If you couldn’t tell from the poster above, let alone the trailers, photos, behind-the-scenes featurettes and other Marvel movie-related news, Sebastian Stan returns from his role as Bucky Barnes in Captain America: The First Avenger to play the mysterious titular antagonist in the sequel. If you didn’t know, Marvel wants you to so don’t worry. It’s all a part of the plan.
While visiting the set of Captain America: The Winter Soldier in July 2013, Screen Rant had the opportunity to participate in a group interview with Stan and in our conversation we talked about how Bucky Barnes evolves between the two films, the new costume and mask, getting excited about the potential future of the character, the action and new directorial direction of the sequel, and working alongside star Chris Evans once again.
If you’re not familiar with Captain America comics over the last decade and Ed Brubaker’s work on The Winter Soldier storyline, you may be spoiled to potential future storylines in the films by reading the entire interview. This is your warning.
You must have been asked plenty of times if you’d ever be playing The Winter Soldier. How early did you know that this was going to be in your future?
Sebastian Stan: Well, I think in my brain I knew or I hoped I knew a long, long time ago, but I didn’t really know until about a year ago to be quite honest.
Were you excited? Fans were hoping for such a thing but didn’t know how soon or after how many movies…
Well, that was the whole thing. I had no idea, you know? It obviously came up in discussions very early on when I got involved and that was part of the excitement for me. And looking back, I should’ve sort of asked myself whether I could’ve known in any way, shape or form, but it really is one of the more interesting storylines that Steve Rogers has. So, it actually does make sense to want to take it to that level, especially the way that the whole MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe] is moving anyway.
Now you can tell us what they were doing to you on that torture chair in the first movie, right?
Looking back, that was probably a very smart setup in their situation to kind of suggest that it could’ve been tied to this. I wish I knew when we were shooting it that that was what was happening, [laughs] but I think that makes more sense to look back at that scene and sort of think that it had something to do with breaking the fall, I suppose.
Did you have a game plan for bridging Bucky and The Winter Soldier in a way that casual movie audiences will understand?
I hope so, yeah. That was always the plan, you know? Even in the first one, for me, I feel like knowing ahead where it was potentially going to go, I was always trying to – even back then – see what I can possibly layer into, so that one day if someone does look at this movie and then goes back and looks at that, they can maybe spot something and then just go, “Oh, I see that that guy had potential to…”
Bucky to me was always interesting because he stood out more clearly in terms of someone who had flaws. And though he was extremely loyal and very caretaking, and there were a lot of endearing qualities about him, that there were other things that like any muscle that you work out too much could sort of take over the rest. So, there were other things about him I was always hoping you could see in that first movie that if they sort of amplified that, that he could become something dangerous, necessarily so.
The original Winter Soldier story featured flashbacks to Bucky and Steve Rogers adventuring together – Does this film allow you to go back into Bucky territory again, or is it all present day going forward?
I think it was important that the movie was going to stick to present day. I think we sort of arrived at that, and I think that’s what it called for, but there is a level of reminding everybody in terms of reinstating those things so that you really do remember what that relationship was.
You’re sporting a completely different look for this film. What was your initial reaction to the costume and how is it wearing it?
Oh god, what will it look like? [laughs] I was very open to it. Obviously I’ve never had long hair. As an actor, the thing is you’ve gotta get out of that comfortability level once in a while. I was really excited to sort of not recognize a little bit of myself when I looked in the mirror. Between the costume and the overall look of The Winter Soldier, it was nice. Then all the credit really goes to Legacy and the costume team who have done, I think, a pretty incredible job in terms of just going from page to reality, which is obviously really hard to do sometimes with certain characters that look really cool when they’re drawn and then how do you make them look that way in real life. There was no question that whatever was needed to make him as authentic as possible was where I was at.
Tell us about the arm – does it hinder your ability to do action?
Actually, I was always worried about that. It actually informed, in a way, a lot of character stuff for me because I had enough time to work with it, and it sort of changed the way I was moving. It was one of those things where I sat and I sort of thought and thought and thought about what it was going to be like on the day, but until you just get into it completely, until it was just on and everything, then that discovery came to light. It was really neat because I felt like it just was the missing piece. And then I was really informed where to go with it.
