmakers made it easier on the actor. He explains, "The way Bucky was written in the earlier comic books is very different to how we decided to go with the movie, so that allowed me to have a fresh and personal approach to him; however, there were definitely some aspects of the character that were important to maintain."
Dominic Cooper also found big shoes to fill as inventor Howard Stark, the future father of Tony Stark, the man who will become Iron Man. Dominic Cooper relates, "I did not grow up with comic books, I was more the kid making 'vroom, vroom' noises with a toy car. But once I submitted myself for the role, I received this lovely phone call and spoke to them at length about how they saw this character and what part he played in the overall story. With regard to the mechanics of Howard Stark, it turns out that he is a very exciting, exuberant entrepreneur who was a playboy and a creator, an inventor. So there were lots of aspects to the character that I felt could be made very elaborate and very much fun. I was slightly jealous that I didn't have a suit and a cape and could climb things, but you can't have everything."
While not unfamiliar with blockbusters (he starred as Meryl Streep's future son-in-law in the musical "Mamma Mia!"), Dominic Cooper's work has largely been in smaller, independent fare. So the shock of suddenly being in the midst of a larger-than-life action-adventure film was a memorable one: "It was an extraordinary experience coming into the studio the first time. Having worked on very small independent films, I encountered a guy who was doing storyboards, and they were so beautiful and elaborate, they all looked like single paintings. You could have hung any of them on your wall. And he had not only created this beautiful array of each frame of the film, he was then sitting at the computer and talking to Joe Johnston -so here I was in the midst of this conversation, a discussion with Joe Johnston about where he wanted a submarine to be positioned at a certain time. And they had the ability to move the whole set around using graphics, which just showed me the enormity of the project and how advanced it was. It was like I had stepped into my own comic book world."
For actor Neal McDonough, getting cast as Dum Dum Dugan was a "blessing, just the greatest thing." The six-foot actor wore padding and "got to eat a lot of chocolate cake" to bulk up for his role as the full-figured Dugan. But beyond the trappings, the performer was pleased to work on a Marvel project. Neal McDonough relates, "The problem with a lot of these comic book stories going to feature films is that, for me personally, it was never so much about the acting, it was about the effects or about the costume and techno fireworks. But then what Jon Favreau did with 'Iron Man,' to start, with casting Robert Downey, Jr. It wasn't so much just about a comic book anymore, it was about a story-I think people forget that these comic books were about great storytelling. I think that's what Marvel has returned to. And I think Chris Evans has tackled Captain America in the same amazing way that Robert Downey, Jr. did with Iron Man."
Dr. Erskine, creator of the Super-Solider Serum, is played by accomplished actor Stanley Tucci, who always admired comic books for "their extreme heroism and the beauty of their graphic simplicity." Marvel gifted the actor with a collection of comic books that detailed the back stories of the scientist and his creation, all of which Stanley Tucci incorporated into his character. He says, "Dr. Erskine is a German scientist who was put under pressure during the Nazi regime to co-opt his work-he was creating a serum that would take all of the physical and moral attributes that any person has and just amplify them. The Nazis try to push him to use this stuff on their own people, and Erskine refuses. He eventually comes to America and uses his discovery for good. Unfortunately, prior to this, someone in Germany got a hold of it and used it for evil. And this evil becomes Captain America's nemesis."
And while nearly everyone around Erskine balks at his choice for his first test subject, the smallish Steve Rogers, the doctor is certain of his reasons and insists: "He sees this unequivocal sense of morality, right and wrong, in Steve Rogers, along with an innate sense of justice and a desire to fight for what is right. Even though he might not be physically the most perfect specimen, he knows that the serum will accomplish that. It will take all of those attributes and heighten them. Steve Rogers, is the most morally pure person he could find."
Preparation: Red, White and Blue Versus…Red
With a character as recognisable as Captain America, translating the fantastic aspects of his iconic costume to the real world presented a challenge for conceptual artist and designer Ryan Meinerding and Academy Award® nominated costume designer Anna B. Sheppard. Taking into account seventy years of comics for reference, a balance needed to be established that would satisfy the fans and still be believable in the world of the film.
Above all, the suit had to marry coolness and fantasy with practicality, where Co-Producer Stephen Broussard says "Whether it's Tony's suit in 'Iron Man' or Thor's Asgardian Armor, it's always about striking that balance of not sacrificing what makes it so visually appealing on the page and why people have responded to it for decades. This is our interpretation of how we think Steve Rogers went from being a symbol, a guy on a USO stage with a costume that wouldn't stop anything, to being the guy on the front line charging an army."
Ryan Meinerding does his research thoroughly, pulling references from various sources and discussing each move in detail with the filmmakers. Every strap, every buckle has a practical reason for being there, beyond its cosmetic properties. Producer Kevin Feige comments, "We're bringing the costume to life in a way that I think is absolutely a nod to the comics, but I think it is inspired in its believability-it looks like it's of the time period and like it stepped out of the comics, but it definitely feels like it exists in our real world."
Marvel is savvy to reference what has come before without being a slave to it. Kevin Feige adds, "We'd be foolish to throw the original designs away and start from scratch, but the bones are there-we wanted to pick the best elements of them, but tailor them to our actor and our story, so the final build is believable when you see it in action."
