Director Joe Johnston Talks ‘Captain America’ & ‘The Rocketeer 2′

Published 3 years ago by , Updated February 10th, 2012 at 8:36 am,

captain america new avenger chris evans interview Director Joe Johnston Talks Captain America & The Rocketeer 2

Captain America: The First Avenger is just a little under a month away from release, which is why we’re seeing more and more news regarding the star-spangled superhero film.

Director Joe Johnston – who cut his teeth as the visual effects art director on Raiders of the Lost Ark and the director of The Rocketeer – recently talked about directing Captain America. How did they achieve the the skinny Chris Evans effect? Is Rocketeer 2 in the works? Read on to find out.

On whether or not he was familiar with Captain America before signing on, courtesy of Film Journal:

“I was certainly aware of the character but had not been a regular reader. I didn’t see this as a disadvantage of any kind. I was able to approach the character with a more objective viewpoint than someone who would call himself a fan. Once I signed on to the project, I did a lot of research, focusing on the various iterations of the character since the first issue in 1940.”

On the difficulties of translating a World War II-era character to the big screen, as he has done for both The Rocketeer and Captain America:

“Period comic-book adaptations can be more challenging for action sequences and pop-culture references, especially in trying to reach a younger audience. I always try to be true to the period while making a film that feels contemporary in its style. Both Captain America and The Rocketeer take place in roughly the same period—the late ’30s and early ’40s. I’ve always loved the visual elements of the period: the cars, architecture, clothing, and the overall sense of style that we seem to have lost. As a society we used to seem to care what things looked like. We took care to build beauty and passion into the world around us, and decisions didn’t seem to be based on the bottom line.”

captain america reborn drawn by bryan hitch Director Joe Johnston Talks Captain America & The Rocketeer 2

Captain America: Reborn drawn by Bryan Hitch

On working with such a widely-recognized character and property:

“A bigger fanbase for a certain character actually makes it more difficult. There are not only preconceived notions, there are elements of the character that are practically held sacred by fans. The challenge is in reinterpreting the character from the comic book to the movie screen. You can get away with a lot on a comic book page, and the reader will fill in the blanks. Filmmakers don’t have that luxury.”

This was certainly the problem X-Men: First Class ran into prior to its release.

On directing a film that has a shared continuity with other films (Iron Man 1 and 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and The Avengers):

“There are threads that run through all the films in the Marvel universe. I had more flexibility because Captain America takes place in a different period. There are references to other films that the fans will spot but they won’t bump for someone unfamiliar with the Marvel universe. Basically I think all the films have to stand on their own merit.”

skinny steve rogers in captain america the first avenger Director Joe Johnston Talks Captain America & The Rocketeer 2

On how they achieved the “skinny Steve Rogers” effect seen in the trailers:

“We used two major techniques. Most of the shots were done by an L.A. company called LOLA that specializes in digital “plastic surgery.” The technique involved shrinking Chris in all dimensions. We shot each skinny Steve scene at least four times; once like a normal scene with Chris and his fellow actors in the scene, once with Chris alone in front of a green screen so his element could be reduced digitally, again with everyone in the scene but with Chris absent so that the shrunken Steve could be re-inserted into the scene, and finally with a body double mimicking Chris’s actions in case the second technique were required. When Chris had to interact with other characters in the scene, we had to either lower Chris or raise the other actors on apple boxes or elevated walkways to make skinny Steve shorter in comparison. For close-ups, Chris’ fellow actors had to look at marks on his chin that represented where his eyes would be after the shrinking process, and Chris had to look at marks on the tops of the actor’s head to represent their eyes. These marks then had to be digitally removed in post-production.

“The second technique involved grafting Chris’s head onto the body double. This technique was used mostly when Chris was sitting or lying down, or when a minimum of physical acting was required, although the body double was an actor in his own right. Unfortunately, the body double also proved to be too large and we usually had to shrink his element before we could graft Chris’s shrunken head onto the body. Both techniques were time-consuming and immensely complicated for the visual-effects team, but the end result is quite amazing.”

In the first couple trailers, the “skinny” effect was shaky at best, but the most recent trailer has all but assuaged fears on that front.

As for what future film projects Joe Johnston would like to be involved with, he said:

“I’d love to make a sequel to The Rocketeer. The film didn’t do as well at the box office as we all hoped, but it has endured and generated a following. It was great fun and I’d love to re-explore Cliff Secord’s world. If there are other comic-book heroes who have as human a story as Steve Rogers, I’d be interested. Too many comic-book movies rely on spectacle when the story is weak. With Captain America, we got the story firing on all cylinders first so the spectacle was fully justified. More than anything, I want everyone in the audience to sink into the alternate reality of the 1940s, enjoy the ride and come out of the theatre humming the Captain America theme. The movie is a hell of a lot of fun.”

