If Sebastian Stan has spent countless hours clicking his way down the vast and very detailed rabbit holes of Avengers slashfic fan art that reside for eternity on the Internet, he does a masterful job of hiding it on a recent afternoon in Los Angeles.
The actor, 33, cracks a sly smile at the thought of the myriad ways in which Captain America fans have imagined the torrid friendship between Chris Evans’ Cap and his Bucky Barnes, whose decades-long bromance, one could argue, blossoms into full-fledged love in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War.
I offer Stan a glimpse of one gorgeously rendered piece of fan art in which Bucky curls up in bed, spooning a Captain America teddy bear. “I mean, that’s me with a teddy bear,” he says. “That’s nice.”
Another depicts an extracanonical scene of Steve and Bucky in a clinch, kissing passionately on a bed. “That’s—wow. Strong.”
And finally, before we move on to other Bucky-Steve topics, a sweet sketch of the two sleeping peacefully, his bionic arm wrapped possessively around Steve’s torso.
“That’s really nice,” he smiles. “Hey, man,” he shrugs, a playful glint in his eyes. “People come to the movies with all kinds of things.”
“My favorite was that Daft Punk song,” he adds. “‘Up All Night to Get Bucky!’ That’s great! That really is great.”
After playing Steve Rogers’ brainwashed BFF in two Captain America films and Ant-Man, Stan gets sizable screen time in Civil War, in which the traumatized ex-assassin finds himself at the center of the international conflicts that pit the Avengers against one another and the world against its superheroes.
Finally, we see the tortured side of the Winter Soldier as he dips in and out of the shadows, his long hair hiding beneath a hoodie like an angsty European backpacker. When Bucky is accused of committing a terrorist act, only his old pal Steve Rogers stands by him. Thus begins a new chapter in Bucky and Steve’s intertwined destinies.
“I don’t think he knows how to express his emotions,” Stan says. “It’s like the movie Taxi Driver. He’s somebody who is very alone. It’s kind of depressing! He’s someone who is piecing together a life and dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s paranoid, because he doesn’t know if he’s being followed or if he’s being watched. He has a hard time trusting himself because he’s learning about all the things he’s done that he doesn’t remember. He’s in a very isolated place, and he’s sort of like a scared animal. He’s just lost.”
“What he does learn,” Stan adds, “is that the only person, his only hope, is Steve Rogers. Because Steve Rogers is the only guy who will keep him alive.”
Perhaps, I offer, it is because Steve loves him.
“Of course! He’s his only family. I mean, these guys are 99 years old,” he laughs. “Isn’t it amazing when you think about it that way? They’re these two guys who are totally out of a different world, they don’t have anybody, they were ripped out of a past. They never had a choice, necessarily. Certainly, Bucky never had a choice. The idea for the guy was, ‘I’m going to go to war, because that’s what I’m supposed to do for my country, and then I’m going to come back and start a life’—but he never did.”
Stan imagines Bucky’s had a rather difficult adjustment to life out of time, a man forced into the 21st century fighting the existential torment of knowing he’s been under the control of nefarious evildoers.
Bucky’s biggest struggles, Stan surmises, are his people skills. “Not that he necessarily even remembers the 1940s, but it was different,” he says. “Now people act differently, they use technology, and I think just for him, regular everyday tasks like going to the supermarket to get food, watching movies, going to the museum—all that stuff, I think, are things he’s probably doing on his own.”
Bucky Barnes rolls solo to the movies?
“What else is he going to do?” Stan smiles.
“I don’t know if he’s necessarily getting a coffee and relaxing on a Sunday reading the newspaper,” he adds. “I think he’s probably reading the newspaper going, ‘Fuck—what the fuck is going on in this planet? Where am I? Who am I?’ But I would say, yeah, he’s having a hard time.”
Stan considers the deeper political themes written into Civil War—how we negotiate the costs of war and peacekeeping on an international scale, even within the context of a superhero sequel.
“You can’t help but think about how it applies to our lives today,” Stan offers. “But our jobs are that we have to focus on the characters and what their objectives are. I think it’s much more the job of the writers and the directors to throw that out to the audience and go, ‘Hey, does this make you think about what it would be like if the government read your phone? Does this make you think about people with a lot of money or power or access to nuclear weapons being allowed to act freely, or not?’”
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a homeless person in New York, and I give something, and I hear that he’s a veteran,” he says. “I think Bucky represents some of those people that come back and just don’t know how to restart their lives, and that’s what this movie is for my character. It’s sort of like, ‘Where do I go from here?’”
Stan gives Civil War a glowing review. His favorite scene, he says, is one he shares with Anthony Mackie as Falcon, as both of Cap’s best buds bicker over a car seat. “It’s like 48 Hours, Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy—that’s how I look at it,” he says. “I, myself, would like to see a remake with us. I’m just putting it out there. We’re doing 50 Hours together.”
Last year, after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice helmer Zack Snyder threw a few jabs at the Marvel cinematic universe, Stan shot back defending the MCU. “I mean, the Russos are coming in and taking something people are used to and they’re shaping it up and changing it in a very different way,” he told Collider. “They’re not trying to mimic a better Christopher Nolan movie or something like that.”
Now that he’s seen both Batman v Superman and Civil War, I ask Stan for a follow-up capsule review of the competition.
“I did see Batman v Superman,” he says with a grin, “and I enjoyed it.”
Emphasizing the positive, he echoed the sentiments of many a DC fan. “I think visually it was insane. I thought Ben Affleck was an incredible Batman. I thought that fight sequence he had against all the guys, that was sick. Even Jesse Eisenberg was cracking me up at some points. That’s all I got.”
“I also think that DC is at a point right now where, it’s been my impression, they want to get to Justice League. They want to go ahead and kind of get everybody fighting together. And I think the best way to jumpstart that was to get what I think most people wanted to see for a long time: Batman vs. Superman, two of the biggest superheroes in history.”
“But,” he added, “I’m a Marvel guy, man.”