Chris Evans almost turned down Captain America after having panic attacks


Chris Evan’s Apple TV+ series, Defending Jacob, is wrapping up but fortunately in the Age of Streaming, the show and therefore its promotion can live on long past the premiere. Chris recently appeared on The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast with Scott Feinberg. This is the first THR podcast I’ve listened to, so I don’t know if this is their approach to all guests, but it sounded like Scott didn’t know much about Chris’ personal life prior to the show. If so, Scott’s a great reporter and really did his research prior. The reason I mention this is because Scott asked Chris questions that he’s answered many times before. What was interesting was to hear Chris’ response now that he’s matured, evolved and achieved success. One of the stories Scott brought back into the spotlight was the fact that Chrisanxiety, which he’s spoken about many times, almost prevented him from auditioning for the role for which he will likely be best remembered, Marvel’s Captain America.

By the time he was in Houston shooting Adam Kassen and Mark Kassen’s indie gem Puncture in 2010, things were getting really bad. “It was the first time I started having mini panic attacks on set,” Evans recalls. “I really started to think, ‘I’m not sure if this [acting] is the right thing for me, I’m not sure if I’m feeling as healthy as I should be feeling.'” And then Marvel came calling again. The studio, which had recently launched its MCU with 2008’s Iron Man, invited him to test for the part of Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. If they liked him, he would be locked into a nine-film deal which would come with a big payday, to be sure, but also considerably greater fame, which he feared would make his anxiety totally debilitating. “My suffering would be my own,” Evans recognized, so, to the dismay of his agents, he turned down the opportunity to even test — several times, even as the proposed number of required films was reduced to six and the proposed salary was increased.

Then, to Evans’ amazement, Marvel came back to him again — and offered him the part outright, which made him reconsider his firm stance. He consulted with Iron Man star Robert Downey, Jr., with whom he shared an agent; a therapist; and trusted friends and family, who urged him not to make a major decision based on fear. He finally decided to say yes. And, a decade later, he says, “It was the best decision I’ve ever made, and I really owe that to [Marvel chief] Kevin Feige for being persistent and helping me avoid making a giant mistake.” He adds, “To be honest, all the things that I was fearing never really came to fruition.”

[From THR]

As I suggested, Chris has spoken of his anxiety before. Only prior, it almost sounded like he was using his anxiety as an angle to promote a film. It was a big nut to swallow that this conventionally handsome, well-built white pin-up guy just couldn’t hack the admiration of fame. But it was hard to hear what he was saying because he was having difficulty explaining what he was trying to convey. At times, it came across like he was attacking Marvel, thereby biting the hand that fed him. Now, Chris’ ability to explain how he felt back then clears those interviews up. He’s done a lot of work on himself, which includes therapy, and it shows. It makes sense that a person who had just experienced his first panic attacks would carefully consider the thing that brought them on. He’s worked through it now and able to handle the anxiety and the fame in a healthy way. He even made a point to say that he now recognizes that his panic moments were minor compared to others. I appreciate how he’s framing the discussion now. He’s not walking back what he said before, but showing how beneficial working it through it can be. It’s good advocacy.

An interesting tidbit that I didn’t know was that Chris dreamt of being a Disney animator before he set his sights on acting. Also, he considers Fracture the role that got away, while still graciously acknowledging Ryan Gosling deserved it. In the course of his Cap story, he discussed waiting to hear whether he got the role in What’s Your Number, which is the best Chris Evans film of all time. I may be joking, but you don’t want to know how many times I have watched that film. As a matter of fact, I might toddle off to watch it again right now *whistles Three Times a Lady*.

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15 Responses to “Chris Evans almost turned down Captain America after having panic attacks”

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  1. Jess says:

    I got totally distracted and couldn’t stop laughing at “it was a big nut to swallow”, I’m stealing that!

  2. Piratewench says:

    Well I really appreciate that he acknowledges that this isn’t a real, full blown panic attack. Thinking “am I good enough, Will I succeed?” while feeling anxious is not a panic attack.