Check out the trailer for Johnston’s The Rocketeer (1991) below:

While Joe Johnston is by no means a bad director, his work (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, The Rocketeer, JumanjiJurassic Park 3, The Wolfman, etc…) has yet to reach the pinnacle of success, either creatively or financially. Hopefully, Captain America is more Raiders of the Lost Ark than The Wolfman and breaks that pattern.

Are you looking forward to Captain America? Do you want to see a sequel to The Rocketeer? Let us know in the comments.

Captain America: The First Avenger hits theaters July 22nd, 2011.

Source: Film Journal

Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.

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  1. ROCKETEER DEFINITELY NEEDS A SEQUEL!!!

    • I just finish watching rocketeer. And strongly agree need a seguel. Just the end of the movie said. Rocketeer 2 . Can’t wait

  2. I am really looking forward to CA. It looks like a lot of effort went into making this movie great. Here is to hoping :)

  3. Give ROcketeer another chance the time is right for the movie to make a come back. The main problem with the first movie was they tried to be too family friendly which showed. The movie needed more of the flair that Dave Stevens gave the character in the comic.

  4. hmm

  5. I’d like to see a reboot of the Rocketeer. Not just because the effets would be better, but there was some things that let the original film down. This is not meant as disrespect to the original, so don’t take it as such.

    I say I’d rather have a reboot because, I wouldn’t like to see the Rocketeer in any other time period. It just suits the late 1930′s / early 1940′s. A reeboot would be cool, but I’d like them to tell a fresh story with it.

    I don’t know the comic origins of the rocketeer, but when I was about 8 years old, one summer holiday they started showing an old black and white movie serial from the 30′s/40′s every morning on the TV. It was called “King Of The Rocket Men”. And when The Rocketeer came out I instantly assumed it was based of of that.

  6. Rocketeer- RIP Dave Stevens. What an incredible talent.
    As much as a reboot excites me…
    Bring everyone back and dust off the gear! Hell yeah, Jennifer could pull it off without fail!
    Bruce has been chilling with his family, working in the hangars and now his beck and call.

  7. Yes I will definitely be seeing both movies when they come out:D

  8. A new TV spot shows a team discovering Cap frozen in the ice – http://www.superherohype.com/news/articles/167715

  9. If Johnston wants to make a 40s based movie with a character who is personable, with history etc. look no further than: The Phantom. He has a history that is over 400 years old, was around before Batman and Superman, his stories inspired many movie serial from that era, and also inspired many comic book characters, etc. etc.

  10. As The Rocketeer came out in the same year as T2 it didn’t get the credit it deserved. Disney should look at this again and do a reboot/ sequel like Tron Legacy. With CGI available to compliment the storyline this would be a great project to follow up

  11. I first watched The Rocketeer and loved it. Although I’m not sure about the reboot though. I mean, some of the remake are good (Karate Kid for example), but most of them are crap. Disney managed to make a sequel to Tron and was met with mixed reviews, but audiences like it, however, so I think I’m ok with a reboot/sequel.

  12. Rocketeer that wood be cool father pass down the jet rocket to his son that is a hero and meet captain America

  13. Rocketeer that would be cool if father passes down the jet rocket to his son who will than continue the legacy. Now imagine that Rocketeer and Captain America meet in this era. They could join forces against evil great story!

  14. remake is better it was make in 1991

  15. Rocketeer is by far one of my favourite movies of all time, I would love to see a sequel. Please make one!.

  16. I have been hoping to see a sequel to Rocketeer for years. A solid action story with terrific, sympathetic characters well told set in a nostalgic era of glamour and intrigue. What more could a film lover ask for. But whatever you do, Joe, don’t assault our senses without an overload of special effects, multiple story lines, and assorted new super heroes. The Rocketeer is a reluctant hero who goes into action when there are no other alternatives. And get Horner and Melora Hardin to do the music again. Her renditions of Begin the Beguine and When Your Lover Have Gone are terrific. Get Johnny Crawford and his 1930′s Dance Orchestra to perform for authenticity. Lots of potential for a terrific sequel…no need to “reboot” which is now a cliche. Go for the big sequel with bad guys vs. Cliff Secord…The Rocketeer!