Acting is a high stress career choice, and many big-name Hollywood players have spoken candidly about suffering from anxiety at some point in their work. Now, Chris Evans is talking about his experience with severe anxiety attacks.
Evans, 38, appeared on The Hollywood Reporter’s podcast, Awards Chatter, where he shared his past mental health struggles and indecision over his role as Captain America.
“That was back when the superhero thing was just taking off,” he said. “I had just been dumped and I needed it!”
After missing out on roles in Gone Baby Gone, Milk, and Fracture, Evans got a role in 2010’s Puncture—and his anxiety increased to the point where he felt like he might need to quit acting.
“It was the first time I started having mini panic attacks on set,” Evans recalled. “I really started to think, ‘I’m not sure if this [acting] is the right thing for me, I’m not sure if I’m feeling as healthy as I should be feeling.'”
“What was once your hobby, this thing you do for nothing, this thing you do for you, all of a sudden becomes your job. When it becomes your job, weird egoic strings become attached, precautions, and plans—all of a sudden it starts to feel a little bit heavier, and anxiety comes with that.”
Then Marvel invited Evans to read for the part of Captain America in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. Evans confessed that he almost turned down the opportunity because he was worried about the pressure and increased anxiety that would come with the role. He turned down several opportunities to test for the part, even after Marvel upped his salary and only required him to star in six movies instead of nine.
Marvel clearly saw something in the actor. They offered Evans the role outright without any testing. But before making any moves, Evans did a smart thing: he consulted with his therapist, friends and family—and Robert Downey Jr.
“It was the best decision I’ve ever made, and I really owe that to [Marvel chief] Kevin Feige for being persistent and helping me avoid making a giant mistake,” Evans said, adding, “To be honest, all the things that I was fearing never really came to fruition.”
Evans also said it was helpful having another newcomer on set to help normalize his emotions.
“It was nice having Chris Hemsworth around because he was going through it, too,” Evans said. “Hemsworth and I were very new and we also had the stand-alones…so I think we shared in our anxiety, and at least that made it a little bit more comforting.”