Chris Evans may be done as Captain America, forcing Marvel to address its future
When Chris Evans agreed to play Captain America, he signed a six picture deal with Marvel. With the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War, his deal will be complete, and the actor is hinting that he may be done with the character. If so, that brings to head a problem Marvel has managed to avoid to this point, and how it responds will define its film strategy going forward
In an interview with Esquire, Evans seemingly confirmed he was done with the character once he completes work on the upcoming Avengers film. Evans mentioned how physically grueling the process was, both in terms of shooting and in the physical preparation required to bulk up for the role.
Each film is also a huge time commitment. Shooting can take up to five months, then the promotion of the film can go just as long. With the speed at which Marvel turns out movies, that means someone like Evans – a key figure in the MCU – has been committed to the MCU for years with very little time to do anything else.
While the Marvel films have transformed Evans from a borderline A-lister to one of the most recognizable people on the planet, he has repeatedly stated that he likes to try new roles and play new characters. He also wants to continue to direct. While he seems genuinely grateful to Marvel for the role, it has meant he can’t pursue his other passions. With the contract ending, he can.
To be clear, he still could return to the role. Marvel initially wanted him to sign a nine picture deal, but he refused and negotiated it down to six. Assuming he is in both Avengers: Infinity War and the sequel that is shooting back-to-back with it, that would actually put him in seven MCU films (not counting a cameo in Thor: The Dark World). He could always renegotiate, but it will still force Marvel to make a few hard decisions.
Part of Marvel’s success to this point has been thanks to finding talented people in front of and behind the lens that the studio doesn’t need to pay huge amounts. If Marvel wants Evans back, it will need to pay a huge amount. It may need to do what it did with Robert Downey Jr. and offer him part of the box office. That would push Evans’ potential salary into the tens of millions.
That leaves the studio with an important choice. It can pay Evans and accept the loss of profits, keep the character and replace the actor, or continue without Steve Rogers.
And Marvel’s decision with Evans will shape the MCU for years to come.
All three choices present their own pros and cons.
If they pay Evans (assuming he even accepts), that will further a precedent set with Downey Jr. If both actors are offered a percent of the box office, that will significantly cut into the studio’s profits. If the films are making a billion dollars that might not be a huge issue, but if other actors and actresses want the same deal Marvel will eventually have to decide where to draw the line. So at best, offering Evans a huge, backend deal would be a temporary measure.
If they replace the actor, that would ensure that the MCU has an unlimited future – if it can simply replace the actors the stories could continue indefinitely without issue – but it also undermines the entire nature of the shared universe. A huge reason the MCU works is the consistency. Audiences may not be as willing to embrace a new actor in a role created by a performer that they have grown attached to.
Most fans still don’t fully accept that The Incredible Hulk with Ed Norton is actually part of the MCU, even with the multiple mentions sprinkled throughout the other movies. Even the decision to recast the character of War Machine after Iron Man was something of an issue at the time.
A New Roster
The third, and possibly best option for the next few phases at least, is to acknowledge the loss of the actor and find another way to keep the character active. In the case of Captain America, Marvel has already laid the groundwork.
In the comics, Steve Rogers dies (temporarily) at the end of the Civil War storyline. To honor his fallen friend, Bucky, aka the Winter Soldier, takes up the mantle of Captain America. The character of Tony Stark’s Iron Man has also been replaced by a new character known as Iron Heart and following Logan’s death in the comics, X-23 took the name Wolverine. The list goes on.
The MCU may try to follow this path, but in the comics the original characters all came back or are at least expected to come back at some point. Fans are usually willing to try the new take on the characters, but if/when the writing starts to fail, the originals are almost always brought back – it’s inevitable. The MCU doesn’t have that luxury.
If it does follow this path, the MCU has a cushion. It continues to introduce new characters – Black Panther is about to appear in his first solo movie, the new Spider-Man is coming soon to his own film, the new Wasp will make a proper debut in Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Bree Larson’s Captain Marvel will be introduced in Infinity War, to name a few. Marvel could absorb the loss of Evans, and even Downey Jr., but eventually it will need to decide how it wants to handle the loss of its major stars.
Losing two or three characters is possible in the growing MCU, but soon enough Marvel will need to renegotiate with stars like Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pratt, Jeremy Renner, and others that command major salaries elsewhere. Losing a few characters is one thing, losing several of them would be a major issue.
How Marvel deals with the loss of Evans is going to define its strategy for years to come.