The Phone Call From Robert Downey Jr. That Changed Chris Evans’ Life Forever

Back when the MCU began in 2008, there was no precedent to go on whether signing with the franchise would help or hurt careers. Everyone from Robert Downey, Jr. to Chris Evans might have thought joining a comic book franchise could hurt their chances of being taken seriously as award-winning actors.

For Downey, he needed a big break. Years after battling drug dependency and some prison time, he was making mostly forgotten independent features during the 2000s. Getting an offer to act as Iron Man likely sounded appealing, especially since the pay was generous compared to anything else.

Chris Evans seems perfectly content then basking in rave reviews for his populist films. He apparently had second thoughts about joining the MCU in 2011 for one good reason, if finally being persuaded by Downey himself.

Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. | Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Chris Evans was concerned about the long-term MCU contract

When offered the role of Captain America in 2010, Downey had already played Iron Man/Tony Stark in two movies. He knew that if the franchise was going to succeed, the movies would need more appealing actors to play The Avengers.

Evans was reluctant. According to a SyFy report in 2014, he thought the nine-movie commitment was just too much when pining to do more diverse roles. Eventually, Marvel trimmed their deal down to six movies. 

Then Evans received a call from Downey explaining the potential benefits of taking the role. By this time, Downey was just beginning to earn bigger checks for his Iron Man role.

No doubt the financial aspects were mentioned, but Downey reportedly said: “Look man, you might not like the fact that you’ve played one of these guys before (in ‘Fantastic Four’), but you know, the thing is, this can afford you all sorts of other freedoms.”

Yes, Downey made a good point about The Fantastic Four. Evans would likely want it scrubbed from the record he played Johnny Storm/Human Torch in those two 2005/2007 bombs.

In 2014, Chris Evans thought he would leave the franchise by 2017

That above SyFy piece came out when The Avengers movies were just heating up. At the time, Evans was quoted as saying he would probably stay with the MCU until 2017, then focus entirely on being a director.

No actor should make career declarations in advance since those things never quite work out. Everyone knows Evans stayed through to Endgame in 2019, then went on to do other acting roles over directing.

While he did direct one movie (the romantic comedy Before We Go in 2014), he continues to act in other prestigious projects like Knives Out. However, in that 2014 interview, he expressed gratitude to Downey in convincing him to do MCU movies.

Without the MCU, Evans said he would never have been able to direct his own movie. His only challenge since then is being typecast as Captain America. From Knives Out to the Apple TV drama Defending Jacob, he continues making fans forget he played good guy Steve Rogers.

The MCU also gave Chris Evans freedom to do more daring things

Fans of Evans probably noticed he plans to also star as the dentist, Orin Scrivello, in a future remake of Little Shop of Horrors. Other rumors percolate about other projects, proving the MCU was the best choice.

Not that the MCU has the best reputation lately. Part of this includes being a recruit center for bringing in A-list talent for a bigger check at the expense of bypassing indie films. Hopefully those concerns are averted after Evans managed to start doing things he never would have done without Captain America.

On the ironic flipside, Downey may have trouble working in other things after his recent Dolittle flopped. His performance as Iron Man was so compelling, he may have a long road ahead in finding his pre-MCU footing.