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

Published 4 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. I think Captain America will be a huge hit and will be Marvel’s first big hit and will deserve a sequel but The Rocketeer? Have most people even heard of that? How about starting out with a total reboot or remake? Oh, wait-that’s Captain America.

    • Are you being serious?

      Is any of that comment serious?

      Or are you just trolling?

      • man.. these trolls are annoying.

      • Yes, I’m being serious. Captain America is like a Rocketeer reboot. Think about it.

      • Eh, don’t be so hard on him, he’s probably be sleeping under a STONE for a decade. Either that or been on a deserted island for long time.

        • That’s funny because I feel the same way as he does. This could very well be their first critical hit.

          • No one is critiquing him for saying Cap could be a hit. They’re talking about whether anyone’s heard of The Rocketeer.

            • Uh, I was. Marvel have had plenty of critical and commercial hits. Iron Man?

      • …AND with more…shall we say analog? special effects, it did a very impressive job of it. Captain America LOOKS impressive. My one fear with movies like this is we’re getting all the best bits in the trailers. Personally, I hope CA is a super awesome movie and a mega box office hit, then maybe Disney’ll call Mr. Johnston up and say, “So, Joe… remember how you were wanting to make a Rocketeer sequel?” [for some reason, in my head, the Disney rep is talking with a Jon Stewart New Jersey mobster accent. WTF?]

    • Marvel’s FIRST big hit?! Haven´t you heard of the Blade, X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor and Hulk movies?!

      • He must not of. The Rocketeer was Awesome!

      • Yes, X men, Spiderman, Blade, Iron Man and all those were big with the box office and with the fans except the most imperative thing-the critics. That’s all that really matters.

        • Um Iron Man has a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. Ergo, it’s definitely a critical success. What the hell are you talking about?

          • Ok, sure-Iron Man was good but what about the other Marvel movies? Hulk? What?

            • That’s not my point sir. Jeff made an ignorant comment saying that Marvel has never made a movie that was a critical success and I provided some proof against that argument. I never said anything about other Marvel movies. -_-

            • Hulk was terrible. Incredible Hulk was much better, and is the one that’s actually part of the Marvel Studios storyline.

        • “most imperative thing-the critics. That’s all that really matters.”? If the fans love a movie, and it does well at the box office, who gives a flying f**k if a single critic liked it?

        • Uh… critics DID like most of X-men, Spiderman, Iron Man, and Hulk entries. What exactly are you trying to say? Most of them are critically passable.

  2. Bring on a Rocketeer sequel!!! Before Alan Arkin dies LOL.

    • The Rocketeer is almost 20 years old.

      • Tron was even older and they made a sequel.

  3. A sequel to The Rocketeer would be great, but it’s been twenty years. A reboot might be in order, though it might be easier just to recast the film since it has been so long.

    • your words are blasphemous, sir.

      • Hear, hear! Billy Campbell has aged well, Alan Arkin is Peevy-ier than ever, and Jennifer connelly is still easy on the eyes. I say go with a 20 year later sequel [but do a better job than Indiana Jones]. I’d love to see the gang in 1958, and have Cliff dust off the jet pack that there was no way Peevy didn’t build when he got the plans at the end of the movie. Knowing Disney, they’d so promote the crap out of it that by the time the sequel was out, everybody would have a copy of the new release, the reprint of the comics and of course don’t forget the pre-release flood of the toy market. Disney marketing has learned a lot in 20 years.

      • What I’m trying to say is that Captain America will be big with the critics also, unlike the others.

  4. I loved the Rocketeer! But I also loved the original rocketman serials… And I want my rocket belt/pack and I want it now!!! I know they are keeping them hidden in area 51.

  5. I wasn’t crazy about the Rocketeer… but that could be because I didn’t have any knowledge of who he was when I saw the movie, and I was just a kid then. I do remember something like, “if they could make a movie about this guy, why not ANY of my favorite superheroes?” Ha! If my younger self could have seen all the Marvel movies today.

    And how they made Chris Evans look so skinny is amazing. The wonders of today’s technology.

    • I think the digitally applying Chris Evans’ face to skinny guy, while technologically impressive, is creepy as Hell! I get goose bumps every time I see it…or maybe I have the A/C set too cold.

      • Oh it’s completely creepy.

        • I reckon he’s telling fibs! Chris Evans definitely shot all those muscle scenes when he was roided-up. Then he went on the Atkins diet for a month……after they sawed his feet off to make him the right height! ^-^

  6. I can’t wait for Captain America to come out. I am a HUGE Marvel fan-addict. As for a Rocketeer 2, I’m all for it. I loved the first one. Not a “reboot” of the first one either. Let it pick up from where it left off. It will be interesting to see.

  7. The Rocketeer is awesome. I’ve loved that movie since I was a kid. I’d be up for a sequel, as long as they get James Horner back to do the sequel. It’d be pretty cool if they got Terry O’Quinn back to play Howard Hughes again.

  8. To hell with rebooting The Rocketeer. The original stands up perfectly well twenty years on. The effects were by ILM, after all, and the casting of Timothy Dalton, Alan Arkin, Terry O’Quinn and Paul Sorvino in supporting roles is unrepeatable. Be adventurous – dive in – simply move on with the story: plenty of scope there. Just a shame Dave Stevens is no longer with us to have some well-deserved input.

