Get to know Captain America’s first love–Peggy Carter

Q&A with Hayley Atwell

(Hayley Elizabeth Atwell (born 5 April 1982) is an English actress, known for her work in stage productions such as A View from the Bridge, and in films such as Cassandra’s Dream, The Duchess and Captain America: The First Avenger.)

Q. Who is Peggy Carter in your eyes?
A. My character works in the military with Tommy Lee Jones’ character, and she has this amazing ability to fire guns and run after baddies while always looking impeccable. Peggy is involved in the experiment to find the right man to transform into a super soldier, until they discover Steve Rogers. So, she is with him from the beginning of his journey.

Q. How did you get the role of Peggy Carter?
A. Well, it was a long process of auditioning. First I met with the director Joe Johnston, and I remember leaving thinking: “I don’t know if I have the part, but I think I’ve made a friend.” A couple of weeks later I was asked to read for him and some of the producers, and then I had a screen test –with full costume, make up and hair- that took a whole day and almost felt like a mini version of the film. And in 24 hours I was offered the part! It was a very surreal and amazing experience.

Q. It’s different to anything you have done before…
A. Oh yes, it’s completely different to anything I’ve done before. For a start, the scale of it is huge! And then the genre is new for me too, as I’ve never been in an action adventure movie before. I had done a lot of dramas and dialogue-heavy pieces, so I really welcomed the opportunity to do something so different and probably closer to the things I want to be doing. This movie has set me on a different path.

Q. How did you feel about being in a film of this scale?
A. I was a bit terrified at first; but there was a huge sense of excitement about this project from everyone involved in it. And the people at Marvel are such fans of what they do that it clearly made me see how everything had been well thought out and that their attention to detail was astonishing. Just walking into the studio and seeing all the story boards and how every department had this incredible take on the film made me feel like I was inhabiting a world that had already been created for us.

Q. What can you say about the relationship between them?
A. The relationship between Peggy and Steve Rogers is slightly tense at first, because she has a fighting spirit and determination about her that is a bit intimidating to this man who has not had a very successful history with women before.  She sees him as a moral, good hearted and kind person, which appeals to her. And then, of course, when he grows his muscles it makes a difference and there is also a sexual chemistry between them.

Q. How did you prepare the role?
A.I trained about six days a week doing stunt work, running and gun practice -which I loved. Peggy initially just had a pistol; but I ended up firing a machine gun, because I got so into it. So, there was a lot of physical training involved in preparing the character.

Q. What is Chris Evans like?
A. Chris is a lot of fun, and he is incredibly committed to what he does. He knew perfectly well the responsibility of taking on such a beloved role as this one and he absolutely embraced it, bringing also great sensitivity to the part, which helps you see the inner world of Captain America. And he is also a great tap-dancer and singer!

Q. How was Tommy Lee Jones?
A. I had a couple of scenes with him and he truly is quite the legend. He is very funny, with a dry sense of humor that we Brits love. He kind of comes in and does what he has to do, and then goes off fishing or writes an opera. Tommy Lee Jones is just one of those brilliant multi-talented people! It was an honor and a privilege to work with him.

Q. And what can you say of Hugo Weaving?
A. Hugo is also amazing. I remember seeing him during a costume, hair and makeup test and thinking: “Oh my God, that’s Hugo Weaving!” But the next time I saw him he was in his Red Skull outfit and I was absolutely terrified and couldn’t bring myself to go up to him! He also has a great sense of humor and was great fun to work with.

Q. What was director Joe Johnston like to work with?
A. Joe is lovely, and he is kind and patient with everyone. He knows exactly what he wants, which I guess is why he is so relaxed on set. And for me, working on a movie of this scale, it was important to have that trust in him and follow his lead as a director.

Q. How much action is your character involved in?
A. You see Peggy in some of the action scenes, and she is clearly capable of doing a lot. She joins the boys, fights the baddies and stands up for herself; especially if she feels she is being undermined. I wish she had a spin off in which we could really see what she was capable of.

Q. How would you describe the look of the movie?
A. It has this classic kind of kitsch look. It is this fantasy world of the 40’s which exists very much in its own stylized way.

Q. And what about your character’s look?
A. There was something about the women of the 40’s that always made them look immaculate, no matter what class or position they were in. So, we wanted to make sure that Peggy had that element of glamour.

Q. Were you a fan of comic books growing up?
A. Growing up I was more a fan of computer games than of comic books, but as soon as I got this part I read some Captain America comics. They are very faced paced, and the graphics are amazing!

Q. How much humor is there in the movie?
A. There is a great banter between Chris and I. I think it’s important that a film like Captain America: The First Avenger had that tongue-and-cheek quality to it. We wanted the movie to be fun and not take itself too seriously.

Q. Was it a fun set?
A. It was hard work, but it also had great energy. The times between takes when we could relax were great.

Q. Your character is the main female role in the movie. Did you like being surrounded by men most?
A. I enjoyed been surrounded by men because I am a bit of a tomboy. I felt I could keep up with them and, as I am competitive by nature, it was a nice challenge.

Q. What should we expect from Captain America: The First Avenger?
A. You should expect an action-packed fun adventure for all audiences that has a real heart to it, amazing visuals and also a little bit of romance.

Q. What did you take back from this whole experience?
A. Apart from the sore legs, it was just a very surreal experience to work on something so huge. And we had so much fun making it! It was a dream, and I feel very lucky and grateful to have been in it.

Q. Would you like to return to this character?
A. Yes, as long as I like the script. Action films only work if they have a good story; otherwise you don’t care about them. And I think Marvel have done a good job at taking care of that. Their characters have sustained generations and have a huge following, and there is a reason for that.

Captain America: The First Avenger is still showing in cinemas nationwide.

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