Chris Evans – His first interview

July 2005 By Philip Berk

Chris Evans — a forgettable name if ever there was one — made his mark in innocuous teenage movies before graduating to a starring role in Kim Basinger’s Cellular 

But it was his scene stealing turn In The Fantastic Four that  made him one of Hollywood’s hottest young actors.

Interviewing him at the time, I found him polite, articulate, intelligent, and extremely likable.

Was he prepared for instant celebrity? I asked him then.

“Maybe, maybe,” he pondered. “It’s weird just doing press tours like this. I mean people wait outside for you to sign things, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s one of those things you can’t really prepare for. There are so many intangibles. I can give the cliché answers like I try to surround myself with good people or stay grounded, but it’s not something you can prepare for.”

He exposes a lot of skin in the movie. 

Was he uncomfortable with that?

“That’s fairly inevitable for the parts I go out for — a little bit of eye candy sells tickets — you don’t want to get pigeonholed doing that in every project, but for something like this I thought, Why not? I had a great time with the role — he’s kinda of the guy that gets to really enjoy doing that.  The movie has fun embracing the fame and the attention and the responsibility, so while the other three are more reserved and concerned about researching their new powers, Johnny, my character, is more interested in just having fun with it, the way most people my age would. So it was fun playing the role.”

How close is Johnny Storm to his personality?

“We do have a lot in common. But he’s a bit more confident than I am. My third eye is a bit more aware of myself which kind of breeds insecurity, a little self doubt. We both like to have fun.  We both like to smile and have a few laughs. Johnny’s in the moment all the time, there’s very minimal reflection. We both have good energy, but because I’m an actor I’m a bit more insecure.”

Let’s talk about his insecurities, what’s that all about? 

“I think most actors are innately insecure. Being able to act is kind of like an escape, like a therapy. “

And for him personally?

“I tend to feel insecure sometimes, a little embarrassed, a little awkward. But it’s wonderful when they yell action, and you can do whatever you want. You have to. You’re expected to. It’s a nice little escape. It’s why most actors act.”

How is he at auditions?

“I just get really nervous sometimes. And the whole point of acting is you can’t be nervous. You need to be completely calm in order to listen, which is when you can truly react. If you’re nervous, you turn into a robot; you’re acting on autopilot. You’re acting angry. You’re acting happy. You’re not letting those emotions happen. Unfortunately for me, the audition format is just horrible. I get nervous. I get worried. I get scared.”

Which doesn’t sound good.

Has he had bad experiences?

“Who hasn’t, and when you’re in Hollywood, those little rough auditions tend to mount up and after a week of them you start to have doubts and fears. It can be difficult. It doesn’t need to be one major colossal let down; it’s usually the little things that get you. The first three or four years in L.A. can be slow and difficult; so you really have to keep your eyes on the prize.”

Did he ever think of quitting?

“Everyone does. Even if you’re having success, you always thinking…”

So what made him want to become an actor in the first place?

“I knew I wanted to be an actor in high school. Friends had told me that the most difficult thing was finding an agent. So I convinced my parents — we lived in Boston — to let me move to New York during my high school years. My last summer there I got an internship to work for a casting office. Most of the days I was on the phone with agents, you know, kissing up, being as polite as possible. By the end of the summer I was pretty friendly with a few agents. I ended up auditioning for them, and one of them signed me. When I was signed for a TV pilot that got picked up, I made the choice to go to LA.”

Does he come from a show biz background?

“Not at all, but we think of ourselves as kind of the Von Trapp family. My older sister graduated from N.Y.U. She’s doing the acting thing. I have a younger brother who’s there also doing the acting thing. My younger sister hasn’t made up her mind yet.”

Is there any sibling rivalry?

“The only reason I got interested in acting was because of my older sister. She did it growing up, and we all wanted to be like her, and there’s never been any rivalry. As I said, we were like the Von Trapps, all of us singing and dancing at Christmas and being ridiculous; they’ve always been encouraging. and ….”, as he puts it , “had my back.”

How excited was he when he got Johnny Storm?

“I was going crazy. You should have seen me. I was making a fool of myself. I was ecstatic because I really wanted the part, and I fought really hard to get it. It was really exciting to get that call. I was driving in my car and I just cranked the radio up and put the windows down and had a great ride home.”

How tough was the auditioning process?

