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'Captain America: The Winter Soldier': EW goes behind the shield

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They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. But in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it’s getting harder for the superhero to tell the difference. In the latest installment from Marvel Studios’ interlocked franchise, Chris Evans’ unfrozen genetically-enhanced warrior from the Greatest Generation is still unsure of his place in the world after helping to save it twice: once from the forces of Red Skull in 2011’s original Captain America, and again from an alien invasion in 2012’s The Avengers.

The Winter Soldier features an eponymous new villain — a bioengineered assassin with a mechanical arm—who is targeting the leadership of the global protection force S.H.I.E.L.D. The film, directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo (already being courted by Marvel for more), reteams Evans with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury as top operatives for the group. But Cap (alias Steve Rogers) is beginning to question whether he and S.H.I.E.L.D. are on the same side. Sebastian Stan plays the Winter Soldier, and anyone who saw the first film knows his character’s history with Rogers runs deep. If there’s an overall theme in the movie, it’s this: Old friends make the worst enemies.

EW visited the set of The Winter Soldier last July. It’s the day after Comic-Con ended. Footage screened for fans at the annual convention had lathered the geeky faithful into a frenzy, but no one is celebrating on set. Instead of passing around high fives, the cast members are punching each other in the face.

The sun has just peeked through the morning mist, and Chris Evans is in his full red, white, and blue glory, pummeling a pair of masked gunmen aboard a flying aircraft carrier. (Really, a vast shipyard parking lot in Carson, Calif.) It’s the middle of summer, and already blazing. Evans is feeling the pain. “To make it look good, you gotta get hurt,” he says later. “It’s gotta look a little messy.” In between takes, Evans keeps cool by using that iconic “vibranium” shield as a make-shift sombrero, balancing it on his head as shade from the sun.

Even though this is his third major stint as Cap, the 32-year-old is sorta sweating his Comic-Con appearance. “I wonder if people think I’m too skinny right now? Because literally in the past month, I’ve probably lost 15 pounds,” he says. “Three months leading in, you get this training regimen—you try and get as big as you possibly can. There’s a couple scenes in the movie where I’m in either tight t-shirts or tank tops or stuff like that, and you wanna make sure you’ve got the size. Then they save the big action sequences for last. That’s when you’re just in this [suit], and not just busting your ass all day, but you’re just shedding weight.”

There’s another, less visible way he’s suffering. “I mean, this thing just stinks,” he says with a laugh, tugging on his body armor. “I put it on every morning and I’m like, ‘Oh my God…’ I’m just putting on a locker room every day.”

He shakes his head. “They spray it with this stuff. But I mean, they can’t throw it in a washing machine.”

NEXT PAGE: Anthony Mackie’s Falcon: “Waiting in the wings!”