Captain America: The First Avenger for Chris Evans Became Skinny Steve

How did Marvel transform Chris Evans into skinny Steve Rogers for Captain America: The First Avenger? CGI and body doubles were part of the process. Here’s how Marvel Studios transformed Chris Evans into skinny Steve Rogers for Captain America: The First Avenger. Playing a hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe requires actors to be in great physical shape, and Evans was up to the challenge of looking and moving like a superhero throughout his tenure as Captain America. Audiences first saw Evans’ superhero transformation in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. While it’s more than fair to give Evans credit for his compelling portrayal of the beloved Avenger, Captain America’s skinny body double was just as important for taking Cap’s story from Marvel Comics to the screen. Indeed, Captain America’s skinny-to-buff transformation was crucial in showing the full effects of the Super Soldier Serum, completing Steve Rogers’ journey towards becoming the MCU’s first super soldier. For the first act of Captain America: The First Avenger, audiences saw Steve Rogers as he was before becoming one of the world’s greatest heroes. Growing up in Brooklyn, Steve was short and skinny compared to most other men similar in age. According to the Captain America exhibit in the MCU, Steve was only 5’4 and weighed 95 pounds pre-serum. Despite his small frame, skinny Steve Rogers still had the heart and morals that would later make him the obvious choice to become Captain America. Once Dr. Abraham Erskine’s (Stanley Tucci) Super Soldier Serum was running through his veins, Steve was suddenly 6’2 and 240 pounds of pure muscle and showcased Evans’ true physique. But, thanks to the magic of moviemaking and planning on Marvel’s part, Evans played skinny Steve Rogers too.

Steve Rogers’ transformation laid the foundations for Captain America’s massive impact on the MCU in a character arc that lasted nearly a decade and helped define the MCU’s first three phases. From becoming The First Avenger in 2011 and saving the world in 2012’s Avengers, Cap went on to defend his fellow superheroes in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and even wield Mjolnir against Thanos in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. During the Endgame epilogue – Captain America’s bittersweet last moments in the MCU – Rogers gets back to his skinny self after he returns the Infinity Stones and Mjolnir back to their respective timelines, choosing to live a normal life with Peggy and hand over his iconic shield to Sam Wilson, who eventually becomes Captain America in MCU Phase 4. In short, Steve Rogers’ physicality has perfectly matched his character arc in the MCU, and none of this would be possible without Captain America’s skinny body double, Leander Deeny, in Captain America: The First Avenger.

How Marvel Built Skinny Steve Rogers’ Complex CGI = Marvel Studios used an elaborate process to turn Evans into a pre-super-soldier Steve Rogers. They hired Lola Visual Effects to be in charge of bringing the transformation to life. The abbreviated version of the work required a combination of digitally shrinking Evans, using Leander Deeny as a body double, and grafting Evans’ performance on top of Deeny’s. This required filming scenes with skinny Steve Rogers in three different ways through a pain-staking process. Reflective of the time and effort put in by director Joe Johnston and cinematographer Shelly Johnson while filming these foundational scenes, skinny Captain America would go on to inspire more stories about Rogers’ heroism down the line. The process began with the director and cinematographer filming only Evans doing the scene. They then had Deeny shoot the same scene and mimic Evans’ performance and mannerisms to the best of his ability. Finally, the crew filmed a clean plate shot of the scene that is just of the background and without actors.

Once all of the versions of each scene were completed, it was up to Lola Visual Effects to bring them together to create skinny Steve Rogers’ final look. They’d start with scaling Chris Evans down to Deeny’s size so they matched, with the plate shots used to digitally replace what Evans’ larger body previously covered. This smaller version of Evans still had his natural build, though, so the next step was digitally placing Evans’ face on top of Deeny’s pre-Super Soldier Serum frame. That might sound simple enough, but Lola had to tinker with the process due to Evans’ facial structure and neck being bulkier than Deeny’s. Otherwise, skinny Steve Rogers would have had the face and strong jawline of Evans’ usual look and be disproportionate to how the character should appear pre-serum. The end result of the process to make skinny Steve Rogers speaks for itself, as the CGI work still holds up several years later. Marvel Studios even went back to the technique for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Evans briefly played skinny Steve Rogers again in a flashback scene with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), but this time Christopher George Sarris provided the smaller frame instead of Deeny. It isn’t known why Deeny didn’t return to help bring skinny Steve Rogers to life, but Marvel found a good replacement for him in Sarris.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier proved to be the last time skinny Steve Rogers has been shown in the MCU so far, with the exception of his role in What If…? where he is unable to undergo the super-soldier transformation and remains skinny Steve (played by Josh Keaton) in an alternate-universe retelling of The First Avenger. However, Evans transformed into old Steve at the end of Avengers: Endgame. Since the older Steve was simply Evans’ version of Captain America several decades from now, the process of aging Steve up was done a bit more practically. Whether or not skinny Steve Rogers appears again in live-action will come down to whether or not Evans returns to the MCU. There are rumors that it could happen, but skinny Steve isn’t guaranteed to return even if Evans does.

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