Sebastian Stan On ‘The Martian’ And How He Wasn’t Sure He’d Be A Part Of ‘Captain America: Civil War’

Sebastian Stan
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In The Martian (which we reviewed here) Sebastian Stan plays Chris Beck, an astronaut who’s part of the team that mistakenly leaves fellow astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) behind on Mars after thinking Watney has died. The Martian is a delightfully light movie, especially considering it’s about a guy stranded on a desolate world with very little hope. But as Stan explains, the film has gone through a few changes.

Stan has another high-profile role in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, reprising his part as The Winter Soldier. (We all got a sneak peek of The Winter Soldier’s reunion with Captain America at the end of Ant-Man, a scene Stan discusses below.) We met with Stan at his hotel during the Toronto International Film Festival — where The Martian was received extremely well — where he explained just how much Marvel told him about where Bucky Barnes would be headed over the course of many movies when he signed on for the part.

I know you were born in Romania. But every time I remember that, I’m surprised because you play these “all-American”-type roles.

I know. I’m not quite sure how that ended up, but I’m happy that people look to me that way. But, yes, I’m not from here!

Bucky Barnes is the epitome of an “all-American guy.”

But you have to remember that The Winter Soldier has this weird Russian background and his own Eastern European kind of background — and so do I. So it’s a great fit I guess.

The Martian is the most fun movie about being stranded on a desolate death planet that I could ever imagine. It doesn’t wallow in its own misery, and it could have done that.

Of course! And I think that’s one of the great things about it. The movie knows how to make fun of itself a little bit. Like, you’re rooting with him and you’re always aware of the stakes. But, at the same time, there’s a fun balance of humor there, just letting you kind of remember just how ridiculous this situation is. The fact that this guy is farming in his own sh*t on a different planet. And the movie doesn’t shy away from kind of making fun of that.

In something like Cast Away, maybe it’s more frustrating to know there are other humans probably 100 miles away, as opposed to being on Mars where the situation is so extreme, a person might respond with more levity.

I was talking to a couple people last night and they were telling me about how they had three screenings for The Martian when they were editing it. The first screening, the people who watched the movie walked away from it going, “You know what? He makes fun of everything. I don’t buy it. It seems like he’s going to survive.” So, the stakes weren’t high enough. Then there was another screening where they took away the humor and it got really serious. And then the third version is the one where they merged the two and they found the right balance — which is why editing is amazing and the key. That’s why they are composers, in a way.

There has to be humor for us to relate. Your character in this movie is a genius. All the characters are geniuses.

Yeah, absolutely. And as actors, it’s funny, everyone keeps asking, “Did you do research? Did you talk to NASA?” And, yes, we did research and so on and did our best to learn…

So you’re all set if you get stranded in space.

Not… at… all. In fact, we all agreed on just how quickly we would die.

The lesson from all of this is, unless you’re an astronaut, do not go to space.

Yeah, maybe not. It’s just funny to read about all of these privately funded projects. You know, because there are people trying to go there with a one-way ticket. And I go, I hope you know what you’re signing up for. That’s six months of radiation for a one-way ticket.

It sounds like they want to try to colonize it, but it’s not really that easy.

I don’t even know if people think that far ahead, to be honest.

I don’t think that trip is ever going to happen. NASA will go someday.

Of course. And I think it will happen in our lifetime.

I’m glad there’s no evil senator, or whatever, in this movie saying, “Let em die.”

Well, Jeff Daniels’ character…

He’s a hard-ass, but he also wants to rescue Mark.

And that’s the thing about the movie that I think made it so relatable, is you don’t really have a bad guy.

You have to be happy with the reactions so far…

Oh my God, to be part of a movie that’s great and one that you’re proud of and people are receiving it well is the best possible combination you can hope for.

And it doesn’t always turn out this way.

And I’ll give you a weird fact about this movie, which is something that’s really hard to pull off nowadays in making movies. Ridley Scott shot this movie working 10-hour days — working 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. — we were ahead of schedule and they had only two days of reshoot. And that’s what you saw; you got the results. It’s amazing because most movies now factor in two months of reshoots.

Marvel kind of famously does that.

Yes, one hundred percent. And it’s great because there’s an element to it where you’re kind of relaxed a little bit and you go, “All right, if we don’t get this, we will figure out what we need later.” And sometimes that’s part of it. But it’s amazing to think of Ridley Scott at 78 years old…

He still makes a lot of movies. He’s the Woody Allen of big-budget movies.

And thank God for these guys. It’s going to be a really strange world when there’s not a Ridley Scott or Woody Allen making movies.

Last year, Interstellar came out and people didn’t respond to it as strongly as what was expected.

You never know. I think sci-fi movies are particularly difficult. It’s funny, before we did the movie, Ridley said, “Don’t be afraid to laugh.” Because everyone has an idea in their minds of how to perceive a movie like this and this one was going to be very unique.

When you signed on for the first Captain America movie, did they tell you then where your character was going? I know you signed on for multiple movies, but did they say, “In the second movie the name of your character will be in the title”? Or is it, “Right now you are Bucky, we will tell you more later.”

It was a lot more like that. You know, I was in an office with Kevin Feige at one point and I remember they were educating me. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t grow up with comic books. I didn’t know anything about it. So, they were educating me about it going, “This is what happens with Bucky, he becomes The Winter Solider.” And I was nodding my head and taking it in going, “Okay, this is cool, but are you talking to me like I have this part of The Winter Soldier? Are you saying I should be excited?”

And actually earlier this year when Kevin came to the set of Civil War, I actually asked him, “How does it feel to come to this set and watch these people?” And he said to me straight, “Yeah, we were talking about it, but the truth is we didn’t know we going to be able to do it.” They didn’t really know they were going to be able to get to do Civil War. They didn’t even know they were going to be able to do The Winter Soldier.

So it was, “You’re Bucky, but if things go well, this other stuff could happen”?

There’s always a good “if.” There’s always a strong “if.” But it’s definitely a good period for Marvel and comic-book movies and I’m really happy that I’m in the world right now where these movies are getting made.

Were you surprised when that teaser for Civil War showed up at the end of Ant-Man? Because that wasn’t the usual post credits scene, that was an actual scene from Civil War.

It was, yeah. They told us about it two or three days before. They are like, “Oh, by the way, there’s going to be this thing.” And at that point, it was great just seeing any footage from the movie that was shot.

Was that almost a relief for situations like right now? We’ve all seen that The Winter Soldier is in the movie and meets up with Captain America. You don’t have to worry about keeping that a secret.

Oh, yeah! Absolutely. That’s definitely a relief.

Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.