    Thinking “I’m going to die, I can’t feel my hands, I’m having a heart attack, I’m trapped, I am dying” is more along the lines of what one thinks in a true panic attack. People use panic attack to describe a time of worry or heightened anxiety. But for those of us who have suffered chronic panic attacks, it’s a debilitating episode in which you feel like you are truly dying, no matter how many times it happens. When I have one I cling on to furniture as if I’ll be ripped into space, and it can often end in vomiting, diarrhea, sobbing and full body shaking. Then comes recovery from the adrenaline flood, which can take a day or two of feeling shaky and disoriented.

    I’m saying all this drama to say, it’s a serious condition. I’m so lucky that I have had the right therapy and barely have panic attacks anymore. I laughed a little when I read that he called having existential doubt about his abilities a “panic attack”. We need a new word! An anxious episode?

    • Eye.candy says:

      It actually has a name, I think it’s a symptom of generalized anxiety disorder, a disorder in which you’re in constant anxiety and fear. I have it, it ultimately lead to depression and it really hurt my daily life, but it’s manageable with medication and therapy.

  3. Lightpurple says:

    What’s Your Number – to this day, I can’t walk through Post Office Square at night with all the little white lights without thinking of the scene set there.

    I think one thing that has really helped him with dealing with his anxiety is staying close to family and friends from before he became famous. He usually brings a childhood friend to awards ceremonies. He maintains a home here a few towns over from where he grew up. He’s very involved with his nieces, nephews, and cousins of all sorts. He even used to work the phone banks anonymously for his uncle’s political campaigns.

  4. Kat says:

    I bloody love What’s your number too. No idea how many times I’ve watched it either!

  5. Darla says:

    I got what he was saying before this, and I sometimes got a bit annoyed at the mocking he got online. It’s a mental health issue, and I don’t try and get inside other people’s heads. Also, people experience panic attacks differently. I’ve witnessed my brother going through them. My brother is strikingly handsome. To the point it’s a bit annoying. I can’t tell you how many times I had girls come up to me and say “aren’t you blank blank’s sister!”. I had never seen them before, had no idea who they were, but they knew who I was. He’s also successful. But that never stopped his panic attacks. So, who knows. Mental health is a tricky thing.

  6. Snazzy says:

    He remains my favourite Chris

    • Snazzy says:

      Sorry Hecate I know I say this every time you report on Evans but I just can’t help it!
      Also – what, no Dodger pics?

    • BonnieT says:

      Definitely the best Chris! Pratt is well, a pratt, Pine is just too bland for me to even bother, Hemsworth’s rank is up there, but I have always loved the bro surface/deeper interior of Chris Evans.

      • Darla says:

        Agree about Evans and the bro/deep thing. So hot. But Pine is the 2nd best Chris for me, I don’t find him bland. I find Hemsworth more bland I guess, but I like him well enough. He’s totally fine, harmless really. Pratt, as the best Chris? come on man! As Joe Biden would say. lol

  7. Olivia says:

    Isn’t this not new though? I feel like I’ve always known this aspect of his taking the Cap role. I’m pretty sure he’s told this exact story in previous interviews, I don’t think its a new clarification. I dunno his anxiety issues always read as pretty genuine to me.

  8. Kyla says:

    I’ve been listening to the Awards Chatter podcast for a few years. Scott Feinberg is an excellent interviewer. He’s incredibly well-prepared, and has a kindness (along with thoughtful questions) that gets his guests to really open up.

  9. Prairiegirl says:

    Just here to say that when he shouted at Dodger to pipe down during the interview, my heart melted a little. Dodger’s the content we all need.

    • Mina_Esq says:

      Which interview was that? I need to look it up. I love Evans and his cute little dog.

  10. Flight says:

    I think he was super conflicted also partly because it’s not a very substantial or “deep” role. One role can change the course of their careers.