Not only is Bucky’s relationship different to Steve’s, but both characters are in a new setting, moving from WWII to modern day -
It’s just a neat thing. It’s just a really cool sort of thing. The World War II aspect is, you know, you get to research the music and the way people talked and the way they behaved and the way they dressed and what there hobbies were. You get to daydream about what these guys might have done on a Friday night. And there’s something very romantic about the way everyone dressed back then and all that. It’s cool. You take that and you bring the [personalities and traits] from that time into the world of today. There’s a lot of sides to that. There’s a lot of comedy to that because it’s sort of having to get to know everything all over again, or for the first time rather. There’s a lot of endearing sides to that; to having someone with such an old mentality yet still very fresh in the world that we know today. Winter might not be there just yet.
How challenging was the physical training and preparations?
Maybe I walked around the house a little bit with a plastic knife in my left hand all the time. I might have done some of that. The thing for me was, flexibility was the key factor, that I was trying to be very mindful of. And obviously there were so many pieces to the costume and everything, and being able to continue to move freely. And especially the way the team wanted to take the fighting style of this particular movie in the direction that they wanted to go, it was, yeah, it was important to be flexible and in shape, at least just in terms of a confidence that you can step on set and be comfortable with what you’re doing. But a lot of it is just remembering what it was like when you were a kid and were being able to kind of imagine and go off on it and be free with that. That was part of the fun with it. I don’t know how else to explain it. That tends to be a challenge within itself because I sometimes take things so seriously and want to be in the best of this, the best of shape, the best of that. At the end of the day, you’ve gotta remember to have fun, and if you allow yourself to do that, you somehow end up doing everything better.
What was the most challenging stunt? Any injuries?
There’s definitely a few things. I think I fired some stuff where things got in my eyes. I ended up having, particularly in my left eye for a second, I popped a blood vessel, which at first I really freaked out about. But then I realized it started kind of dissolving and became this cool thing. It added to the whole thing. Then my shoulder. There’s always things you discover along the way. I think the most exciting thing was definitely learning some of the riding style that these incredible stunt guys we have come up with and choreographed for us. I’m really excited about it. I’m really excited to share it with the fans and see what they think. I really think we’ve got some very interesting, new stuff in this film in terms of that department. We’ve worked really hard on it.
If someone didn’t see the first movie, is there a way to be brought up to speed on the first relationship?
I would say so. You don’t have to see the first movie to have a good time. You’ll totally still relate to the characters. I think seeing the first movie is more of a neat trick. I think, if anything, it will be a little bit weird because it is a different movie. It’s going to be a very different movie from that particular origin film.
We talked about layering your character in the first film – How much of the old Bucky will we see in The Winter Soldier?
I think my goal is that you’ll get to see that. You know, the truth of the situation is although he looks very different and there’s different things about him, it still comes from the same person. I think you’ll get to see that no matter what. I think part of my goal here was to make sure that you see an extension of that version but just a different color of that same version in a way. I think he’s still the same guy; he’s cut from the same cloth. In terms of the first movie, all I was really trying to show here and there were aspects of him when he was, there’s that one shot where he sort of saves his life. You see that he’s a sniper and someone who is, just something about his face and his sort of expression when he sort of saves Steve’s life and kind of shot someone without being really hit by it. Just little things like that; that there was an edge to him, that there was something that he was maybe wrestling with a little more. At the time, in the first movie, it’s like they’re just trying to find themselves. They’re just young guys trying to find themselves who have go to war, so whatever that means. I hope that people can kind of track that a little bit when they look at it A to Z.
For the costume, we know that you wear a mask for a good portion of the film. What does your voice sound like? Is it projected differently through the mask?
Well, I guess you’ll see.
Is it “Bane-esque”?
No. I guess that seems to be the most recent kind of thing where your brain goes. I was just happier to have a mask than not be doing all of these weird facial expressions when I fought. At least in the first sequence of the movie. I think it’s gonna be very different than Bane.
We know there’s some history between Black Widow and Winter Soldier explored in the film that could be different than the books – Can you talk at all about the dynamic between them?
One of the things that I think Marvel does so well and I think these films have done so well is there’s always, always these possibilities. They don’t forget about that. They don’t forget about all of those little things that have life in the comic books. Whether they’re going to take somewhere or not, I don’t know. Really, I genuinely don’t know. I think there’s enough there that you can point to it and go, ‘Wait a minute, what is that? That makes sense.’ But I don’t think it’s generally going to be explored in this film.
