Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment present the story of one man destined to become the world's First Avenger.
It is 1941, and the world is being torn apart by war. After repeatedly trying to enlist in the military to do his part and fight alongside his brothers and sisters in the Allied Forces, the young and scrappy 98 pound Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is accepted to participate in an experimental program that turns him into the Super-Soldier known as Captain America.
In his muscular new incarnation, Captain America joins forces with his friend Bucky Barnes (SEBASTIAN STAN) and the confident Peggy Carter (HAYLEY ATWELL), under the command of Colonel Chester Phillips (TOMMY LEE JONES), to wage war on the evil HYDRA organization--the Nazi's deep science division--led by the villainous Red Skull (HUGO WEAVING).
"Captain America: The First Avenger" focuses on the early days of the Marvel Universe--later populated with such super heroes as Iron Man, the Hulk and Thor…When wars were fought with weapons, but won by men.
The latest exciting production from Marvel Studios, "Captain America: The First Avenger" joins the 2011 summer blockbuster "Thor" and the upcoming "Marvel Studios' The Avengers," slated for release on May 4, 2012.
The screenplay is by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely. "Captain America: The First Avenger" is directed by Joe Johnston.
THE HERO THAT STARTED IT ALL
Captain America (the Super Soldier alter ego of young patriot Steve Rogers) marked his first Marvel appearance in March of 1941, eight months prior to the U.S. entry into WWII; the unforgettable comic book cover image displayed a young hero, with the American flag on his chest, punching Adolf Hitler square in the jaw. Such an unadulterated political stance landed creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in hot water, but it also forever announced the arrival of a bold champion for those suffering at the hands of tyranny and militaristic authoritarianism. Simon and Kirby made no bones about the super hero's overriding goal. The staunchly aggressive art created quite a stir, and Simon remembers, "This was the time just before the War, and we were besieged by political activists who used to have big rallies at Madison Square Garden. There would be 50,000 people in the rallies. Some found out where we lived, and these very aggressive people would protest at us and spit on us. The FBI found out what was going on and they assigned agents to be at our offices, just in case." (Marvel Studios President and "Captain America: The First Avenger" producer Kevin Feige observes, "When you have Captain America punching out Hitler in March 1941, before Pearl Harbor, it's definitely a statement, which proclaimed, 'We cannot sit by on the sidelines anymore.' That immediately spoke to Steve Rogers and Captain America as a character.")
Indeed, so imminent was the Axis threat in 1941 that the comic book's creators worked backwards, beginning with their villain and crafting a hero in response (classically, the hero comes first). Simon and Kirby sat down and designed varying versions of Captain America, finally settling on one in particular that founder Martin Goodman loved (Goodman began Marvel as Timely Publications in 1939). Market response was positive and immediate, and the book started selling out.
Many iterations later, Captain America remains, in many ways, relatively unchanged. Simon comments, "They've done a lot of things since I was working on the character, however, we're still reminded who Captain America is and what he is. He is a symbol. He is an icon."
It was not until September of 1963 that Marvel Comics debuted The Avengers, a super group comprised of four of Marvel's most beloved characters: Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, (all created in the 1960's) and Captain America, a character created two decades earlier, earning him the title of "The First Avenger."
Since his debut, Captain America comics have sold more than 210 million copies in more than 70 countries. And now, as fans celebrate the 70th birthday of the super hero, Marvel Studios releases the origin story of how Steve Rogers became the first Avenger, Captain America.
Already well versed in successfully adapting graphic novels to films, the Studio remained firm in its decision to keep the story in the era in which it was conceived. Feige states, "It is my belief that we could not have created this notion of an interlinked Marvel cinematic universe without Captain America, because he is the start of the Marvel universe--not only in the history of our comics, but within the overall notion of enhanced humans. Whether that human has been bitten by a spider, exposed to gamma rays, or encased in a self-built metal suit, the notion of a super-powered human started with Steve Rogers, Captain America."
So, the decision to tell Steve Rogers' story in the '40s era was a done deal. Feige continues, "You can't tell Captain America's story without it taking place in that period. Is this the authentic WWII period that you see on the History Channel? Well, no. This film is the history of the Marvel universe separate from the history that we all learned at school--it's a science fiction approach to history. We've taken real life events, real life locations and put the Marvel spin on them, which really gives us the opportunity to explain the origins of the Marvel universe and allows us to tell a story that, frankly, no one else can tell. Plenty of war movies have been made and plenty of WWII movies have been made, but no one has ever made one quite like this."
Director/executive producer Joe Johnston agrees, and says, "You only really get one chance to do an origin story. The 1940s were such an energetic era, fueled by the optimistic belief that 'right' triumphs. Cinematically, it is such a toy box of vehicles, fashion and architecture--and we fill it with the Marvel gadgets and weaponry--it just seemed like a great opportunity to do this story first, then move on."
