Chris Evans embraces his inner jerk in Knives Out
US actor ditches his heroic role as Captain America for a darker side in murder mystery Knives Out
Coming off the most successful movie in the world, Avengers: Endgame, Chris Evans decided to hang up his Captain America suit and embrace his inner jerk by starring in an Agatha Christie-like whodunit for his next project.
Opening here tomorrow, Knives Out - written and directed by Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Looper) - is an ensemble mystery in which a wealthy family patriarch (Christopher Plummer) is murdered. Suspicion falls on all his unpleasant family members who betray their rapaciousness and grievances at every turn as they fight for his money.
Daniel Craig plays a suave "gentleman detective" that comes in to solve the crime. Jamie Lee Curtis is the victim's eldest daughter married to a "kept man" (Don Johnson), and Evans plays their trust-fund kid. Michael Shannon, Toni Collette and Ana de Armas round up the star-studded cast.
In our interview at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, Evans touched on his choice of a very different post-Avengers role, when he said: "I think you just want to follow your creative appetite. If it is the right project, director, script and role... there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle that have to come together.
"To try and be motivated by only one element playing against type from Captain America, I think would be a little limiting. It is nice that it worked out that way (for Knives Out) because it is nice to flex and try different things, but that wasn't the only motivating factor."
His cynical, arrogant Ransom Drysdale is a man who has everything but a moral compass - and Evans knows "a whole bunch of those guys" in real life.
He said: "I am sure everyone knows people who were born into privilege but still also have a bit of a victim's mentality, and that is a really dangerous combination. Sadly, that is pretty prevalent and I don't think you have to look too far to connect to that type of mentality, to understand that type of character."
When he received the script, the 38-year-old US actor thought it was a real page-turner and it was one of those he "burned through".
"Within an hour it was done, and you can't believe how fast you got through it. Every single character feels that it has purpose. That's why we had so many great actors sign on to it," he said.
While used to the ensemble Avengers movies, Evans found it liberating not to carry Knives Out.
"You know you just got to do your job, you don't have to carry the scene, you are not the only reason the scene will work or not work. It is really refreshing to go to set and be able to play in a sandbox with so many incredibly talented, versatile, nimble actors."
FRIENDS AND FAMILY
He added: "It turned into one of those film sets where everyone became friends and hung out with one another having a great time. No one retreated at the end of a scene into their quarters. We were all in it together the whole way."
Referring to the requisite denouement scene where the detective reveals the ending in front of the whole family, Evans spoke about his own family gatherings.
"I have an Italian extended family so they are very loud, very opinionated, very colourful. Our holidays are usually a bit of a circus, so yeah, it is a good time. And my family specifically, we are all performers, we are all in this industry to some degree, so there is a real vying for the floor and we all have something to say and we are not shy about saying it."
He is certainly not shy about voicing his political opinions on Twitter where he has a dedicated following. In fact, he comes from a line of politicians on his mother's side.
"They have a history of public service. My uncle was a congressman, and so I think that kind of dedication to giving back to your community and being of service to people is something that I am certainly proud to say is in my bloodline."
Evans is also an animal lover and posts pictures of his pooch all the time. Dodger is a rescue dog that he found in a pound where he was filming Gifted in 2017. He revealed his own knives come out especially when it comes to animal abuse.
"I always react passionately when I see some sort of animal cruelty.
"My dog is everything. There is something very pure about animals. They are very honest, genuine and present. I think dogs specifically have a real unique sense of kindness and loyalty and joy that, to be honest, I really do try to emulate.
"Really, truly, man's best friend. I know it is a silly thing to say but they truly are."
And on life after Avengers, Evans said: "I am pretty mercurial by nature. Some days I wake up and I have an interest in something completely outside of this industry.
"Sometimes I think maybe I don't want to act any more. I am not one of those guys who is completely dedicated to this one career for the rest of my life."
The writer is the chair of the board of directors of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.