    • It can only help the setting of a follow-up that the original was a period movie to begin with.

  9. I liked the rocketeer for the most part, They keep depleting it on syfy and I like it better each time

    • Depleting it?! Is that a predictive text facility getting all Freudian there, ZZ? :-)

  10. To be honest they should keep Captain America in WWII, for the first movie the sequel then the Avengers. Would like to hear how the Vibranium shield came into being, was it Wakanda or another African source?

    Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury is he a Korea, Vietnam vetran?

    Nick Fury when he become European George Clooney or Viggo Mortenson.

    This movie if sucessful will set a standard, for other Marvel properties to follow wether bigger or smaller budgets.

  11. The Rocketter is a cult movie that deserves a directors cut, and yes a sequel would be interesting to see which decade they go for in sequel.

  12. I always found The Rocketeer to be highly over rated. It was just passable. Don’t understand the love for it. The acting was average and the writing was week. It was a bit cheesy and the directing was pretty poor.

    • True that.

    • “…the writing was week.”

      • I thought the writing was a month myself. 8-)

    • “highly over rated. It was just passable. Don’t understand the love for it”

      hey, that’s exactly how I feel about The Dark Knight!

  13. I think a Sentry movie should be made. Johnston could have a great time working with that story!!

    • o man if they add the sentry to the marvel universe that would be very crazy specially if the scenes with the void that should past the joker level.

  14. Wow you’re cool.

  15. The Rocketeer is absolutely my favorite movie, and I’ve often thought it would do well with a modern reboot in the right hands. I know it’s not the best “film”, but there are very few that are as entertaining, at least for me.

    • Crider, no modern reboot for this classic please :(

      • A sequel isn’t really an option, unless you went the Crystal Skull “everybody’s old, deal with it” route. I think a reboot could keep that wonderful 1930s feeling, give us some great action setpieces with modern effects and inject a little grown-up fun from the comics… Christina Hendricks as Betty Page, anybody?

  16. Wolfman was great film in it’s old school representation and brought the story back the how it’s a curse and not some glorified gift. It brought it back to its horror roots not some supernatural drama.

    As for Captain America,it’s looking like it will have strong story with some impressive action to move it.

  17. wow…

  18. Oh, looks like someone’s just asking to be banned.
    How pathetic. And sadly, how typical for the internet.

    • Crap! I hate when I miss all the entertaining jerk comments, even though it’s very uncalled-for :(

      If anyone saw what was said I’d love to hear it.

  19. The mighty banhammer has been dropped.


    • Mightier than Thor, Vic!!! Thanks.

      Oh, love your website by the way. Keep up the great work!

  20. I loved the first Rocketeer. If Tron can have a sequel 20 years later, why not Rocketeer? :)

    • The “first” Rocketeer?

  21. If we are doing 1940s pulp adventure reboots I’d like to see a sequel to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Only this time with less wooden actors. Also I think it’s time for a good Doc Savage movie.

    • Funny you should mention that. In the original Rocketeer comics, it was Doc Savage (implied, never explicit) who built the rocket pack, not Howard Hughes.

      • Would love a Doc Savage movie.

  22. Rocketeer was absolutely GREAT and I would love to see a sequel. Unfortunately, I don’t think Disney will bite.
    Captain America on the other hand will rival Iron Man 1 as Marvels greatest film but I’m not sure how it will do at the box office. Hopefully well. The only film Im REALLY looking forward to seeing.

  23. Captain America will do great… as for the rocketeer 2, hell no with reboots.. bring back the original cast and fill it up with all action packed adventure and rocket flying billy campbell!

    • If they did a Rocketeer 2 they’d HAVE to have Billy Campbell. I loved the first film.

  24. That sounds like alot of work to make him small… i thought that they had some skinny guy and his face pasted on the body, but i guess that would look cheesy…

    dang thats alot of work, BRAVO!!!

    • I don’t blame Wolfman completely on Joe Johnston, though a director has to take responsibility for the films he/she makes. Johnston didn’t have to take that massive paycheck, did he?

  25. Captain America. The best CBM of the summer. All doubters will soon see.

  26. Am I the only one who thinks some kind of Rocketeer/Indiana Jones crossover would be the coolest thing to ever happen?

      • Wow, thank you so much for your contribution. I’ll treasure it for the rest of my days.

    • haha…not the only one. !
      Ever since i saw the Rocketeer back in the day I thought Indiana Jones would just fit right in there !

      Please Please Please make another Rocketeer and continue the story !
      I would Love to see that ! This is awesome news if it would happen.
      Glad Joe is still thinking of it ! One of my all time favorite Movies !

    • I am with you there Doc, have always liked the Rocketeer, especially with Jennifer Connelly.

  27. Cap is gonna rock this summer! It WILL be the best comic book movie in a long time (possibly even better than Iron Man and maybe, just maybe… better than Nolan’s Batman).

  28. The Wolf looked very cool my problem with the movie, closely resembled the Hulk. Ang Lee father hating his son, now lookat at Wolfman father hating his son yet again still cannot figure why universal would do re-hash a similar story very stupid.

    Comic book movies the producers need to listen to the fan’s allot more!