When Chris Evans was signed by Marvel Studios to play the iconic and patriotic hero, Captain America, Marvel surrounded him with veteran talent. It's the successful formula for their superhero films, introducing lower profile actors and giving them a stellar cast to work off of, crafting new stars themselves. In the case of Robert Downey Jr., they (re) introduced him in Iron Man with Oscar winners/nominees Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow and Terrence Howard, helping him on the way to becoming into the highest paid man in Hollywood. They had Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins support Chris Hemsworth in Thor, and for Evans, he had Hugo Weaving, Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones.
For the sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which takes place primarily in the present day, Marvel and directors Anthony and Joe Russo managed to do something unexpected, and cast Robert Redford into a key role in the film. According to the founder of the Sundance Film Festival - named after one of his most iconic roles - Redford is playing the "head" of S.H.I.E.L.D., a character later confirmed to be Alexander Pierce. While Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has The Avengers, Agent Pierce has a team of his own as well.
Remember that unexplained, mysterious council that Nick Fury had to report to several times during The Avengers, the ones who wanted to nuke New York as a way to stop the Chitauri alien invaders? They're going to be back for Captain America: The Winter Soldier and very likely will be a big part of the "conspiracy theory thriller" plot of the film that will determine "where loyalties lie" come time for The Avengers 2, as explained by screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.
Veteran actress Jenny Agutter, who had a small role in The Avengers as one of the council members, returns to that same role joined by Bernard White as another new member of the council. Chin Han, who's had two stints on the DC Entertainment side of things, playing Lau in The Dark Knight and appearing in several episodes of the CW's Arrow joins as another new character. And last but not least, Alan Dale, most recently seen as Once Upon a Time's King George and The Killing's Senator Eaton has also signed on, according to Twitch.
What role with Redford's Pierce and his team play in the plot and are we going to see a regime change at S.H.I.E.L.D.? With some of The Winter Soldier concept art revealing Steve Rogers battling a Quinjet - not to mention, sporting the new Secret Avengers costume - we're beginning to think so.
Cap’s next adventure is being directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo off a screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and will release in 3D. Robert Redford joins Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Scarlett Johansson, Toby Jones, Anthonie Mackie, Frank Grillo, Hayley Atwell, Maximiliano Hernandez and Georges St-Pierre.
Iron Man 3 releases May 3, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014, The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015 and Ant-Man on November 6, 2015.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.