Marvel's Item 47: Jesse Bradford and Lizzy Caplan on Their Possible Avengers Future
Starring in a short film that’s paired with a blockbuster movie seems sort of like being a pinch-hitter who sat on the bench but got invited to take a victory lap with the starting team; the glory is automatic, but it would have been great to be able to play in the big game. But for Marvel movies, short films are more like audition tapes, and Item 47, which accompanies the September 25 Blu-ray release of The Avengers, introduces two characters – played by Lizzy Caplan and Jesse Bradford – who may soon find themselves joining in on the superhero action, if they prove as appealing to audiences as their ingenuity does to S.H.I.E.L.D.
In the short, directed by Marvel co-president Louis D'Esposito, Claire (Caplan) and Benny (Bradford) find a Chitauri weapon and use it to rob banks following the events of The Avengers. Following a fan screening of Item 47 at Comic-con Friday night, Movieline sat down with Caplan and Bradford for a fun conversation about their past, present and (hopefully) future experiences with superhero movies.
Had either of you gone out for superhero parts in the past? The industry keeps making those movies in greater numbers.
Caplan: Yes, they do.
Bradford: Yes, I’d read for a couple, but just because I think this is funny, I read for Captain America. I was literally looking at the material, going, “What are they, crazy? I’m not right for this.” I got nothing to lose by going in there, but I know I’m not going to get it. And I’m walking in there going, “They should just give this job to Chris Evans – he’s perfect for this!” He’s my buddy, and as I was auditioning, I was picturing Chris Evans saying the words.
Caplan: That’s hilarious.
Had you gone out for anything?
Caplan: A few things. I don’t think really for anything Marvel, but a couple of things. But I feel like I’ve gone out for people in those movies who aren’t necessarily superheroes, which is sort of a buzzkill. If you do it, you want to be the hero.
How much did they pull back the curtain for you to see Marvel’s machinery? This is meant to be part of a larger universe – although these characters didn’t exist previously, was there anything you had to be careful about with your characters?
Caplan: Well, they had it so planned out in their heads by the time we showed up. I mean, they knew everything, and we just kind of had to slide into position – which is cool, because at their compounds, Marvel, they’re just like excited kids about all of this stuff. And so when you walk in, it’s very difficult not to get swept up in that.
Bradford: Yeah, they kind of nerd out on their own nerdery in the best way, so it’s contagious.
Caplan: They’re nerding their way all of the way to the bank.
Bradford: Snort-laughing all of their way to the bank.
You guys seemed to be having fun with the fans last night, Lizzy, telling the kid in the audience about all of the emotions you went through during filming.
Caplan: I did talk to him, until four in the morning, if you catch my drift. Don’t put that as a headline.
Oh, that’s a headline.
Caplan: (snapping a pen cap) Aah!
Okay, okay, I won’t make that the headline.
Bradford: She was thinking about all of the passion last night.
Caplan: No, we were talking – we were just talking!
Until you gave him the chocolate milk that made him sleepy.
Bradford: [Laughs] He’s so cute when he drinks chocolate milk.
Caplan: So cute when he just goes to sleep and doesn’t remember.
Bradford: He looks like an angel – just like an angel. Wait – what were you really asking us?
How much of the humor in the short was on the page, and how tough was it to sort of acknowledge the weirdness of it without sacrificing the believability?
Bradford: I think that was there from the start. That was written into the tone for me.
Caplan: Yeah, the Marvel guys, I got the feeling that nothing is more hilarious to them than just watching stuff explode. Like that’s the greatest joke they’ve ever seen – which is great, because that’s pretty easy to do. But yeah, there was a lot more footage of us messing around and improvising that they had to tone us down a little bit.
Bradford: And they gave us the freedom to do that, which was really nice, and they also shot it properly for that. We were there in a shot together, actually having an interaction, which is better for comedy than cutting. They were going for comedy.
Caplan: Yeah, and I think if they let us include how we started shooting that scene, the film would have been like 25 minutes of cutting back and forth, of us doing stupid, stupid stuff.
Bradford: We were going on tangents.
Caplan: Long ones.
Did they talk to you about coming back for one of the films, even if it was in a non-superhero role?
Caplan: Honestly, not at the beginning. I didn’t hear until later that they might use these one-shots for this. I thought it was just contained when I signed up.
Bradford: Well, I asked in the first meeting I had.
Caplan: I don’t ask questions.
Bradford: I said, “What’s the goal here?” and they said exactly what the answer is, which is, “The possible goal is that these guys become a part of the world. The other possible thing is that this is it. We just don’t know yet.” So yeah, it’s up in the air.
Is there a role that is out there that you’re determined to jump into, transform yourself physically, and become the superhero, or do you prefer playing the roles where you are reacting to the superheroes?
Bradford: I think if you’re interested in acting, then you want those kinds of roles. It doesn’t have to be a superhero, really; I mean, I would love to play a skinny, disheveled heroin addict and things like that – it doesn’t have to be a fantastical thing. But you have to find characters that you can really sink your teeth into, and it’s obviously exciting to do.
Caplan: I personally love it when I see actors that you wouldn’t expect in movies like this. Like I think Robert Downey Jr. was sort of that in Iron Man, and he was amazing in that. I want to see people I identify with other types of films in something with a scale like this.
Bradford: But I also really enjoy playing characters where you’re essentially just being yourself. I don’t think everybody is good at that – it’s kind of a skill to just be sort of natural.
Caplan: Sounds like pretty lazy acting to me.
Bradford: Well, yeah.
Item 47 will debut on the Avengers Blu-ray release on September 25.
Todd Gilchrist is a Los Angeles-based film critic and entertainment journalist for a variety of online and print publications. You can follow his work via Twitter at @mtgilchrist.