The first-time director of Before We Go talks to Krista Smith at the Toronto International Film Festival about capturing life's ineffable moments on film, shooting with fake phone booths, and sweating through encounters with Captain America fans.
Captain America shouldn't be this easy to approach.
When Marvel's in control, Chris Evans is typically tucked high in a skyscraper, security guards at the door, publicists on the watch. But this is the Toronto Film Festival, and Evans is here with a new mission: his directorial debut, Before We Go.
"Was it terrible?" Evans asks, when told a reporter attended his film's debut screening on Friday morning (the film officially premieres next week). He dives on the crimson couch. "Don't lie to meeee!"
Before We Go is a love story that stars Evans and Alice Eve as two strangers who slowly fall for each other over the course of one long, meandering New York night.
"I'm such a (expletive) sap. I like romance," says Evans. "I've had great nights before where just some wonderfully romantic night happens spontaneously, unpredictably. And the next day you try to tell your friends and it just doesn't cut it."
Evans has been saying for years he wanted to direct, and his managers and agents have done the Hollywood shrug: "Yeah, sure, eventually."
Eventually finally came, along with some whopping lessons about what it means to helm a film. "The responsibility is so much greater," says Evans, who edited Before We Go on breaks and weekends away from his Captain America duties. "It almost doesn't matter the budget. It could be $3 million, it could be $300 million."
The upshot was that for the first time, Evans was in complete control of his performance. Tell Evans you actually prefer the way he directed himself, and he grins. "You know what? So did I," he all but whispers. "Can I say that? Is that horrible? It's so awful to say … These are the interviews you give that you're going to regret."
But, he adds, "as an actor you have an idea in your head how you think a scene should go. And you give your variations of performance. And then when you see the final product they don't always use the takes you thought would work. And that's fine. With this, I'm in charge of the edit."
With Before We Go for sale at the festival, Evans already has another project in mind to direct. His kind of movies? The likes of Blue Valentine, Half Nelson and Like Crazy. "It almost feels like movies nowadays have to be extreme novelty, like some weird indie festival or spectacle, like Godzilla," says the Cap, irony checked while in first-time director mode on this steamy afternoon. "What happened to Sleepless in Seattle? Just do a simple movie well."
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