June 24, 2011
Just in time to coincide with the second trailer for “Captain America: The First Avenger,” MTV News proudly presents our report from the set of the star-spangled superhero’s big-screen debut!
MTV Movies Blog Editor Josh Wigler visited the Marvel Comics adaptation’s Shepperton Studios set in September 2010, and you’ll hear all about it throughout the day right here at Splash Page.
Chris Evans is gone now and the Red Skull is standing in front of me. For a minute, I feel as though I’ve been whipped up into the clouds by a hurricane and dropped without warning into the Marvel-ous land of my childhood. Close, but not quite: instead, it’s September 2010 and I’m in the United Kingdom on the set of “Captain America,” and sure enough, standing in front of me is acting legend Hugo Weaving, covered head to toe in full Red Skull regalia, makeup and all.
We have two minutes to speak with him. They are the most surreal two minutes of my life as a professional nerd.
By now, you’ve seen Mr. Weaving’s take on the villainous Johann Schmidt thanks to the two released “Captain America” trailers (and, if you were lucky enough, last summer’s Comic-Con panel). But having seen the man in person, I’m not sure that there’s any apt way to convey just how perfect Weaving looks as Red Skull. The man has an undeniably theatrical presence, a tall and lithe figure that makes him look as though he was plucked straight out of a Shakespearean performance — except for that red head, of course. That belongs entirely to the superhero domain.
Weaving’s face transforms into the Red Skull’s through a complicated prosthetics process that’s finished off with some computer effects work; his nose is trimmed off in post, for example, and his jawline and chin are sharpened as well. But even before that off-set process commences, the practical makeup turns Weaving into a very convincing and very intimidating real-life Red Skull. Even with only two minutes with the man, how does a feeble blogger contend with that?
One brave soul mustered enough strength to ask Weaving if he thought the Red Skull has any redeeming qualities.
“I hope he has some,” he said fleetingly. “But I’m not sure.”
That was… to the point. Okay, let’s try again. If he doesn’t have any redeeming qualities, does Red Skull at least share some commonalities with his nemesis, Steve Rogers? It’s here that Weaving tipped what is potentially a serious plot point — so SPOILER ALERT for all you purists — as he teased that Schmidt himself comes into contact with the super soldier serum.
“The serum seems to augment certain qualities that each of them have,” he mused, his hollow eyes scanning the group of journalists from behind that red mask like a predator sizes up his prey before meal time. “Cap is much more in tune with other people, I think. Schmidt is in tune with himself and his own needs, his own ego. I thought that it augmented that. From that point of view, they’re quite opposite.”
Weaving, arms crossed and weight shifting from time to time, entertained another question: how did he develop his German accent for the movie? His response, coupled with his appearance, was… unexpected, to say the least.
“I listened to a lot of Werner Herzog talking,” he said casually, bringing the group into some much-needed laughter. “The more I listened to Werner Herzog, the more I found him amusing … there’s something kind of wonderfully mad about him.”
Not a full second after revealing his performance’s Herzogian roots, someone from the production staff regretfully informed us that Weaving was needed back on the set.
“And that’s all I have time for, ladies and gentlemen,” the Red Skull quipped, bowing ever so slightly to his captive audience. “And I’m sorry for looking so strange.”
Strange. Sure, that’s one way of describing it. Insane, haunting, unforgettable — those are other ways. If there was a better way to finish out my time on the set of “Captain America,” I can’t think of it.