A sentimental tweet published by Captain America star Chris Evans Thursday commemorating his wrap on Avengers 4 is fueling speculation the actor’s tenure as the star-spangled Avenger has reached the end of the line.
“It was an emotional day to say the least,” Evans wrote. “Playing this role over the last 8 years has been an honor. To everyone in front of the camera, behind the camera, and in the audience, thank you for the memories! Eternally grateful.”
If Evans bows out, his eight-year run as the character ends after the untitled Avengers 4 came as an addendum on his original Marvel contract, which was set to expire with Avengers: Infinity War.
In a profile with the New York Times published in March, Evans said he intended to end his relationship with the character by going out on top, saying you “want to get off the train before they push you off.”
Weeks later, just before the release of Infinity War, Evans told a Variety podcast it’s “tough to say” if Avengers 4 will be his last outing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“Part of you almost kind of thinks: Well, if we end on the right note… and I think it really kind of does. The scripts they have are really beautiful and really well written,” he said, adding of Marvel and the two-part Avengers, “they do such a good job.”
“It’s really sweet and lovely and just special, and everyone really has a nice tight plot and story arc. Part of you almost doesn’t want to mess that up. … I guess it depends. It’s hard to know where your head’s gonna be at in a few years.”
Evans was similarly noncommittal to an exit when promoting Infinity War on Good Morning America, saying of a potential future return as Cap: “We’ll see.”
“Well, the contract is done. A lot of our contracts are through,” Evans said, pointing to longtime co-stars Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth, who similarly fulfill their contracts as Iron Man and Thor, respectively, in the next Avengers.
“Myself, Downey, Hemsworth, we all kind of started roughly at the same time, and I think we all, through Avengers 4, kind of wrap it up,” Evans said. “So at this point, I don't know what's next, but yeah, by 2019, that's it.”
BUCKY BARNES (SEBASTIAN STAN)
Cap’s lifelong best friend and war buddy Bucky (Sebastian Stan) has long been the favorite to assume the mantle as Steve Rogers’ successor should the hero ever fall in battle.
It’s a path a reformed Winter Soldier followed in the Marvel comics, where Bucky became the new Captain America after Steve Rogers was gunned down following the events of the sprawling Civil War event.
His history as Cap’s best friend — and being a fellow super soldier endowed with similar abilities — makes the redemption-seeking Bucky a natural choice to follow Steve’s lead and serve as Captain America in honor of a possibly fallen Steve Rogers.
SAM WILSON (ANTHONY MACKIE)
Also poised as a potential one-day successor is Steve’s other most trusted ally, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Cap’s right-hand man and fellow member of Earth’s mightiest heroes.
The high-flying superhero known as the Falcon has all the qualities befitting of the title — he’s loyal, brave, and righteous — and would dutifully serve in the role.
Mackie, asked at a convention if he would take the mantle, said he would, “if it was given to me.”
“I feel like Chris Evans is the perfect Captain America,” he said. “I can’t think of another actor who would be able to play that role as well as he does — and I love the idea of me, Chris and Sebastian and Scarlett [Johansson, who plays Black Widow] just living forever in the Captain America franchise. It’s just fun.”
Falcon also operated for a time as Captain America in the comics, trading in his classic suit for a USA-inspired uniform and taking on the identity of Captain America after Steve Rogers was aged into a feeble old man.
Another potential candidate comes in the form of a Marvel Comics character yet to make the leap into live-action: Elijah Bradley, a.k.a. Patriot.
A descendant of Isaiah Bradley — an African-American soldier who underwent an experimental government process meant to recreate the same transformation that turned Steve Rogers into the super soldier dubbed Captain America — Elijah served as a member of the Young Avengers, a team comprised of the flagship heroes’ teenaged counterparts.
Elijah claimed to have received super soldier abilities after a blood transfusion from his grandfather, only for it to ultimately be revealed the teen had subjected himself to an illegal and dangerous substance known as Mutant Growth Hormone to fabricate superhuman abilities.
Patriot’s origin story might need some retooling for a cinematic bow, but an aged-down take on Captain America could provide for some interesting possibilities — especially if the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever wants to explore adapting the controversial “Truth: Red, White & Black” storyline.
A NEW FACE
If Evans decides to retire from the role, Marvel Studios could recast and continue — even if it’s impossible to imagine anyone else portraying Steve Rogers.
Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige has previously talked about what will happen when Marvel’s biggest stars reach their “inevitable” retirement, he’s mulled over taking the same recasting approach akin to that of the James Bond franchise.
Same Cap, new face might come as a splash of cold water for moviegoers following Chris Evans’ eight-year tenure, but Avengers 4 looks to be tackling some timeline trickery — suggesting an out and an opportunity for Marvel to reconfigure some of its major players if need be.
Evans could stay on as Captain America past Avengers 4, continuing on as Cap — provided he lives — even if in a comparatively minimized role.
With the rise of fresh new faces wielding A-list box office star power — Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange and more to come, like Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel — there’s less pressure for Marvel Studios’ old guard to carry all the weight.
This could be a way for Marvel to keep big stars like Evans and Downey Jr. on what is essentially retainer, allowing heroes like Captain America and Iron Man to still be a living (and breathing) part of the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe, even if they’re no longer at its forefront.
Evans has expressed a desire to further his career as a film director, and stepping down — but not stepping away entirely — would give him a much-deserved rest without entirely doing away with the character.
A NEW MCU
Whatever happens, Avengers 4 will serve as a point of demarcation for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
As told by Feige, the Infinity War sequel will act as a “finale” to the ongoing MCU: he told Vanity Fair the fourth Avengers will lead to “two distinct periods, there being “everything before Avengers 4 and everything after.”
Feige later told Entertainment Weekly characters killed in these next two Avengers blockbusters will be staying dead, meaning there really will be a need for a new Captain America should Steve Rogers make his last stand by the end of Avengers 4.
Evans won't be the only Marvel star whose contract is fulfilled come next summer: Downey, Hemsworth, Johansson, Mark Ruffalo (Hulk) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) will have all completed their deals with Avengers 4.
'TIL THE END OF THE LINE
Hemsworth has found renewed interest in his role as the Asgardian Avenger following Thor: Ragnarok, which gave Thor and his franchise a much-needed revamp.
“After this last experience with Taika [Waititi, director of Ragnarok], and actually these last two Avengers, I feel like we’ve reinvented the character a number of times — even in these next two, he evolves again, and you don’t get that opportunity often in a franchise,” Hemsworth told IGN.
“If I had the opportunity to do it again, I think I’d love to,” Hemsworth explained, adding: “I also think there’s an appetite for it now, or there’s a far greater range of possibilities of where he can go now, what he can do, just because we’ve kind of broken the mold a bit.”
Could actor-slash-director Evans stay on as the star spangled man with a plan?
“It’s really not up to me. My contract is up. I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘No more,’” he told Collider last summer.4comments
“I think Hugh Jackman has made 47 Wolverine movies, and they somehow keep getting better. It’s a character I love, and [Marvel Studios is] a factory that really knows what they’re doing. The system is sound, over there. They make great movies. If they weren’t kicking out quality, I’d have a different opinion. But, everything Marvel does seems to be cinema gold.”
Avengers 4 opens May 3, 2019.