Director Joe Johnston tells The L.A. Times that James “Bucky” Barnes, the plucky young sidekick to Captain America (aka. Steve Rogers) in the comics, is getting something of a makeover for the upcoming “Captain America: The First Avenger”.
“In the comics, he’s like Robin is to Batman, but this is not that at all,” Johnston says. “We took some liberties with the relationship between the two guys. In our story, Bucky is already in the service, he’s already joined up and is being sent overseas while Steve is still struggling to get in the army. That’s different than what you may have read in the comics. It adds a nuance to the relationship that pays off later. They’re closer in age, too – they’re virtually the same age.”
In the film, Rogers and Barnes are orphans and grow up almost as brothers. Rogers is too sickly to enlist so he volunteers for a dangerous and secret experiment that might make him the first of an army of super-soldiers. That fact changes the physics of his friendship to be far less paternal than the comics, while Bucky himself is used far less as comic relief.
Part of the reason for the changes was the hiring of handsome and impressive young character actor Sebastian Stan (“Gossip Girl,” “Kings,” “Black Swan”) as Bucky, “Sebastian brought something really interesting and slightly on the dark side and really compelling to watch… Sebastian has a dark, slightly quirky side to him – and that’s the case when he’s in character or not – and he brought that to this movie” says Johnston.
The director adds that Stan was originally up for the role of the Captain himself, Steve Rogers, which ultimately went to Chris Evans. “You know, he was originally up for the lead, for the Steve Rogers role, but he didn’t have quite the same earnest, I-want-to-fight-for-my-country aura that Chris has for this role. Sebastian has a little bit of the bad boy, he’s a little bit of the James Dean type and that goes somewhat counter to the general perception of Steve Rogers. He wasn’t quite right for Captain America, but I think he’s perfect for Bucky” says the director.