In the upcoming sci-fi thriller Push, actors Chris Evans (Fantastic Four) and Camilla Belle (The Ballad of Jack and Rose) play members of a secret government organization seeking to enhance the psychic abilities of ordinary citizens to use them as weapons. Unfortunately, Evans’ superpowers provide little protection against Dakota Fanning’s off-screen “ball-busting” and Belle’s admissions that he secretly loves musical theater. North by Northwestern caught up with the two in a conference call interview, probing about cast relations, career plans and attempts to get Fanning drunk.
So, how did your career blow up after Not Another Teen Movie?
I wouldn’t say it’s blown up, I think I’ve had a pretty even, steady pace in the business. [My career growth] has been a combination of things. I think the biggest factor is luck — because there are so many talented actors out there who haven’t gotten that break — and then I have a good team. I’m not after fame or glory or money, I just want to be able to do what I love and not have to get a real job.
So, with the economic downturn affecting entertainment spending, why do you think a college student should spend nine or ten bucks to see your new movie?
I think movies are a pretty cheap date, so hopefully movies will survive the recession. It’s just a really fun movie. Our director really tried to avoid relying on CGI and green screens; most of our special effects were done with stuntmen and careful shooting, so hopefully college kids will appreciate that.
What attracted you to your character, Nick Gant?
He’s pretty different from myself. He’s had a lot of pain in the past. He’s closed off to his emotions and I’m a pretty open guy so it was different for me. And any time a script can capture your attention the way this one did, I think it’s worth pursuing.
With Push coming on the coattails of Fantastic Four, do you ever worry about being typecast in action films?
There’s always a worry to be typecast, but if the pieces of the puzzle fit—like if I got an offer for another action movie and I liked the script—you obviously don’t want to be typecast, but at the same time you don’t want to avoid a role just because it’s like something you’ve done before. So it’s a tricky situation and it’s something I constantly struggle with.
Having tried a lot of different types of film, is there any one genre you prefer?
To be perfectly honest, I’m a big fan of simple, human stories. I like simple stories with simple characters. It seems strange because I’ve been sucked into sci-fi and fantasy and action movies, but I like simple stories with simple characters.
How did you prepare for your role in Push?
Well, not with rehearsal. There wasn’t as much rehearsal as I would’ve liked, but being in Hong Kong I was so isolated, and in many ways that’s the struggle of my character, Nick, so to be honest the environment kind of provided me with a lot of preparation.
What was the most fun part of making this movie for you?
Working with Dakota [Fanning]. She’s a real firecracker. Her maturity level is at around 30 and mine is around 12, so we work well together. She really likes busting my balls.
What was your relationship with your costars like?
I think I’m a funny guy: Camilla and Dakota think I’m the lamest thing ever. Djimon [Hounsou] and I would have a beer after shooting. We had a hard time getting Camilla to have a beer with us, and unfortunately, though Dakota has the vocabulary, she’s not quite old enough to go out with us.
What was your biggest challenge?
The food. It’s hard to get a nice piece of chicken meat in Hong Kong. If you ask for chicken, not only are they going to give you dog, but there are going to be about a hundred bones in it.
Do you regret dropping out of NYU to pursue acting as a career?
I don’t regret it, I think for me it would have been a waste of money cause I would’ve just gotten a degree in acting anyway. I think it would’ve been a really rewarding experience but for me I kind of had my own college experience moving to L.A.
What was it like for you to do action?
I have to say I love it! I had so much fun, all the rehearsals involved running with guns and fighting big men, I feel a lot tougher now!
How did you prepare for the role?
Our director said, “let’s just do Push in a natural way, make it a more human story.” It was more about approaching it in a natural way, in that these are abilities our characters just naturally have.
Do you see yourself as an actress who wants to take chances?
I do think that some part of this job is being able to take risks. I’m not trying to do just one type of film and that’s kind of what keeps me going.
What was it like working with Chris?
We had a very good time. He’s a lot of good fun. He loves musical theatre and — he’s gonna kill me for saying this — but I love it too, so we kind of shared that interest.
If you could change one thing about your life or career, what would it be?
I don’t really regret things I’ve done, I’m just looking forward to the future.
If you could choose your own power of those in the movie, what would you choose?
Djimon and I had the same power in the movie, so we used to joke that ours was the best, so I’d want to be a pusher I think.
What’s been your favorite role to date?
One that’s really special to me is Ballad of Jack and Rose, the character of Rose. I think I kind of came of age during that movie and working with Daniel-Day Lewis was incredible.
What makes this role unique?
I think with Kira what I really like about her is that she always tries to keep you guessing, with whether she’s on the good side or the bad side.
So you’re the age of a college kid — do you think you act like one?
I’ve never really been much of a person that parties, all my friends go to college so I guess when we hang out I’m acting like one. I guess my friends bring that vibe to me.
Why should college students see Push?
I think for one reason, I think it’s young, it’s fun, it takes place in Hong Kong, it’s something different. And I think it’s just a cool film with the fight scenes and the characters.