The accomplished team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely has been writing scripts for 15 years (including all three of the "Chronicles of Narnia"). McFeely adds, "Captain America is not only such a great embodiment of the American ideal of the time, he also is a prototypical hero--one who wasn't born to it, but had to work for it--with unwavering courage and belief in himself. Although those things can transfer quite well to modern day, if you have a hero dressed up like a flag, it might be a bit more challenging to accept that in a contemporary context. The fact they wanted to do it right, frankly, made it very appealing."
In Johnston, Marvel found an ideal director to helm the project. They needed someone who not only wanted to tell the story, but who could also give the story a heart. Johnston began his career early on in special effects, worked at the prestigious Industrial Light & Magic, and shared the 1982 Oscar® for Best Visual Effects for "Raiders of the Lost Ark." His gifts as a story teller and his familiarity with the technical aspects of bringing a vintage adventure tale to life made him an ideal director for "Captain America: The First Avenger." Feige remembers, "Whenever we had a conversation with Joe [Johnston], it always came back to the fact he didn't want to lose sight of the character, didn't want to lose sight of Steve. Yes, of course, there will be amazing design and a great look, but let's make sure the audience goes along with him on this ride. He was the right guy to make the story feel contemporary, make it feel modern, relevant and cool for audiences."
Coincidentally, Johnston had a lifelong fan in Feige, who explains, "I've been a huge fan of Joe Johnston almost my entire life, right from his design work on the original 'Star Wars.' His career has been leading up to doing a Marvel movie that is cutting-edge, that is contemporary, that has a heart. His film 'October Sky' is an amazing, relatable piece of filmmaking. Any other director would come in and want to play, because it's set in the 40's and it's fun, things like that. And that might have left us with something hollow, with the main character coming from a design perspective, and we would have lost the heart of the movie. Johnston, however, was always in sync with the producers and reiterated that the movie had to be about Steve Rogers and his journey."
As the script began to take shape, screenwriters Markus and McFeely were constantly working to make sure the story of Captain America dovetailed perfectly with the other existing characters and plotlines in the Marvel Universe. Markus says, "We would check in with other projects or they would check in with us, because we wanted to ensure the connective tissue was there--for example, Howard Stark plays a fairly prominent role in our movie, and his son is Tony Stark, Iron Man. The connections have all been there from the start."
The writers began with the blueprint found on the pages of Captain America comic books. The screenwriters immersed themselves in that world and hungrily pored over stack after stack of issues. In telling the tale from the beginning with Steve Rogers, the story would need to give rise to the entire Marvel universe, a fact that the writers did not take lightly. "We are the midwives who help give birth to this whole thing," jokes Markus.
"Exactly," adds McFeely, "there is an organization called the S.S.R. (Strategic Scientific Reserve) in our movie that will later become S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) and you feel very important--in a somewhat unimportant way--to be dealing with the genesis of these well known things that figure so prominently in this universe."
After some extensive reading of the source material, the screenwriters arrived at the conclusion that the real draw for audiences is the character of Steve Rogers, before he becomes Captain America. McFeely says, "It was important from the get-go that audiences identify with and care for Steve as a character, before he becomes an icon."
Johnston comments, "We get to know Steve Rogers as a character first--and I think that's what's made him such a phenomenon for 70 years. He doesn't have any super powers per se--his powers are basically what the human body can do, but taken to a level of physical perfection. I have to say, that's what appealed to me about the character and about doing a film. It's about a guy who, in a matter of minutes, goes from a 98-pound weakling to the perfect human specimen. As such, Steve has all kinds of issues, both physical and psychological, and it's very interesting for me to take those issues and explore them in a really good, really fast-paced action story."
Kevin Feige is a self-professed and huge comic book fan: "We count ourselves among fans, so we see everything as one and the same. If we're servicing what they want to see, it's because we want to see it, too. We know that the cardinal sin is to think that we know better than material that has been around for 70 years. There's a reason why Captain America is so much older than we are, and he'll be here long after we're gone."
Feige continues, "What's fascinating about Steve Rogers/Captain America as a character is that he has largely remained unchanged. He is able to adapt to the times and is able to reflect the mood of the country at any given moment. It's exciting to finally get the chance to tell his story in a big screen adaptation."
Chris Evans counts himself lucky to be a part of this 'comic book movie': "They have a built-in and incredibly loyal fan base. I'm obviously going to take extra precaution with every decision I make in this movie, in order to honor those fans. They have a strong voice and they want to be heard. But that's a great thing. An actor needs an audience and it's nice having the fans out there, because you know they'll support you. With a lot of cooks in the kitchen, it's tricky to have one vision. It's not easy, or there would be a lot more of them. I didn't just do this movie because it's Marvel, because it has an existing fan base--those were contributing factors. But what sealed the deal was Joe Johnston at the helm and Kevin Feige behind the scenes. So the best I can hope is that I kept my head down and I did my job right."