While Chris Evans was engaged in weeks of physical training, working toward the 'physical perfection' that Dr. Erskine's serum would achieve, a team of artists were busy working on the serum's opposite achievement-the transformed Johann Schmidt, The Red Skull. The multi-step process began with prosthetics designer David White taking a life cast of actor Hugo Weaving. This cast would serve as a basis onto which possible designs could be created. White explains, "My aim was to find a sculptural balance and connection between Hugo Weaving and The Red Skull. I wanted to make sure Hugo Weaving wasn't lost beneath the final make-up."
White and the producers went through several conceptual models before finding the right look. The goal was to achieve the skeletal appearance without any hint of Johann Schmidt having been burned. David White says, "Joe Johnston didn't want audiences to sympathise with Red Skull, we didn't want anyone feeling sorry for him. But he definitely wanted something that looked classically memorable, but be a little grotesque, without being disgusting. We finally hit on a look that struck that balance of hideous without veering too much into the grotesque; just cool and charismatic enough that you can't take your eyes off him!"
Once the practical makeup was perfected-first applications took a team around three-and-one-half hours-CGI would be overlaid to apply the finishing touches to the look and remove Hugo Weaving's nose. Kevin Feige recounts, "We always figured that digital effects would have to bring the character home, but apart from the minor things, like the nose removal, we were massively impressed with how far David White was able to take him from the first test."
Also to be credited with the super successful result was Hugo Weaving's ability to channel his portrayal through any amount of prosthetics on his face. White employed seven individual coated silicone pieces, which lay right next to the skin, and which were able to hold onto paint and makeup. The silicone also had the added benefit of a slight translucency of color that resulted in luminosity under stage lights, creating an otherworldly red glow. Hugo Weaving comments, "At first, it was a bit of an ordeal to get into the mask. However, by the second round of tests, I realised just how much subtlety I could utilise in my facial expressions, and I could actually animate the mask pretty well. The cheekbones, eyebrows and mouth are quite extreme, but it enabled my expressions to come through, whereas some of the earlier tests it felt like I really lost the sense of Johann Schmidt beneath the mask."
"Under the lights, you get these beautiful curves," enthuses David White. "It's a very organic and moves extremely well."
Weaving would often spend 14 or 15 hours in the prosthetics while filming. "The heat can't escape, so I would start sweating, and then the sweat will try to escape. Since it has nowhere to go, it would pop out of my ears or around my mouth, like I'm dribbling," comments Hugo Weaving. To help counter this, heavy powdering during the application process became key.
Though not a stranger with fanciful costuming (her motion picture costume design credits range from period comedies to searing drama and military stories), double Oscar® nominee Anna Sheppard comes newly to the comic book universe. She adds, "This whole show has been a learning curve for me, and I feel all of the costumes are so special. The looks were very important and we discussed them day and night. As a designer, I had to be adaptive and listen to a lot of people with opinions that know more than I do! In this case, I got more guidance and I have learned a lot about this genre."
On trying on the iconic suit for the first time, Chris Evans says, "There is obviously a huge concern about giving a good performance on every job, but this was more like I'm going to be wearing this suit for potentially a very long time. It just felt like the suit was carrying a lot of weight, so to speak. There were a lot of people involved who worked very hard on the design. I would try on the suit every couple of weeks, and get poked and prodded and measured. Things were cut, things were added. They finally got it where they all wanted it and I have to say, I think it looks fantastic."
Suit modeler Patrick Whitaker collaborated closely with designer Anna Sheppard and costume supervisor Graham Churchyard-who all remained in constant communication with the filmmakers to ensure that every minute detail on the suit was accurate, workable, practical and stylish. The fabric is ballistic nylon, a heavy-duty woven nylon with rubberised backing (from a saddle and tack firm in the UK, where it's produced for the manufacture of horse blankets). The nylon is durable and strong, capable of holding saturated color and providing relative ease of movement. Patrick Whitaker comments, "While the suit needed to be as functional as possible, it was okay if it was slightly clunky, because it's from the 1940s."
Howard Stark gives Rogers what eventually becomes the Captain's signature weapon, his shield. Its distinctive round shape was actually an early design decision from creator/illustrator Joe Simon, to sidestep any infringement on a character published by a competing comic book company.
According to Dominic Cooper, who plays Howard Stark, "The shield is made of Vibranium, which is stronger than steel, but much lighter. The material doesn't allow any transference of vibration, so when anything strikes the shield, there are no repercussions. So the Vibranium shield makes a bullet feel like a cotton ball…and I invented it. Not bad, right?"
"It probably wouldn't be most people's first choice of a weapon to take into battle. But what's fun about the shield," comments Kevin Feige, "is that 600 issues in to the Captain America comics, he is still able to do things with it that you've never seen before."
Having said that, the writers did include a few good throws of the shield at some big moments in the film. "It's both a defensive weapon and an offensive weapon, so it both deflect bullets and allows him to chuck it around," says writer Christoper Markus. Stephen McFeely adds, "It's inexplicably cool. There's no reason that this big, round thing should be so excellent looking, but every time Chris Evans walked past with it on his arm, I just wanted one!"
Several different shields were made for the duration of the shoot, some of the responsibility falling to prop master Barry Gibbs: "There are four types of shields in the movie-the original or 'hero,' the lightweight, the hard rubber and the soft rubber-and they're all used in different ways. Chris Evans used the original shield for close-up work, and alternated between the other three shields depending on what was called for in the shot. The soft rubber was always used for the fight work." (CGI got a little share in the shield creation department as well. Chris Evans adds, "Every now and then we'd do a shot where we'd utilise CGI. The shield was so big that if I really threw the thing the way the script called for, I could really hurt somebody.")