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January 2004
The Perfect Score : An Interview with Chris Evans

By Todd Gilchrist

The Perfect Score: An Interview with Chris Evans

Chris Evans first made his presence in the entertainment industry known with a role on a short-lived sitcom ("The Opposite Sex" anyone?), and seemed doomed to disappear amongst the many Hollywood hopefuls with nary a trace. Then he got a plumb role as Popular Jock Jake Wyler in 2001's spoof "Not Another Teen Movie", winning the hearts of countless adolescent girls even as he lampooned the characters they usually choose as objects of affection, and became one of the film's breakout stars. Now, with "The Perfect Score" due in theatres this week, and the upcoming thriller "Cellular" waiting on deck, the actor seems just on the cusp of mainstream success. Evans recently sat down with blackfilm.com for a candid interview about the movie, his future projects, and his prospective success as an actor.

How did you get this role in "The Perfect Score"

CE: "You get the script, you go on an audition."

What, if anything do you share in common with the character you play in the film?

CE: "Not much. I think the one thing is that we both kind of knew what we wanted at an early age. He's by far more academic than I was, you know, a little more ambitious as far as schooling is concerned, but I think we both had a pretty clear idea about what we were after."

What did you score on your SAT's?

CE: "I got an 1180, but the SAT process for me was not nearly as stressful- it actually didn't matter at all. At that point I knew I wanted to act, and I was pretty much just going through the motions. So yeah, I didn't really have as much of a pressure-ridden time as most kids do."

How was your high school experience?

CE: "School was awesome. My high school days- the greatest time in the world, because it was everything high school should be. I had a very very cliched upbringing, wonderful friends, wonderful experiences. I wish I could go back sometimes. And like I said, I knew the academic thing wasn't really what I was after, so I had everything that school had to offer without the stress."

Were you the 'popular guy'?

CE: "I think I thought I was, but I don't think that I actually was though. I had a really good time in high school and I had plenty of friends, and it was a blast."

What was the best part of making this movie?

CE: "Everything, everything. I mean, there isn't just one best part, you know? I get to do what I love, and not many people can say that. It's such a blessing. I mean, there's so many actors who are talented- phenomenally talented- most of my buddies are better actors than I am, and they're not working, so a lot of this business is luck and chance and timing, and to be able to make a movie is just mind-boggling, and you're just so appreciative, that everything about it is great."

Any funny-on-the- set stories?

CE: "I suck at this question. I've said that to everyone who's asked me and I can't think of anything. I mean, every day was a big joke and a laugh, and we all had a good time, but I can't think of one specific thing. If there was I'm sure someone would have told you by now."

What was the worst thing you did while you were in school?

CE: "I wasn't a really good kid. I did a lot of bad things, you know, skipping school and fighting... bad high school stuff, bad things in high school you shouldn't be doing but you know, it's what you do."

Have you ever cheated on a test?

CE: "Have I ever cheated? Oh, yeah! Let's all be honest. Who here has not cheated at least once on something even small. It wasn't like I was this renowned cheater, though."

Erika said she only cheated once, on a spelling test.

CE:"Well, that's Erika, and she's a new breed.i mean, you really don't know what the hell Erika's made out of. Yeah, you know. Of course. I'm sure I cheated in my life, I'm sure I have."

How do you choose your projects? Do you want to alternate between mainstream and independent pictures?

CE: "I'm into doing anything with good directors. I think a movie will sink or swim based on your director. They're the beginning, they're the end, they're the storyteller. Your acting is filtered through their eyes. And I've seen directors take great scripts and turn them into shit, and I've seen directors take very mediocre scripts and make them amazing, and I think it's the best way to learn, with great storytellers, so if it's an independent film where there's no money involved, but a great director, I'm there. And if it's a hundred million dollar budget, likewise- good director, I'm in."

How do you discern the difference between the two?

CE:"You watch their reel. You see what they've done. The good thing now is that I've been doing this for a couple of years and it's always fun getting the scripts, reading it, and then seeing that movie made a couple of years later. Because you're like, 'oh, that's so weird, that's not the way I saw it,' and you can say 'that's such an impressive acting job,' or 'that's such an impressive directing job.' You get to see the process. So there's a lot of thing that I've read that have come out that I can say, 'man, that guy's good. I like what he did with that.'"

What do you think of the Hollywood celebrity food chain? Where do you see yourself in it?

CE: "I don't know- it's a good question. If things ever got out of hand, which I don't really think they will, I have such a great family and friend base in Massachusetts, I've been back there for the holidays, and it's just so great. It's where I wanna- that's the goal, if I could ever have a career where I could live out of Massachusetts and just be here when I had to that'd be perfect. Say what you will about L.A., it's not my favorite place but I've met my best friends in the world out here, I get to do what I love, I've had great relationships. Wonderful things have happened out here."

What was it like working with Matthew Lillard?

CE: "He's so good. He's like the improv king. He's so talented, and nothing he says is written."

What distinguishes you from the hordes of aspiring actors making their way in the entertainment industry?

CE: "Good question. I don't know, I don't know. I kind of feel almost shocked that I am where I am. I really don't know that I have a 'special' quality, to be honest. The fact is there's a lot of better actors than I am who are out there and aren't working, so I'm still trying to come into my own. I think if I thought I had a distinguishing quality, I think that might be a step in the wrong direction. I think trying to remain as humble as possible is the best way to aid that progression with your acting."

