“I’m haunted by that movie Birdman,” Sebastian Stan tells me as we sit in a hotel room at the Los Angeles Four Seasons while the press day for Captain America: Civil War unfolds around us. Based on the number of men and women with headsets stationed near doors, you’d think there was a head of state in town — and really, how far off is that comparison? The Avengers actors aren’t running any nations, but they do represent Disney’s flagship franchise, one so elaborate they had to invent a term for it: a cinematic universe. By the time Civil War leaves theaters, this universe will have made Disney $10 billion worldwide; knowing that, the pomp and circumstance doesn’t seem so overblown.
Stan, who plays Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. the Winter Soldier — namesake of the second Captain America movie and an even bigger part of this new one — is clearly trying to wrap his head around this superhero life. Thus, the reference to Birdman: a movie about an actor attempting to erase the memories of his superhero alter ego by staging a serious play; a movie in which an actor’s superhero alter ego follows him like a ghost, reminding him it’s the hero people want to see, not the washed-up actor and his play; a movie that exists as a rebuke to the tights-clad tentpoles that have taken over the industry. This seems like a matter for a licensed therapist, not one of the revolving door of journalists coming through press day. Is Stan worried that his alter ego, the Winter Soldier, will overtake Sebastian Stan, the actor?
“I think that depends on what choices you make as an actor in your time off,” he explains. “But it’s an interesting — I love how in Birdman, it talks so much about where the persona ends and when the person and the character become the same thing. Because I’ve seen that happen with certain people. Certain characters become so popular, right, because people just love to see them.”
It’s a valid consideration for a guy like Stan, who has chops and experience and was certainly not raised with the expectation of becoming a movie star. Born in Romania, Stan made his way to the United States by the age of 12 and studied at Rutgers’ Mason Gross School of the Arts, including a year at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London. After school, he did work on the stage, including a run with Liev Schreiber in Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio — here’s Stan doing a Bogosian monologue — as well as on film and TV, highlighted by a recurring role on Gossip Girl and parts in Black Swan and Rachel Getting Married. Continue reading