Chris Evans’s anxiety almost led him to walk away from Hollywood.
The Marvel superstar, 38, opened up about suffering mini panic attacks earlier in his career. He pinpoints the started of them to 2007 — when Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer came out and he was recovering from a breakup. (He split with Jessica Biel around that time.) He said his severe anxiety led him to turn down chances to screen test for Captain America and made him consider quitting acting completely.
Evans told the Awards Chatter podcast that it was a weird period for him. He felt his acting projects — 2001’s Not Another Teen Movie and 2004’s Cellular in 2004 — weren’t showing his talent.
“There was a period of time where you start thinking, 'Man, I can't make a good movie. I don't know what it is,’” he recalled. “‘I wonder how many chances I'm gonna get at this.’”
He then missed missed out on a string of roles — in Gone Baby Gone, Milk, Elizabethtown and Fracture — and felt that when he made a film that actually showcased his talent (like 2007’s Sunshine), it went unnoticed. ("Nobody sees my good movies," he laughed.)
On top of that, he had gone through a breakup, explaining, "I had just been dumped and I needed it!” (Though he didn’t name who he split from, Evans and Biel, who started dating in 2001, parted ways in 2006 after fives years together. In early 2007, she rebounded with Justin Timberlake — and they went on to marry.)
By the time the Fantastic Four sequel came out in June 2007 (he played Johnny Storm/Human Torch), Evans had privately been suffering severe anxiety. And it escalated when he started filming 2010’s Puncture.
"It was the first time I started having mini panic attacks on set," Evans recalled. "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.'"
At that time, Marvel reached out to him again about another superhero role: Captain America. He was invited to screen test for Steve Rogers for 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. If it worked out, it would be a nine-film deal and a huge payday. But Evans feared saying yes, thinking being thrust further into the spotlight in such a high-profile role would make his anxiety completely debilitating.
“My suffering would be my own," Evans said.
So he turned down the chance to test — several times. However, the offer got better — fewer films for a higher paycheck. And eventually the studio offered him the role outright, saying no test was necessary. He said he had a conversation with Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr. — they shared the same agent — as well as his therapist and family. Ultimately he was swayed not to let his fear win. He then saiid yes.
Now, he calls it "the best decision I've ever made” and credits Marvel’s Kevin Feige “for being persistent and helping me avoid making a giant mistake."
And at the end of the day, “All the things that I was fearing never really came to fruition."
He said that he fell in love with the role — and his fellow Avengers helped him feel comfortable with the fame.
"It was nice having Chris Hemsworth around because he was going through it, too,” he said of the Thor star. I mean, at the time Downey's Downey and Scarlett's Scarlett [Johansson]. And [Mark] Ruffalo and [Jeremy] Renner, at the time, were crushing it, too. Hemsworth and I were very new and we also had the stand-alones and so I think we shared in our anxiety, and at least that made it a little bit more comforting."
Evans has gone on to play the role in more than 10 films, most recently Avengers: Endgame.
Evans is promoting American crime drama Defending Jacob, based on the William Landay novel, Apple TV+. The finale airs Friday.
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