Are you still taking acting classes?

CE: "No, no classes. I'm not a big classes fan. The tool that I find really useful, like I said, earlier, it's great watching a film that you've read the script, even films that I've seen prior to reading, like I'll watch "Scarface", and I'll go out to Barnes & Noble and buy the script, trying my best to forget the performance, read it, and then watch it again and just be blown away by the choices they made and the characters they found."

Sounds like you want to be a director.

CE: "Some day, some day, who knows?"

What actors do you look up to as influences or inspirations?

CE: "Um, I love Gene Hackman, man. Gene Hackman is so good. Of course everybody says Al Pacino, but of course, the guy's amazing. Who else? Val Kilmer.Not that many people say that, but you can watch that guy in "Tombstone", and you watch him in "The Doors", and you watch him in "Willow", and they are three "completely" different human beings, right down to the most minute detail- posture, voice, everything, he's a chameleon, and you know, that's the idea behind acting."

You play in "Cellular" with William H. Macy?

CE: "He's good. He's one of my favorites too. The movie's about a woman- Kim Basinger gets kidnapped and thrown in an attic, and there is a phone in the attic, but these kidnappers smash it up with a baseball bat or whatever, and when they storm out she takes the guts [of the phone] and just kind of clicks wires for a while and gets the phone to ring once, and it goes to my cell phone. So at first I don't believe her and then finally it's me trying to save her, and Bill Macy plays the cop. It's a good fast-paced action movie, I'm just on a cell phone the whole damn movie."

Are you still shooting?

CE: "We finished it."

What do you do to relax?

CE: "I like to read, I like to play with my dog, I "love" my dog. It's half English bulldog, half American bulldog. His name is East."

Do you have a girlfriend?

CE: "I don't."

What do you like in a girl?

CE: "Um, I really find modesty attractive, because I think a lot of people try for it. I think the sad thing is I think there are people who are genuinely modest, and then there are people who know they should be modest. Unfortunately I think I fall into the latter category, and that's okay- I'm giving myself a pat on the back, that's good enough because some people aren't even that. But really admire the people who are just genuinely modest, it's just such an attractive quality. It's so rare- I just love it. You can be anything else in the world- you can have a hundred other flaws- but if you really can be humble and modest, that's okay by me. It's just so attractive."

It's hard to be in a town where you're always sort of selling yourself.

CE: "Yeah, it's hard to find an actress with those traits."

Are you looking for comedies or dramatic roles?

CE: "I like drama more than I like comedy. I have more fun doing drama than comedy. If Tim Burton wanted to direct some spoof I'm on board."

What made you want to become an actor?

CE: "My junior year of high school I was really like, I think I want to give this a shot, and I had some buddies who were older in New York who were trying it, and they said the most difficult thing is to get an agent, because you can't just go to New York right out of high school and knock on doors. So talked my parents into letting me live in the city for the summer- I lived in some shithole apartment in Brooklyn- and I wrote a bunch of letters to casting agencies, and I interned, answered phones, got coffee, stuff like that for the summer. But it was really useful because my job was talking on the phone, and I basically talked to agents all day, you know, setting up other actors for appointments. But by the end of the summer I was pretty friendly with two or three of them, and I just [said], 'by the way, I'm an actor. Would you mind if I came down and read for you?' They said sure, come on down, so I read for them and they signed me, and that was it. I said" I'm doing this." So I went back and finished senior year- I graduated early, in January- to go back to New York to try to jump in, and I got shit lucky and got a pilot. It was called "The Opposite Sex". It was terrible, but it got picked up. We made eight episodes and then it got cancelled, and I thought I was the man."

Did you base your character on anyone you knew in school?

CE: "I think a lot of my friends in school were a lot like this guy, really driven people who were really stressed about getting into college."

Is Brian Robbins a good actors' director?

CE: "He's a good everyone's director. He's so casual. The director is everything- they set the tone. The director's attitude on a daily basis kind of will bleed into everyone's persona. That's the environment you gotta work in for three months, and if he's an asshole, you're going to have a lot of pissed off people on set. But he was- I don't think I saw that guy raise his voice once, ever. He's so casual, so laid back, he knows exactly what he wants, and he knows exactly how to get it, he picks all the right people- the D.P., everyone he knows. It's a very well-oiled machine, and that bleeds into everyone. It's like you're at summer camp. He's great."

Have you encountered a lot of projects where you're excited and then it turns out less impressive than you hoped, or just plain disappointing?

CE: "That's what most of acting is. It's rare that you get something that you're like, 'nice. Finally!' most things you do you're like 'yeah... (interrupting himself) aww, shit.' When you're first starting out everything's so new and you get so wrapped up and you lose yourself. It's tough to stay grounded. I've done five pilots. One's been picked up, but every year you book a pilot, and you're like, 'I'm it, this is it,' and then it doesn't get picked up. There's a lot of that, but you need that. I can't imagine if the first thing I had done had taken off and I'd been huge, I think I would have been an asshole. Getting yourself kicked down is really, really important, to understand humility and kind of appreciate it when it comes, and spend some time with other people. It needs to be a slow process. No one is equipped to handle it overnight, it's not meant to be that way. You encounter a lot of people who are different stages of the game, you encounter a lot of egos, you get to see like, 'God, I don't want to be that. What and asshole.' It needs to be a slow process because it's too much information to soak up overnight. So disappointment is as important as success is."


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