"It's the type of thing that represents a giant commitment," said Evans. "It's a six-picture deal and if the movies do well, we could be going back and forth between 'Captain America' and 'Avengers' movies, realistically, until I'm 40!"
Evans - in New York prepping to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange followed by an appearance of "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" - laughed.
"That's a long ways away, and I think it's hard for anyone to plan the next 10 years of their life like that. Who knows what your passion will be in two years, five years? If all of a sudden I wanted to stop acting, or just take a break, but you just can't."
Summoned to play the earnest "first Avenger," that World War II super-soldier Captain America, Evans turned Marvel Entertainment down flat. So Johnston worked around that.
"We screen-tested about a dozen guys," Johnston recalled. "At one point, one of us said, 'Man, I wish this guy was a little more like Chris Evans.' We kept looking and looking and screen-testing.
"They went back to him again, and he said 'No' again.
"Finally, I said to the Marvel guys, 'Look, he said he doesn't want to do it. I get it. But have him come in to the art department and look at the designs. We'll just chat. No screen tests. Just come take a look.'
"He finally came in and took a look around, all this fantastic art of what the picture was going to look like - by Marvel artists, people we brought in like this German car designer, Daniel Simon, who did all our vehicles including that great-looking Bugatti you see in the movie."
Evans mulled the idea over. Again.
"In the end, I decided that the reason I was turning this down was fear," Evans said. "I told Joe, 'Never turn down something because you're afraid of it.' "
Evans said he knew that with Marvel spending the money on a very strong supporting cast (Hugo Weaving is the Nazi villain, Stanley Tucci and Toby Jones are scientists, Tommy Lee Jones is Captain America's crusty commanding officer) that he'd be in good hands. What he wasn't sure of was his ability to tone down his funny, cocky swagger, "you know, my bread and butter."
"People were generally pleased with the anointment of Evans as Cap," said Clint Morris, editor of the popular film buffs website moviehole.net.
Jim Littler of comicbookmovie.
com agreed: "The consensus is that he's the right guy for the part."
The swagger wasn't an issue. Instead, comic-book fans were concerned that Evans has already played a Marvel character (Johnny Storm a/k/a the Human Torch in "Fantastic Four"). "Some believed they'd struggle to separate the searing one from the shield-wielding one," Morris said.
Evans' natural cockiness had served him well in the "Fantastic Four" movies. But it wouldn't work here.
"It's a tricky line to walk when you're playing somebody with good intentions, good motives," Evans said. The Captain isn't quite as corny as Superman. But he does have a "truth, justice and the American way" ethos, a skinny kid who believes in "sticking up for the little guy" transformed into a muscular superhero. "He's just good. Just good can become boring."
In looking for that earnest, do-the-right-thing mind-set, Evans found a real-life model from his past.
"I have a friend that I grew up with in Boston who I consider one of the best human beings on the planet. And when I first read 'Captain America,' I said, 'You know, this guy is a lot like Charlie. He just does the right thing for the right reason.' I loved that kid, Charlie. He must have been doing something right, to be this good human being, with great motives and great values.
"So every time I ran up against a moment I'd have to play something that could turn corny in the movie, I thought of Charlie. He wasn't boring and he wasn't corny. I'd think, 'What would Charlie do?' "