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September 2004
Cellular: An Interview with Chris Evans

Cellular: An Interview with Chris Evans

By Todd Gilchrist

Chris Evans is best known for his memorable turn in the 2001 comedy "Not Another Teen Movie", but his Hollywood profile will no doubt rise steeply after a star-making turn in this fall's "Cellular" a white-knuckle thriller about a twenty something guy who receives an anonymous call from a woman who claims to have been kidnapped. Evans, whose next high-profile role will be as the Human Torch in next summer's comic book epic "Fantastic Four", recently spoke to blackfilm.com about proper phone etiquette, his expanding repertoire, and about the possibility of becoming a huge Hollywood star.

Are you ready to be the next Tom Cruise?

Chris Evans: Jeeze. That would just be the best thing in the world.

How exciting or intimidating was it to meet Kim Basinger? How much time dod you spend together?

CE: It was the actual scene we first met. It was really appropriate. We shot my side of the film the whole first couple of months. Kim was working, and I'd never met her. At first, I was I don't know how I feel about that. But David Ellis pointed out that served the purpose perfectly. You're not supposed to know this woman. You're supposed to have no time for her whatsoever. So it worked out perfectly.

Were you apprehensive?

CE: Well sure. Of course. Who the hell am I? She's got a little gold man. That says something. It was a little nerve-wracking, but it was great. She puts you right at ease. It's always bigger in your mind than it actually is. She walked right up. Eye contact. Hey, I here you've been doing great. Even if they're lip-service compliments, they're nice. As actors, we're all emotional headcases. We need those.

What would you do if got a phone call like that?

CE: It depends what am I doing that day? I think I would like to believe that you would stand and deliver. I think that has to do with the choices I made with the character. I mean he's not the guy you would expect to rise to the occasion. He's the guy who is apathetic and selfish and arrogant, so I think that makes it much more identifiable to the audience when a guy who's not cut out for this sort of stuff does what's needed, it makes you wonder what would I do? If you've got someone up there who's a super hero doing everything by the books, it's nice and it's an entertaining, but you don't invest as much as an audience if you can't identify with him. I met with Dean Devlin a year prior to it actually being made, and I loved the script and we got along great, but then it kind of like so many scripts in Hollywood sat on the shelf for about a year. And then I was in New York working on something else and I got a call saying, Cellular's back around, we're going to test 8 or 9 guys and we want you to come out. So I flew out and auditioned and just got lucky.

Was there another version of the film where you end up with Jessica Biel's character, since her story sort of bookends the main narrative?

CE: Did I get the girl? Oh, the Jessica character. That's right. You know, that was a bumpy road. There were a lot of rewrites especially my motivation to help Kim is derived from Jess bombarding me and telling me how selfish and immature I am and that's supposed to drive me. At one point, Kim's character says: Could you be so selfish as not to take five minutes out of your day? A lot of those scenes were rewritten which made it difficult to have an adequate tie-in at the end with Jessica's character, and I think based on the rewrites at the beginning, it just made it a bit of a bumpy road, so I haven't actually seen the official final cut so I don't know how they tie that up.

Have you known guys as feckless and useless as your character?

CE: Oh sure. You might be looking at one right now (laughter). Yeah, of course, and that's why it's an easy character. The majority of my buddies are guys just like Ryan. You know this is the last guy you want on the cell phone. This is the last guy you want in this situation. And that's why all the more entertaining that he is.

Is there a back story- or perhaps one off camera- between you and Jessica?

CE: On a personal level? There is and there was and I'm not going to go into the personal stuff. I think that's rolling the dice, as I'm sure everyone here knows. The last thing you want to do is mix your professional and personal life. I think that it's dangerous. I don't want to start Kim can have all the horrible stories.

Do you normally go to the beach often?

CE: I didn't until I found this beach where magically all the women walk around in bikinis and are beautiful. It's funny that happens in the movies, isn't it? I'm not much of a beach guy. I grew up on the East Coast and our beaches are not that great. At least the beaches I went to were kind of cold and dirty. Don't get me wrong. If you want to put me on a beach in Bermuda where the waters are crystal clear, I'm not going to say no. But as far as spending a day at the beach I burn. I'm pale as a ghost. The beach does not agree with me. I'm more of a woodsy guy.

What do you do with your spare time?

CE: A lot of my buddies live out here. We like to do the athletic stuff. We're in a softball league. We play basketball and volleyball. I have a dog . . . she's half English bulldog, half American bulldog, big dog. Her name is East and I get a lot of why East?' You know, I don't know why East. It's not necessarily because I'm from the East Coast. I like names that aren't names. I think you can name your dog Microphone and in about a month he's going to acquire a persona oh, he's Microphone. It couldn't be anything else that's who he is. So I just like the sound of one syllable, East. It sounded good and now of course, I can't see her as anything else.

