Chris Evans is the last dude you’d expect to get misty eyed over his leading lady, unless that lady happens to be a ten-year-old by the name of Mckenna Grace. The pair star together in the independent movie Gifted
Chris Evans is looking tough-guy fit: honed and toned with biceps bulging. He’s Captain America on screen, the last dude you’d expect to get misty eyed over his leading lady.
Unless that lady happens to be a ten-year-old girl by the name of Mckenna Grace. The pair star together in the independent movie Gifted. Evans plays Frank Adler, the uncle who cares for niece Mary (Mckenna), whose mother is out of the picture.
Mary’s a mathematical genius, while Frank, according to Evans, is a ‘lumbering gorilla’.
‘I don’t think he knows how to convey emotion properly,’ he said sadly.
Uncle and niece muddle along — with a bit of help from a neighbour (Octavia Spencer). Mary is soon hailed as a maths prodigy; and then a tug-of-love battle begins, as others seek to take the child from him.
There’s no denying Evans, 35, and Mckenna have great chemistry. It’s difficult for the camera to lie when adults act with children; and sometimes there’s a palpably uncomfortable vibe. But not in Gifted.
‘Mckenna’s a force to be reckoned with: a real firecracker . . . very wise for her age!’ Evans enthused. ‘She’s a fresh new soul who made it very easy for everyone — and she tells jokes!’
The pair play an uncle and niece, who muddle along — with a bit of help from a neighbour, played by Octavia Spencer (pictured) There’s no denying Evans, 35, and Mckenna have great chemistry.
Chris Evans shot to fame in 2011 as Steve Rogers, who is transformed into Captain America in the Marvel franchise.
You hear this kind of gush all the time; and normally I’d put a stop to it. But in this case I happen to know that the people on Gifted got on very well.
Evans puts it down to the time spent rehearsing before director Marc Webb rolled cameras. ‘There was time to develop a bond, and trust built very quickly. That’s the key. We trusted each other.
‘Mckenna’s mum was with her and we all hung out and ate together when we could,’ Evans told me. He got on well, too, with Lindsay Duncan, who has a key role in the picture which opens here next Friday.
Evans said: ‘There was time to develop a bond, and trust built very quickly. That’s the key. We trusted each other. The crew would burst into applause after scenes with Lindsay’
‘The crew would burst into applause after scenes with Lindsay. That normally never happens! I felt like I was back in the theatre at summer camp,’ he joked.
Chris and his siblings did shows at school and in community theatre in the colonial town outside Boston, Massachusetts, where they were raised.
‘Each of us probably did about 20 plays; and by the time I was 16 or 17 the woman who ran the theatre retired and my mother took the gig,’ he told me.
Mckenna’s character Mary is soon hailed as a maths prodigy; and then a tug-of-love battle begins, as others seek to take the child from him
Although he’s soared as a movie star, Evans believes it’s important to return to the stage when he can. Next March, he will appear alongside Michael Cera in Kenneth Lonergan’s The Lobby Hero, as a police officer.
Lonergan has perfected the art of drawing drama out of real life (an ability that earned him an Oscar for his last film, Manchester By The Sea). As Evans continued chatting, it occurred to me that he has just the chops for a Lonergan character.
I mention Anthony Hopkins’ mantra about not being able to play real life if you don’t live it (Nicole Kidman says it a lot, too).
Next March, Evans will appear alongside Michael Cera in Kenneth Lonergan’s The Lobby Hero, as a police officer
‘That’s exactly it!’ he said. ‘You don’t want to look back and say: “Yeah, life was great, but I f****** missed it.” Or: “I was there, but I wasn’t.” You know, this business can become more about binary and maths and having a cold heart if you’re not careful.
‘So I do step away occasionally. I go home to Massachusetts to rest.’
A nd he takes his rescue dog Dodger with him. Evans said he had a DNA test done to determine his breed, and when it came back it said ‘part Boxer, part Lab, part Pit Bull . . . and part Pomeranian’. The idea clearly tickles him. ‘I mean, who knew?!’
He has recently finished filming Avengers Three and is about to start shooting Red Sea Diving Resort with Ben Kingsley and Alex Hassell for Gideon Raff, one of the creators of Homeland. It’s about how Israeli secret operatives rescued Ethiopian Jews from camps in Sudan.
And after that, he will don the Captain America suit again, for Avengers 4. It’s the final picture in his contract with Marvel, but from the twinkle in his eye it’s clear he might be persuaded to pick up that shield again.
‘Captain America is fun to do — and Marvel have the Midas touch,’ he told me. ‘It has been the gift that keeps on giving.’
Watch out for…
- Zizi Strallen (right) and Leisha Mollyneaux (far right), who have been cast by director Dominic Cooke to play the roles of young Phyllis and young Stella in his production of the Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman musical Follies, which will run in the Olivier at the National Theatre from August 22. Strallen’s role is the younger version of Phyllis Rogers Stone: who will be played by Janie Dee. Ms Mollyneaux will be the younger version of Stella Deems (played by Dawn Hope).
Liz White has been cast in a new production of Jim Cartwright’s debut play Road, which will run in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court from July 21
- Phyllis, Stella and Sally Durant Plummer (Imelda Staunton) were chorus girls in the fictional Weismann Follies show, which ran in New York between the two World Wars (the already announced Alex Young will play young Sally). The tale focuses on Phyllis and Sally, who meet up again in 1971, at a reunion — during which Stella leads the former Follies in a rousing tap number called Who’s That Woman? The cast also includes Philip Quast, Peter Forbes, Tracie Bennett — and Gary Raymond as Dimitri Weismann.
- John Tiffany (the director of Harry Potter And The Cursed Child), who has cast Liz White, Mark Hadfield, Michelle Fairley, Faye Marsay, Mike Noble, Dan Parr, Lemn Sissay and June Watson in a new production of Jim Cartwright’s debut play Road, which will run in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court from July 21 — 32 years after its first performance in the Court’s upstairs studio space.
- The company directed by Simon Curtis, way back then, included Edward Tudor Pole, Lesley Sharp and Susan Brown (who’s giving a series of breathtaking performances as multiple characters in the unmissable Angels In America at the National Theatre right now).
- Cartwright once said that Road features the ‘nutters, mystics and drunks’ that he’d met in school and at the pub. It explores the dead end many found themselves in during Margaret Thatcher’s time in Downing Street.
Nikki Amuka-Bird will take on Henrik Ibsen’s heroine Ellida Wangel in his play The Lady From The Sea: a story of a woman torn between her husband and the tidal pull of a former lover
- Nikki Amuka-Bird, who will join the small list of actresses — which includes Vanessa Redgrave and Natasha Richardson — who have taken on Henrik Ibsen’s heroine Ellida Wangel in his play The Lady From The Sea: a story of a woman torn between her husband and the tidal pull of a former lover from her days in a coastal town.
- The superb Ms Amuka-Bird will lead a new version of the play by Elinor Cook, directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, into the Donmar Warehouse Theatre from October 12.
- Kwei-Armah is returning to the Donmar after directing the successful One Night In Miami there last year.