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Behind the Shield

Crafting a badass superhero movie requires sweat, death-defying falls, and a beat-down from Black Widow. Deep inside the making of ''Captain America: The Winter Soldier.''

Image credit: Zade Rosenthal

Chris Evans as Captain America

They say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. But in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it's getting harder for the superhero to tell the difference. In the latest installment from Marvel Studios' interlocked franchise, Chris Evans' unfrozen warrior from the Greatest Generation is still unsure of his place in the world after helping to save it twice: once in Captain America: The First Avenger and again in The Avengers. The Winter Soldier features a titular new villain — a bioengineered assassin with a mechanical arm — who is targeting the leadership of the global protection force S.H.I.E.L.D. The film, directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo (Arrested Development), reteams Evans with Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow and Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury as top operatives for the group. But Cap (alias Steve Rogers) is beginning to question whether he and S.H.I.E.L.D. are on the same side. The Winter Soldier is played by Sebastian Stan, and as anyone who saw the first film knows, his character's history with Rogers runs deep. If there's an overall theme in the movie, it's this: Old friends make the worst enemies.

That was pretty damn evident when EW visited the set of The Winter Soldier last July, the day after Comic-Con ended. Footage screened for fans at the annual convention had lathered the geeky faithful into a froth, but no one's celebrating on set. Instead of passing around high fives, the cast members are punching each other in the face.

The sun has just peeked through the morning mist, and Chris Evans is pummeling a pair of masked gunmen aboard a flying aircraft carrier. (Really, a vast shipyard parking lot in Carson, Calif.) It's the middle of summer, and already blazing. Evans is feeling the pain. ''To make it look good, you gotta get hurt,'' he says later. ''It's gotta look a little messy.''

Even though this is his third major stint as Cap, the 32-year-old is sorta sweating his Comic-Con appearance. ''I wonder if people think I'm too skinny right now? Because literally in the past month, I've probably lost 15 pounds,'' he says. ''Three months leading in, you get this training regimen — you try and get as big as you possibly can. Then they save the big action sequences for last, but you're just shedding weight.''

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