The Infinity Saga era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a cultural phenomenon. The popularity of the Iron Man films and the initial Avengers movies led to a complete restructuring of a studio’s approach to movie making. It created the age of event-based cinema-going and the idea of a cinematic universe. Robert Downey Jr. is given a lot of credit for the success of the MCU, as his casting in the stand alone Iron Man films set the tone for the rest of the movies within the franchise. But according to President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige, Captain America actor Chris Evans deserves a lot of credit as well.
In a recent profile of Evans for GQ, Feige opened up about the importance of Captain America in the early days of the MCU, and how essential the initial iterations of the character were important to building the franchise. The head honcho revealed that while the RDJ praise is warranted, the Steve Rogers actor deserves credit as well for being one of the major pillars of the franchise, and being a key component to making it work. Feige said:
I often think about the parallel world where he said no. Robert Downey Jr. gets a lot of attention, deservedly so, for being the foundation of this studio we have here. But in many, many ways, Chris Evans was one of those additional pillars that the house would not be standing today, if not for him.
The feeling is mutual, as Evans previously credited Feige with being the common denominator for MCU success. While the Marvel exec may be eager to praise The Avengers actor, Evans characteristically humble when asked about his own contributions. He compared the group to the Patriots football team, which had its own incredible franchise run while Tom Brady acted as quarterback between 2000 and 2020. While Evans may have not thought of himself as the leader of the Avengers, or the quarterback as he puts it, he still could not be happier to be a part of a team on a winning streak. He said:
You kind of feel like you were just lucky enough to go along for the ride. It’s like winning the Super Bowl, but you weren’t Tom Brady. I mean, you were on the team. You might have had a couple good plays, but it’s not your victory to own. You are a part of it, which is wonderful. And you’re a part of a cultural phenomenon.
This is an apt comparison, especially coming from a lifelong Patriots fan like Chris Evans. Even if the Marvel alum doesn’t consider himself to be the quarterback of his Avengers team, he still is incredibly important to their success. Almost like a tight end who catches the ball in the endzone; if Robert Downey Jr. is Tom Brady in this scenario, then Chris Evans is Rob Gronkowski. Every team needs a leader, but you can’t win the game without the rest of the team putting in the work. Even with Downey as a foundation, the MCU likely wouldn’t have been nearly as successful without the Captain America movies being one of the strongest Intra-MCU franchises with Evans at the center.
The early days of the MCU are well remembered as exciting, unique, and revolutionary. The intertwined aspects of the films while also being tonally original stand alone films had never been done before. The investment of fans came from the investment in the characters, and fan interest wouldn’t have been nearly as strong without the authentic and charismatic performances from both Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans. Both actors have moved onto projects outside of Marvel, but their strength as franchise players will always be a highlight of their filmography.
You can catch Chris Evans in his latest film Pain Hustlers when it becomes available for Netflix subscribers on October 27, 2023. You can also revisit his first Captain America performance alongside Robert Downey Jr. in 2012’s The Avengers, which is streaming now with a Disney+ subscription, along with the rest of the MCU Infinity Saga.