You managed to survive "Perfect Score", you have this film coming out and "Fantastic Four" coming up. How does your career look now? Exciting or scary?

CE: Oh really exciting, a little scary, all of the above. I don't have to deal with a lot of I never get recognized. I can amount on one hand the number of times I've been recognized in my life. So it's not as though I leave here and have to deal with the paparazzi chasing me to my car. This is the most action I get (laughs) so I've really been able to have the best of both worlds for a long time, and I still have anonymity, so it's just getting through the work and having fun doing it.

Are you looking forward to doing more action movies, as opportunities arise after these films succeed?

CE: Well, I'm willing to learn. I always thought I can do stunts. I can jump. I can fall. Honestly, it really is an art in itself. It really is difficult, and I have more respect for stuntmen than most professions. But I'm more than willing to learn and give it a shot. I love to do my own stunts. I love that realism, and I like feeling like I've put in a hard day's work, so if the film choices I make do take me in more of an action direction, then yeah if the film calls for it, I'd love to do a week of horseback riding stunts or car stunts or whatever.

What kind of driving training did you do to prepare for this role?

CE: I did [some] and then they wouldn't let me do it. They put me in a week of stunt driving school for this prior to filming and they cheated me. I got to go on this great week of doing 180s and all this fun stuff, and the first day they actually had a stunt, insurance said no no dice, let the stuntman do it.

Is your short hair for a role?

CE: The short hair was just a choice I had made and then I ended up booking "Fantastic Four" with the short hair, and they just said well might as well keep it. We've begun. We're a week in. Johnny Storm is a kind of you know a hotshot, a little arrogant, likes to have fun, kind of the life of the party, but he's intelligent. He's a space pilot, so he's not a guy you know what I did? I went to "Top Gun" because I really modeled this guy after like a a lot of these pilots who do pilot, whether its fighter pilots or space, whatever it is, these guys are doing high risk jobs that a very small percentage of people in this world can do, and they know it. And I think that inspires some arrogance in these guys, and a lot of these guys are pretty cocky hotshots when they're in the cockpit doing their business, but outside of the cockpit these guys have fun and they're crude and they have an arrogance about them that I think every single pilot in "Top Gun" embodies."

And what about fire stunts for the Human Torch?

CE: I don't think they're going to actually set me on fire. I think it's going to be mostly CGI. I don't think we're ever going to use any real fire. But they got me fitted with that harness, that really comfortable harness that fits so nicely (makes a face) . . . god, it hurts, man, it rips your leg in and out. But it will all be green screen, stuff that I don't know anything about. It's all new terrain for me, this high tech stuff, so it's fun and it's all learning experience.

What kind of training did you do for the role?

CE: I spent a couple of days in the harness where they practice the takeoffs and it's just kind of muscle memory finding balance in a harness and not looking jerky like you're in harness. It's like a pendulum, so you try to it's different and I'm still not terribly good at it, but we did a couple of days of it, but other than that, not really. I mean I never had any hand-to-hand combat. The way the script is set up, we get these powers and we're pretty clumsy with them. We don't know how to use them at first, so it's not like as soon as we get the powers, I'm bursting off into I'm catching fire uncontrollably, parts of me are catching on fire, I'll float for a second and fall so the whole movie is a good journey of trying to figure out how to control these things we've got and I think I actually fly with coordination and understanding by the end of the film.

Who were you influenced by when you were growing up that made you want to become an actor?

CE: That's a good question. They changed. I mean growing up I was just talking about this with my buddies. We always liked Tom Cruise because I grew up on "Top Gun" and "Days Of Thunder" and "Cocktail" and "Color Of Money". I mean these movies were awesome. These days I really like Gene Hackman. I love Gene Hackman. I've really got a lot of respect for Val Kilmer, Jeff Bridges, people who have consistently done good work and who really just embodied what it is to be a chameleon as an actor. Especially Val Kilmer: you look at him in "The Doors" did you see "Tombstone"? That's a great film and he was great in that. I've got a lot of respect for people that can just shed everything about them, right down to their voice."

What's the weirdest telephone call you ever received?

CE: That's a good question. I never answer my cell phone, as my manager can tell you. I dread the cell phone so much. My standard technique is that when it rings, let them leave a message. I'll check the message. If it's something important, I'll call him back. If it's not, thank God I didn't answer it, because I just hate talking on the phone.

What if it's a date?

CE: Well, if she wants to get me, she'll leave a message and I'll call her right back.

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