“My first audition was not very good, and I got a call from my agent saying, ‘You did okay, but they don’t think you’re the right guy,’ and I said, ‘No, you got to get me back in there. You got to give me another chance.’ So I went back in again. Didn’t do quite well again. I was just nervous, hadn’t had a good day, and I went home. And they called again and said, ‘yeah, still not the guy,’ and I said, ‘You got to give a another chance. I promise I won’t screw up,’ and they said, ‘Why don’t you read for Mr. Fantastic?’ and that really went badly, but they were seeing some potential, I was warming up to them, and then they said, ‘Come back one more time for Johnny.’ I went back and worked with the director for an hour, just running the scene over and over. By the time I left I really felt good about it. That was my  last audition and then I got the call that I got the part.”

His bio says he did ballet in elementary school. Did the kids give him a hard time?

“Oh, I was a theatre geek, let’s just clear that one right now. I was a theatre geek. I played sports, but that didn’t save me! I did all the plays, and I was running around in tights, doing high kicks,” 

So where did he get that great body?

“I’ve worked out a lot since I was in high school. And here in L.A., all my buddies like to go to the gym so I definitely work out, but I’m naturally very pale, so whenever I do a scene where I have no shirt on they have to cover me in body make-up, which is kind of gross being covered head to toe in make-up. With everything you touch, you leave skid marks.”

But in high school it was mostly drama?

“I played a lot of sports as well, and I still do. I play basketball, and lacrosse with my core group of friends in L.A. We do a lot of pickup basketball, pick up volleyball. We’re all on a softball team. But In high school it was baseball and lacrosse.” 

Did he ever dream of playing professionally?

“I think I’m still hanging onto that dream. That would be amazing. I have the most respect for professional athletes, more so than any actor I’ve ever met. I look at professional athletes as gods among men. They truly are gifted. They’re not even human. I really have an amazing respect for any professional athlete.”

But he chose acting.

What convinced him?

“It was in my senior year in high school when you’re allowed to direct a one act play. The mother of a friend had written this play; It was called Fallen Star. It was a little two-man show that I got to direct . My friend played the other character. That was the first time I really felt like I acted. Before that, it was over-the-top theatre-based acting. But in that intimate black box theatre it really felt like I was in the moment,  and that’s when I decided I wanted to be an actor.” 

Two years later Chris is still the nicest guy in Hollywood but no longer the hottest — and he’s cool with that.

His movies other than the two Fantastic Four features haven’t fared well.  Sunshine barely saw the light of day, and Vicious People scared everyone off. 

At the moment he’s appearing alongside Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, and Hugh Laurie in Street Kings, in which  Keanu plays a LAPD vice detective on a quest to discover the killers of his former partner. Chris plays his new partner.

Was that a good experience?

“How could it be anything else, with David Ayer directing. He did Harsh Times. He’s got this wonderful flavor, this very gritty handheld authentic harsh light. As an actor you can really play it all in your eyes because it picks up everything. It’s not an assembly line movie if you know what I mean. I’m pretty excited about it.”

Does he still go unrecognized in public?

“I still have no problem walking the streets. I have trouble getting into a club, which is wonderful actually. You can enjoy a movie; you can go out to dinner. You can maintain relative anonymity which  is a blessing.”

How difficult has it been for him to overcome his smart-ass Johnny Storm image?

“That’s a good point,” he gently responds, then adds, “But I am nowhere near that self assurance that Johnny has. In my own life I’m drowning in insecurity.”

Sure, sure!

Have girls always chased after him?

“If you could see a picture of me in high school, you would know the answer was No. I had some really bad ugly duckling years. Really bad. I was a mess. I was skinny as a pool cue; my teeth all kind of grew this way. I think my mother dressed me. I don’t know what I was thinking!”

What does he look for in a relationship?

 “I guess honesty — and I’m a big fan of modesty. Which is a distant cousin of selflessness. If you’re selfless you’re compassionate, you’re patient, all the tools you need when it comes to dealing with conflict; so if you can be calm and modest and patient there’s not many obstacles you can’t overcome.”

Are those also his best qualities?

“I think I am a pretty compassionate guy. I cry at every movie I see. I’m an emotional guy. I love what I do. I love the business. I think film has a way of conveying a message that no other media can.”

Any tricks of the trade he’s willing to reveal?

“Well, you got to be self deprecating. If you call attention to the fact that you’re a loser, they find it kind of cute and endearing so that’s my method. I don’t try to be cool. I just make it known that I am not, and they seem to like it.”

Are women really more attracted to the shy type than the show off? 

