Marvel may have struck gold with the Avengers, but casting them was no easy feat. While some were gunning for their roles — Chris Hemsworth asked for a second audition after he was originally turned down for Thor — others took some convincing, namely actor Chris Evans.
In a Vanity Fairexcerpt from the upcoming book MCU: The Reign of Marvel Studios by authors Joanna Robinson, Dave Gonzales, and Gavin Edwards, it was revealed that Evans was the one actor Marvel “really wanted” for the role of Captain America, but he turned down the opportunity to even audition.
Marvel boss Kevin Feige said they later invited Evans to Marvel Studios to walk him through their plans for the first Captain America movie, Captain America: The First Avenger. Feige recalled “bringing him in, showing him the artwork, showing him what was happening in this movie.” They reportedly offered him a nine-movie contract, no audition necessary. “He took a weekend to decide. That weekend was tough,” Feige said.
For Evans, the answer was still no. “Getting the offer felt, to me, like the epitome of temptation,” he said. “The ultimate job offer, on the biggest scale. I’m supposed to say no to this thing. It felt like the right thing to do. You see the pictures, and you see the costumes, and it’s cool. But I’d now woken up the day after saying no and felt good — twice.”
Robert Downey Jr. had to give him a call to convince him to take the role. As the book puts it, Downey told him “that the fame that came with it would expand his opportunities as an actor, not constrict them.” Marvel also returned with a shorter deal for six movies instead, though Evans would still be committed to the franchise for about a decade.
“Maybe the thing you’re most scared of is actually the thing you should do,” Evans recalled feeling.
But that anxiety didn’t let up even when filming for The First Avenger began. He admitted that, while filming, he kept thinking, “This is it. I just signed my death warrant; my life’s over. I can’t believe I did this. This isn’t the career I wanted.”
But seeing the finished product helped him feel better.
“The biggest thing I was worried about was making sh**ty f**king movies,” he said. “I don’t want to make sh**ty movies and be contractually obligated to make garbage.”
Evans went on to play Steve Rodgers, a.k.a Captain America, from 2011 to 2019.
He recently spoke to GQ about his doubts of taking the role and how he weighed the pros and cons of such a commitment: “the pros were that I’d be able to take care of my family forever; the cons were that I would become deeply, deeply unhappy with fame and loss of control.”
But now, he feels more grateful for the role than anything, and credits it for making him feel secure as an actor during a time when “life is unpredictable.”
“I love playing that role,” he told GQ. “I feel connected to it in a way that when you revisit a character so many times you can’t help but try to absorb some of their traits and measure yourself against them.”
This story originally appeared on Decider and is republished here with permission.