Whereas Captain America was the iconic leader, the rallying point and ultimate example of patriotic wish fulfillment, that scrawny boy turned super soldier socking Adolf Hitler in the jaw, Bucky Barnes, in his original iteration, was the true dream come true for a rah rah nation rallying together during World War II. He was a scrawny, peppy, loyal teenager who, left orphaned by a fallen soldier father, befriended Steve Rogers, earned his trust and adventured with him on missions to stop Nazis, Communists and evildoers otherwise, always looking up to and learning from his hero of a friend.
But while this weekend's blockbuster film, "Captain America: The First Avenger," is an origin story, taking the hero back to his roots in a monochromatic retelling of his turn from skinny to sculpted, don't expect to see the same sort of gee whiz Bucky Barnes that was first born 70 years ago. Instead, actor Sebastian Stan's Bucky is Rogers's Brooklyn-born peer, still loyal to his friend but without that bright-eyed innocence that defined the character's early days.
Stan spoke with The Huffington Post about the role, his take on the film, preparations for a newfound fame and more.
You grew up in Romania, and have said that didn’t grow up with comics. Why did you want to be in Captain America? What spoke to you about the story?
You know, honestly, it came my way and obviously even though I didn’t grow up with the comic books I still really understood, I knew the name, I knew universally it was well known, and I knew it had origins in the 40s and the 50s which was always a time period that very much interested me. So those were all parts about it, but at that the time I didn’t really know anything about the story so I just went with it.
Once you began to research and dig into it, what’d you get out of the story?
Uhm, well, after that, I went back and it’s very interesting, it’s an interesting story, even the way it was developed and why it came it out and when it came out, around WWII and stuff, it had specific purposes and stuff to build morale and to excite people. The fact that it survived over the decades in a very different way, in terms of like the characters kind of becoming, serving different purposes and so on, it’s timeless. So yes, part of that was exciting.
There's a certain white bread-ness to Captain America; would you say that that's where your character comes in, giving a certain edge to the film?
The thing was, what I discovered in some of the comic books, like, sometimes Bucky did the dirty work and Captain America has to maintain his image, you know, when he was coming back and so on. So I just sort of thought that was an interesting kind of little fact and I just sort of thought that could make it into the film and see how people felt about it.
Bucky as everyone knows, was Captain America's eager kid sidekick. But you have darker side to the role…
I think the initial intent was to make someone that was world-weary, or who had seen pretty bad things. Who had been somewhere, in some kind of environment the way that opening scene of "Saving Private Ryan" is. It’s not like he’s scarred, but I mean, as opposed to Steve who had never been to war, so he, you know, who was completely from an idea in his mind about what that means. I think that’s the dynamic we were trying to find.
In this movie, there's a straddling of a line between comic book hero and war film - how’d you approach it? As a war film or a superhero film?
I was aware that we were living in a more heightened world, but I just, I thought that if I just completely treated it as a very realistic film about guys trying to survive in war looking out for each other and family and the quest for a better life or whatever, just a basic human needs, if I just left the comic book side of it alone that it would kind of just live on its own, and I think it does. I don’t think you want to try to act like you’re in a comic book movie.
That grounds it; it's not like he's coming down to earth from the sky.
Yeah, exactly. Well that’s the thing, yeah. He’s a guy, Captain America is a human being and he’s trying to figure out, he’s trying to do the good thing and he’s trying to do it in a completely new body per se, that he’s never been used to. But he, it’s the overall, he can be killed.
I read that you originally tried for that role, but you ended up as a perfect Bucky.
That’s how I originally, I think at the time they weren’t even looking at people for that role, I think the only role to go out for was the Steve role at the time. I mean, I just mean, you know, I think I’m personally a firm believer of certain things ending up sometimes in a very specific way, so I was very happy with the way it happened. I wouldn’t be able to sit here and be talking to you if it hadn’t gone the route it did.
How was working with everyone, from Chris [Evans, who plays Captain America], director Joe Johnston…
It was great. Sometimes it felt like the three of us were in our own world, which is highly unlikely to be feeling that way on a huge movie like this. What I mean by that is that I think we had enough to be able to nitpick the scenes and kind of like, everybody had a voice in them, which was really nice, and Joe was really good in terms of letting us explain our thoughts and why we feel the way we feel and he was open to trying new things and Chris is a very generous actor and he’s open to trying new things, so the whole situation was very comfortable. I felt that our relationship offscreen paralleled the one onscreen very much.
He had to get a certain size, but very physical role. But you're doing a lot of crazy stuff, too; was it a lot of training for you?
Yeah, I mean a lot of stuff I would do for myself to just sort of have energy and get up early in the morning and be able to do that kind of all day and the stamina levels, I just wanted to, and obviously there’s an element of feeling strong and fit, so I had some time before the movie started that I was doing some of my own physical training and that was helpful I thought even just for my believability of being someone in a circumstance like that.
You’re hunkered down while making the film, but I get to see the excitement from the media and blogs, it's the first time Captain America is on the big screen like this. Do you have any sense of responsibility shepherding such an iconic property?
Of course, I mean absolutely. The thought of being a part of something like that, that you’re essentially catering to so many people that have had so many ideas about it, you want to do the right job, you want to do it well, you want to make sure that everybody’s happy at the end of the day with that and the fact that you’re part of a film like that that’s been around for a long time, yeah it’s a little bit of a privilege and it’s nice and it’s respect, if you will. It’s respect for the people that care, and so yeah, it’s an incredibly good feeling. I think all we really hope for is that people get from the movie what they’re anticipating.