“You know, in my opinion, the attractive thing is independence. Someone who seems comfortable with who they are. A strong sense of self. That’s attractive to me. I’m not impressed with people who are overly concerned with the opinions of others.”

Was he always shy?

“I grew up that way, I guess. I had a very sheltered life, and that kind of breeds selfishness and apathy and arrogance, things that come with a very fortunate youth, which I had and which ends up making you narrow minded in some ways. But coming to L.A. and experiencing the things that life has to offer you, you learn, you grow. So now I think of myself as responsible rather than shy.”

Working that summer in a casting office, what did he learn?

“You learn how important your agent is. When I worked in that casting office, they’d put out a breakdown to a certain character, there would be thousands of submissions. My boss, this woman, would thumb through the entire stack of submissions, pick about three from her choice agencies and trash the rest, wouldn’t even open them, and you’d be kind of, ‘Wow! Hundreds of actors depend on their agent to get an audition and she’s not even opening the envelope.’ So you kind of value how important your representation is.”

He obviously grew up surrounded by women, his mother and sisters.

How about his dad, did he have a good relationship with him? 

“My father is my hero. There’s no other way to put it. We’re a very explosive family, but my father has always been my anchor. You can’t ruffle his feathers. He’s very calm, very rational, very logical. In a lot of ways he’s shown me exactly what it is to be a man. He swallows his pride. And I’ve learned from him what few people are able to do: make tough decisions without pride and emotion getting in the way. It’s impressive; it’s inspiring. It’s exactly who I want to be.”

And when he wanted to become an actor, was he supportive?

“He’s not driven by emotion or passion. The reason I got into acting was because, if you want to be heard in my family you’ve got to scream. But that’s not my dad. My dad is okay not being heard. He’s quiet” (The Irish side I guess.) “He’s internal; so when it came to my choosing to be an actor it was more my mother and sisters who encouraged me, but my dad showed me how to be level headed and how to keep your pride in check.”

What was the worst thing he can remember doing as a child?

“How long do we have? I was a bad kid. Where’s my mother? She would love this one. I had a lying problem when I was a child. I just loved to lie. When I was in the second grade, I told my whole class that my father was an astronaut (he was a dentist) and that for $5 he would put you on a list to go to the moon. I was so foolish I came home and told my mom I had made $50. We had to call a lot of parents and the principal. It was messy!”

He and Jessica Beale  went together for four years before they broke up.

 Are they still friends?

“Oh, absolutely. We’ll be good friends the rest of our lives. She’s an incredible person.”

Is he going with anyone now?

“No, single and loving it. It’s been a nice experience to concentrate on my career and my own journey of self discovery. Relationships are wonderful. But sometimes when you’re in a relationship you tend to get a little repetitive. You tend to get a little fat and lazy. So this is the time in my life when I want to explore and learn things and discover things.”

So bachelorhood suits him?

“It’s a wonderful place to be in right now. I’ve done a lot of good work on myself, and it’s been great; so I’m in no rush to try and force anything. I couldn’t be happier.”

So marriage at this time would be unthinkable?

“I  think I’d be doing myself an injustice if I did because I don’t feel I know myself yet. I don’t know if I could consciously commit myself to someone forever without knowing who I’ll be tomorrow.”

What’s his relationship with fashion?

“I think fashion and me broke up a while ago. I’m a T-shirt and jeans type of guy. If I had my way, I’d walk around in sweat pants. I like comfort, not too much of a clothes horse.”

Any pets?

“I have a dog who I love. He’s a bulldog mix, part English, part American bull dog. I love dogs.”

Does he have a name?

“He’s East. I get a lot of flack for it, but I realize you can name your dog just about anything, and in a certain amount of time he’s going to grow a personality that embodies that. You can’t picture him as anything else; so now he’s East to me.”

What  car does he drive?

“When I got my first big movie a couple of  years ago, I went and bought a nice BMW,  thinking that’s what you’re supposed to do. I owned it for a year and realized it was a mistake. I am not a car guy, I am not a gadgets guy. I got rid of it and bought some piece of crap car which I still have.”

For the record, he’s a movie buff. (“There’s nothing better than seeing a wonderful movie and having a great discussion about it.”)

He was disappointed when he didn’t get a role in Sam Mendes’ Jarhead 

He likes seeing himself on screen (“You’re obviously incredibly critical, but it’s still fun to see the final product and something you’ve put so much effort into.”

And he comes from a very liberal background (“We’re Ioud Italian-American Democrats.”)

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