This film is much different than the first one and Chris Evans is the only other “constant” so to speak – is it important that you guys are the holdovers -
It’s like no time’s gone by. It’s really neat. We just see each other when we go, ‘Round two. Here we go.’ And then we’re back to where we were. If anything, we just grew up a couple more years, and then funny enough, you find that that experience makes its way into the character as well, which is appropriate in a weird way because some time has gone by. I always thought that was a cool thing about having a little bit of time as opposed to having gone right into this movie like right after the first one because I feel like I grew up a little bit and then Winter Solider to some extent, even though he barely ages to some extent, he is a little bit older as well in the few years that he was not in the homeostasis situation that he sort of wasn’t aging a little bit. I think a lot of those dynamics will actually just make it into the film, which will be interesting.
What sensibilities do directors Anthony and Joe Russo bring to the project?
They’re been extremely great. They’ve been very specific on what they wanted. They always have an idea of the film, and while keeping that specific frame in mind, they’ve been very open to how we wanted to take these characters. I had a little bit of time before we started shooting to really talk to them early on about where we wanted to take it, what they were looking for, what colors were going to be the right colors to bring, and then where I was going to instinctively bring them, and they were open to those sort of things I wanted to do. So, it gave me a lot of confidence to want to keep going down the path that I instinctively tried to follow.
Can you compare to working with Joe Johnston on The First Avenger?
Everyone’s different. There’s two of them. That does sometimes help because there’s a lot going on, and it’s one more voice that can communicate with you.
Is there one brother that’s easier to convince on your ideas?
No, I think it just depends. I wouldn’t say there was one moment that came to mind necessarily where one is more distinctive than the other. I mean, it’s just one of those things where you’re sitting with Joe, it’s like, you really need to trust your director. You have to. I could have sat for months and months and thought of how something should go, but it ultimately is their job, and it’s great when you have directors you can trust, and go, ‘We’re good. We’ve got that.’
What plays to your excitement – do you prefer films like this one or more adventurous types, like the first Captain America?
I love the first one. I loved working with Joe. I loved the first one because I feel like it was so hard to really pay it the right respect, the right way. As an origin story, it’s hard, period. It’s hard to translate that the right way even now to 2013 audiences. I thought that was done really well. I thought that was fun. It’s just one of those things where I feel it’s the same with the audience; you just get that feeling like you’re ready for something else now. You’re ready for the next sort of thing. And I think we needed to bring it to that level. Everything about this one became more brutal in terms of how fearless everything was; it seems like it’s brutal and not so much riding on consequences. That’s how the feel of this movie feels at least. That was the idea that The Winter Soldier would be ultimately, is coming from that same cloth. I think from action-wise to just everything, it’s on that scale.
We touched on this earlier but when you were cast in this role, as comic book fans we couldn’t help but think about Bucky eventually becoming Winter Soldier. Then he becomes Captain America. Now that you’re actually doing this story, does it have you thinking about what arc they might go?
I hope I’m not 45 by the time that happens [Laughs]. I hope I’m still strong enough. I really don’t know, man. It’s hard to, like you said, it’s very easy to start daydreaming about, but it’s like I don’t remember personally feeling more present in an experience than I have felt in this. Day to day, moment to moment, just present. I mean, there have been times we were shooting when I honestly, I couldn’t even think about what was coming next week. It’s a great question that I’m sure will hopefully keep coming up. And there will be an answer one day, but who knows.
Did you know they wanted to tell the Winter Soldier story in the second film? When did you know you were coming back? Were you uncertain for a while?
I didn’t really know until about a year ago, until about literally this time. I actually think it was around Comic-Con last year.
Marvel announced the title of the film at Comic-Con-
They did. My friend called me and told me that was the title, and I was like, ‘I can’t believe it.’ I had no idea that was going to be the title.
What intrigues you about the story and character?
It’s just so interesting because he stood out to me in the comics. He’s sort of like this tragic character, like you’d find in Shakespeare or something. I’m not trying to get all actor-y and blah blah. What I mean is just, it’s like this guy’s eternal struggle to try to find himself and try to be a good person in all the sense, that he’s learned that he’s supposed to be, and then this thing happens to him and then he goes on this whole path relearning about himself and what he has to live with and all the things that he’s done. You know, it’s such an interesting, heavy, and rich kind of character, and it’s just so exciting to me. It’s never black or white with him, there’s always these other things, there’s so much more to the character. And later on and when he eventually tries to find his place back in the world. But even when he’s quote end quote brainwashed and whatnot he’s still dealing with the dreams and nightmares so on, and he doesn’t know where it’s coming from. It’s kind of like taking a really unstable person and putting them in one of the most dangerous weapons, and just go, go into the world and see what happens. It’s a cool ride that way.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is produced by Kevin Feige, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, from a screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, and stars Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp and Hayley Atwell, with Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits theaters April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 17, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.
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