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Chris Evans of 'Push' is a mover but not a shaker

The science-fiction star would rather stay at home than revel in the Hollywood scene.

February 07, 2009|Alicia Lozano

Spending three months in Hong Kong shooting the frenetic science-fiction thriller "Push" was more difficult than Chris Evans expected.

There's the fact that he doesn't speak the language or even particularly like Chinese food. Then, as the film's lead, he worked almost every day while his costars, including 14-year-old Dakota Fanning, were free to sample the electric city vibe and travel the country's scenic landscapes. But the worst of it was that he was separated from his beloved American bulldog, East, who normally hangs around on-set with Evans as he works.

"Look at that guy!" he said, whipping out his BlackBerry at Studio City's Daily Grill and thumbing through photo after photo of the white hound like a proud new father. "He's the greatest thing in the world!"

Evans' bright green eyes light up any time he can talk about his pal East and the Celtics. Even though he's spent the last 10 years warming up to young Hollywood, he's still the kind of guy who tools around town wearing a black baseball cap and hoodie and who would prefer watching a Celtics game at home than hanging with Hollywood hipsters.

Growing up in a Boston suburb, he didn't spend his time reading comic books or consuming science-fiction novels and films, so who would have guessed he'd build such a formidable resume in the very genre that failed to capture his imagination as a child?

And yet, a decade after moving to Los Angeles, the gregarious 27-year-old -- best known for burning up the screen as Johnny Storm in 20th Century Fox's "Fantastic Four" franchise -- is starring in yet another sci-fi thriller, this time as the telekinetic Nick Gant, a "mover," in the argot of the film, who grudgingly joins a rogue group of expat psychic warriors united in bringing down a shadowy military agency attempting to harvest their abilities for supernatural warfare.

In "Push," which opened in theaters Friday, Evans' character can move things with his mind. It was a new skill to master for the reluctant action hero, who has burst into flames as the Human Torch and raced to save the planet in Danny Boyle's underrated 2007 space odyssey, "Sunshine."

Working with Boyle, whose unexpected hit "Slumdog Millionaire" propelled the Irish director to the top of Hollywood's most-wanted list, made boarding a soundstage spaceship seem less ridiculous to the would-be thespian (Evans studied theater in high school and moved to New York in search of the stage right after graduation). "Whether he's making a movie or wants to handle my finances, I'd be like, 'All right, I trust him,' " the actor said of Boyle.

When Evans learned that Fanning had signed on to costar in "Push" as a clairvoyant runaway, he brushed off all sci-fi fatigue and got to work. "It's humbling to meet someone who was born in the '90s -- the '90s! -- who has a more sophisticated vocabulary than you do," he marveled. "She's like 34. I want to see her ID."

But he still cringes over his time in Hong Kong in the fall. He missed his dog and had to spend his downtime in a tiny wagon-sized Chinese trailer rather than the standard Hollywood accommodations.

And just before the "Push" shoot, he'd spent three months in Louisiana filming Tennessee Williams' "The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond," in which he plays Jimmy, a down-and-out urchin who captures the heart of reclusive debutante Fisher Willow (Bryce Dallas Howard from "Spider-Man 3"). Though he has always admired the Southern playwright, spending so much time away from home on back-to-back projects really took it out of him.

"Sometimes you would be sitting in those little buses losing your mind," he said. "It felt like work." Then he realized that even with the inconveniences, he still has it pretty good. "I'm splitting hairs. I'm still making movies."

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alicia.lozano@latimes.com

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