Continued from Part 1, available here, I join actor Chris Evans along with co-star Vinessa Shaw and directors Adam and Mark Kassen. The subject is Puncture, an indie film currently being shown throughout the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival. This middle part of the interview is mostly with the co-star and directors of the movie, so if superheroes are you’re thing, Part 3 is where it’s at.
Things jump between some funnier exchanges (I can now say I made Captain America laugh) and explore deeper into the social message at the heart of the film. I’ll also continue to rank the best Chris Evans movies I’ve seen while further exploring his battle with chronic shirtlessness.
Strap yourself in for Part 2, where we get into the meat of Puncture.
There’s text at the end of Puncture that attributes the spread of aids partly to these safety needles not being used. Do you think your film will work well as an advocacy tool?
Adam Kassen: It’s entertainment, but it’s something we care about. This stuff is true so just having this conversation is a start. We spent a lot of time in hospitals and those (safety) needles are all over now. They still need to be in a lot more but overseas that’s a huge thing. It’s just not talked about. You hear about HIV and Hepatitis, and all of these horrible infectious diseases spread by unprotected sex but you do not hear about needles and that is a huge thing. Injection is a really interesting documentary to point to.
Mark Kassen: Some footage being watched in our movie is actually from that documentary
Adam: and it’s too complicated to really get into but a in Libya which is obviously very topical now, a bunch of nurses came over and were thrown in jail because Ghadafi was convinced that America was trying to kill children because America must have given them HIV on purpose and it’s because they were using needles over and over and over and over again and it’s a huge problem, and it hasn’t stopped.
Vinessa Shaw: In my research I have two friends who are nurses, one is in Arizona, the other California and both have been stuck by needles multiple times and they’re like “Yeah, it’s the scariest thing. You never know.” Now there’s this cocktail you can tale but still, it’s a scary thing. It’s commonplace and it’s very dangerous.
Are you at a point now where you would refuse certain needles for your super soldier serum?
Chris Evans: (laughs) I got sick in Hong Kong while I was making that movie. I had to get a shot and I was pretty scared about that.
Mark: Hospitals are pretty safe places. It’s actually not the patients that are at risk in the US, it’s the nurses. It’s our concern for them. The front-line health care workers are not spoken about and they’re such an important part.
Adam: It’s true ya know, it’s all about the macro and that’s what we responded to. Everyone in the world is talking about corporations and insurance and this and that. It’s these large concepts and people have opinions on who should be paying for what and we’re not trying to weight in on that debate but it’s easy to not think that everything holds real ramifications on that care you get.
Chris, your character’s drug withdrawals can at times be really uncomfortable to witness. When you saw the film…
Chris: My poor mother. She has to go through that every time. She’s already seen me dead in films like six times but she’ll sit there and watch.
and Vinessa, your character representing the entire issue, did you feel pressure to portray it a certain way?
Vinessa: They (Mark and Adam) didn’t put pressure on me thankfully, but I put pressure on myself. I was just being honest with the character as a woman who only wants to take care of her kids.
Mark: When going through casting we had to make you fall in love with her and that’s easy, but then also make her look decrepit and that’s so.. I mean she’s gorgeous.
(Vinessa Shaw is wearing an elegant dress. Permanent model or in-between night lives?)
Chris: She was still a hot nurse before it broke her down. (laughs)
How did you feel when you saw yourself in the mirror like that for the first time?
Vinessa: I think just originally it’s just common, it’s part and parcel of the disease so I think I was just happy that it looked appropriate.
Chris: We really got so lucky with the cast on this.
Adam: We really did I mean it’s really hard to explain how rare it is to have an independent film where you don’t shoot especially in New York or L.A. and you don’t have a week to like..
Mark: every single person who came in from Roxanne Hope to Tess Parker to obviously Brett Cullen and Marshall Dunn, Kate Burton.. these are amazing professionals that we felt honored.. I mean we couldn’t believe they showed up. Brett Cullen did such a great performance and his family is actually a known Houston family, and in the last shot of the movie there’s a building in the back and that’s actually a Cullen building, did you guys know that?
Chris: (laughs) He actually came up to me and was like “that’s my building, man”
Vinessa: Yeah he loves that, like “Hey there’s the building!” He’s playing this terrible person but it was so in the moment like, “It’s in the shot!” because it was total coincidence.
How do you work together as directors. When there are brothers who direct together usually one is more technical, one is more hands on with actors. How does it work with you two?
Adam: It’s funny, we had to sit before a DGA panel before we did this. It was a very agressive situation trying to get a co-directors credit just because the DGA is very strict. They want to make sure Mark can’t be sent off to one scene while I’m doing another scene, so they really grill you and ask all those questions. A lot of time you have people who split things up but we didn’t really do that and just how we’re sort of talking with you know, it’s organic.
Mark: But we’re different enough that some people respond more to one of us than the other.
Adam We have the same creative taste which is so important. We agree 98% of the time.
(Chris slouches in his chair and puts his hands on his head)
Chris: I don’t agree with that.
Adam: You don’t agree with that?
Chris: No they really do. I was nervous, I was like “Two directors, I’ve never done this before!” I didn’t know how it was gonna work and then halfways through it’s like I can’t believe I have to go back to one director. I mean there’s only one of you!? It was great, the rehearsal process and the shooting.
Adam: You don’t like one of us, just go to the other one.
Vinessa: It’s a little like mom and dad. They have to different opinions in some ways but they have the same core purpose and meaning so some of the scenes I did with Mark (acting) in them so I think that’s when he would take over a little bit. Being an actor he could use more actory words and Adam was just very straight…
Chris: “Do better” (laughs)
Vinessa: Yeah very straight forward so sometimes you need that in a scene. I enjoyed the two different styles. Mark was really soft and would come really close to me and say maybe use metaphor or analogy with the dialogue which was very blunt and it helped me in scenes where I needed to kind of move forward.
You’re character took what was happening to her with grace. Is that how she really was?
Vinessa (looking towards the directors) that’s them again.
Mark: We felt it really important at this stage of the film that there are things that don’t really matter, what matters, what’s really important is how it works for the story. We had to change names with certain people it was based on, it was more drawn on the actual performance than the documented case of this woman.
Vinessa: There are moments it might get really sentimental and both of you especially in that scene in the hospital we got really simple and straightforward about it.
Adam: Again with casting both of these actors, some of those scenes are so difficult because you could end up doing a Lifetime movie… (laughs)
Mark: Any time it would go movie of the week we’d say “that’s just not what we’re doing here.” and it’s the same with the drug thing and that side of it, if it was too Requiem for a Dream ya know, that’s not the movie we were making we didn’t want to over-dramatize.
Was that choice also informed by how the script read, or did it come more from the people you talked to? I mean particularly regarding Vinessa’s role it’s coming from this place of understanding that this issue wasn’t only about her.
Vinessa: I definitely thought it was on the page. I think what we grasped from it was to give her the heart of somebody who has the passion and the power of the people but at the same time has accepted her fate. Again, I think that brings out a sense of strength, rather than the sentimentality of it so I really feel like in the end what you get is somebody you’re really rooting for to survive and it’s really devastating but on the page. Yeah, her character was definitely filled with strength and energy and verve and not at all on her last legs.
Part 3 of this interview is now available. Chris will shed some light on his experience playing Captain America, so you don’t wanna miss it.