For Johnston, getting to direct "Captain America: The First Avenger" was wish fulfillment on many levels. He closes, "I just thought that here was a character that was a projection of a national ideal. Historically, the character came out before we ever entered the War, and I think he quickly became a symbol of 'here is what we could do if we were allowed to.' Well, I guess getting to do the film allowed me to do those things. Those national dreams were handed to me, and I think we got to tell Captain America's story in a way that would make everyone--the fans, the creators at Marvel--proud. I couldn't be happier."
CASTING CAPTAIN AMERICA
Casting Steve Rogers/Captain America was a long and arduous task. On paper, his character goes from one extreme to the other, from put-upon reject to dynamic leader. Where do you find someone who can start off as a shy, undersized adult, capable of gaining audience sympathy and respect, who transforms into a tough, believable leader, able to legitimately challenge an elite force of Hitler's most unscrupulous soldiers? Filmmakers went through many names who, for one reason or another, were ticked off the list. Read more
CHRIS EVANS (Steve Rogers/Captain America) has recently emerged as one of Hollywood's most in-demand actors for both big budget and independent features. Read more
PREPARATION: RED, WHITE & BLUE VERSUS…RED
With a character as recognizable as Captain America, translating the fantastic aspects of his iconic costume to the real world presented a challenge for conceptual artist and designer Ryan Meinerding and Academy Award nominated costume designer Anna B. Sheppard. Taking into account seventy years of comics for reference, a balance needed to be established that would satisfy the fans and still be believable in the world of the film. Read more
WORLD WAR II, MARVEL-STYLE
Filmed for the most part in the UK, production of "Captain America: The First Avenger" was based at the world-famous Shepperton Studios in Surrey (or 'Sound City,' as it was known when productions began shooting there in 1931, a decade before the world was introduced to Captain America). Read more
ABOUT MARVEL ENTERTAINMENT
With a library of more than 8,000 characters, Marvel Entertainment, LLC is one of the world's preeminent character-based entertainment companies. Read more
STAN LEE (Executive Producer) is the Founder of POW! Entertainment and has served as its Chairman and Chief Creative Officer since inception. Known to millions as the man whose super heroes propelled Marvel to its preeminent position in the comic book industry, Stan Lee's co-creations include Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Daredevil, Silver Surfer and Dr. Strange. Read more
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
JOE JOHNSTON (Director / Executive Producer) was born in Austin, Texas. Relocating to California, he attended Cal State University Long Beach, majoring in illustration, graphic and industrial design. After seeing Jaws in 1975, Johnston's career path turned toward film. He began his career working for George Lucas as a designer and visual effects art director on Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. Some of his most notable designs include Yoda, the Ewoks, Boba Fett, The Millennium Falcon, The X- and Y-Wing Fighters, The Imperial Snow Walkers and The Imperial Star Destroyer among many others.
In 1981, Johnston won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for his work on Raiders of the Lost Ark, focusing on the climactic opening of the ark sequence. Following that film's sequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Lucas suggested Johnston attend the USC School of Cinema, offering to pay his tuition and keep him on half salary. Johnston left USC a year later with a nine minute black and white film that landed him his directorial debut with Disney's Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, marking the first time a debut director surpassed the $100 million mark in box office revenue. Johnston's next film The Rocketeer, has amassed a cult following since its release. He's gone on to direct "Jumanji," "October Sky, Jurassic Park III, Hidalgo and The Wolfman.
Following his involvement with the Jurassic Park franchise, Johnston has spent nine summers at various sites in the Hell Creek formation in Montana, working with paleontologist Jack Horner, prospecting and collecting material from the late Cretaceous period, including several pieces now housed in the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman.
CHRISTOPHER MARKUS & STEPHEN McFEELY (Screenplay by) have taken moviegoers to the land of Narnia for all three big screen adventures, most recently "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," after co-writing the adaptation of the global box office hits, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (which earned them nominations for the Saturn, Hugo and Humanitas Awards) and "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian."
Markus and McFeely have been writing together since 1995. They penned the original screenplay for the critically acclaimed HBO feature "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers," starring Academy Award® winner Geoffrey Rush. This, their first produced film, premiered in competition at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and went on to earn numerous honors, including nine Emmy Awards. Markus and McFeely won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special, as well as a Writers Guild Award.
They will next pen the screenplay based on Arthur Philips' novella called "Wenceslas Square." Their first screenplay, "You Kill Me," was directed by John Dahl in 2007, and starred Ben Kingsley, Tea Leoni and Luke Wilson.
THE ART OF ADAPTATION