In “Puncture,” Chris Evans plays Mike Weiss, the real-life lawyer who, along with Paul Danzinger, took on the medical industry. Hospital supply was, and remains, the major roadblock restricting the one-stick needle, a plastic, disposable syringe that is much cheaper and cost-effective than its dangerous counterpart. While the subject matter makes “Puncture” an “issue” movie, it’s Evans’ portrayal of Weiss that has audiences buzzing.
Evans brings his considerable charm and matinee-idol looks to the character of Weiss, who fought for this case despite being a functioning drug addict. As “Puncture” deals with this serious, industry-wide issue, it also finds a fascinating mess of contradictions regarding Weiss, a flamboyant dresser and notorious womanizer who managed to charge headfirst into the case while saddled with a debilitating addiction. We sat down with Evans and discussed the picture and the complexities and contradictions in capturing the essence of such a tricky character.
In acting classes, most professors will tell you that you have to like and understand the character you‘re playing. Evans admits he believed in the latter, but not the former. “It sounds so horrible, because you don’t want to speak of the dead,” Evans says, clearly choosing his words carefully. “But I don’t think he was a great person. He was bright, he was a genius. His friends and family, they all agreed that he was the most brilliant man they knew.”
Evans’ tone darkens. “But he was wildly selfish,” he says. “He was too smart for his own good. There’s an isolation to that sort of genius. But he was so charismatic, so likable, so charming. Everyone I talked to, they didn’t like him, but they didn’t want to cut him out of their lives. So it was fun to toe the line, to find the balance with this guy, who is kinda…vile! He has a lot of shitty qualities. If I didn’t make him likable, then I fucked up. But you kinda have to make him likable, and you have to make him the kinda guy you want to strangle.”
Naturally, it was difficult to compare that perspective with the need to do justice to Weiss by his family and loved ones. Speaking of researching Weiss, Evans emphasized, “It was really fucking intimidating. You’re sitting there, talking to his dad, and thinking man. I hope these people know I’m trying to do the best I can. But I’m not playing JFK, I’m not playing someone who I can watch on film and match the posture, and cadence, and tone. But people would just tell me stories. Half of your brain is dedicated to taking notes and trying to develop the character, and the other half of your brain is thinking, ‘Oh my God, these people are going to hate what I do.’ If he had a certain way of walking, I don’t know that. If he had a phrase he liked to say, I don’t know that. It was intimidating, it plays with your mind.”
The producers and directors of “Puncture” (Adam and Mark Kassen) were very careful to stick to the real life events of the story, particularly in the lives of Weiss and Danzinger. There was one element of the story, however, where the filmmakers did deviate: wardrobe. As Evans plays it, Weiss is something of a fashion plate, anal enough to own several Armani suits (and so thrifty that he buys them secondhand). But when it comes to the wardrobe of the real Weiss, the ensembles were a little too strange, even for fiction.
When Evans asked Weiss‘ friends and family about his wardrobe, he was surprised to learn the truth. “Everyone said it was outrageous. He thought he was fashion forward, and he was ahead of the curve. The first time I went to wardrobe and tried on the clothes, I was like, I feel like fuckin’ Patch Adams! We had to tone it down a little bit based on what this guy’s friends’ said he wore. I looked at his clothes and was like, ‘What is this shit?’ This guy was a lunatic! What kind of guy comes to work every day looking like Lady Gaga?”
While we’ll have to leave it to our imagination as what that original wardrobe looked like (suits made out of meat products?) you can catch Evans in “Puncture” when it hits theaters Friday, September 23rd.