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'Item 47' Stars Lizzy Caplan, Jesse Bradford Discuss Their 'Avengers' Short Film (Q&A)

Caplan and Bradford discuss the appeal of their short-term commitment to Marvel Studios: "all of these guys have to sign like 25-million-year contracts."

Item 47' Stars Jesse Bradford, Lizzy Caplan

As proceedings wound to a close in San Diego on the second night of Comic-Con 2012, convention mainstays Marvel Studios offered fans a chance to check out one of the bonus features on the upcoming Blu-ray for The Avengers: Item 47, a “one-shot” short film directed by Marvel co-president Louis D'Esposito in which Lizzy Caplan and Jesse Bradford play a pair of lovers who successfully recover a functioning extraterrestrial weapon and decide to use it to rob banks. Caplan and Bradford made an appearance at the screening, and on the following day they signed posters and interacted with fans on the convention floor.

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As excitement grew for the Blu-ray release of The Avengers and their short film, the duo sat down with The Hollywood Reporter for a conversation about how Item 47 came to life. In addition to talking about how they negotiated their way into the Marvel Universe, Caplan and Bradford talked about finding humanity in a superheroic world, and the general challenges of transforming themselves from mild-mannered actors into their riveting on-screen alter egos.

The Hollywood Reporter: So, the acting process. No, I’m just kidding.

Lizzy Caplan: (laughs) Awesome.

THR: When you were asked to be an ancillary part of the Marvel Universe, did you sign up immediately, or did you ask, why play in this little thing when I should be starring in a big one?

Jesse Bradford: I was on board. I mean, I had to read it, but even before that, I was like, “yeah, I want to do this – that’s fascinating!” And then you read it and it’s good and it’s fun, and I knew she was doing it, and she’s great. I was like, “this is easy – no problem!”

Caplan: Yeah, I think that a very short time commitment to make something is always very attractive to me – I fear long-term commitment. And I think all of these guys have to sign like 25-million-year contracts. So maybe at the end of the day, maybe you and I are the winners.

Bradford: We win.

THR: At the premiere screening at Comic-Con the producers discussed the elaborate back story that was created for your characters. Is all of that necessary for you to have all of that if the piece you’re doing is only eight or nine minutes total?

Caplan: I think it becomes more important when it’s such a short piece, because you want to know where you’re coming from. I mean, you don’t have the luxury of an entire script where you can connect those dots on your own. So I found it helpful.

Bradford: Yeah, me too. It grounds the whole thing. I’m not an actor who requires back story, but if it’s there, or you’re inspired to do it, or if it’s there for you. And you’re right, that it’s just on a short (laughs), it’s even more important.

THR: How was Louis as a first-time director?

Caplan: He’s great, and again, his enthusiasm is infectious. And whenever we would do any of the effects shots or blow anything up, he was giggling like a little kid.

Bradford: I like about Louis the fact that he got his start as a 1st [Assistant Director], and a line producer and all of these other below-the-line jobs that are very hard and arduous on movie sets, and now he’s one of the presidents of the coolest movie studio out there. I think that’s a great progression you don’t see that often – it’s like starting in the mailroom. I think you see less of that.

THR: Even if you aren’t playing superhuman characters yourselves, do you have to make adjustments to your performance when you’re acting within a world where superheroes and laser guns exist?

Bradford: You’re forcing me to examine stuff that I haven’t even really examined.

Caplan: He is not a smart man.

Bradford: Yeah, I am not an intelligent person. No, my answer to that would be that as an actor, hopefully it’s easy for you to accept the central conceit of whatever you’re doing, whatever it happens to be. So no, you just buy in. It’s easy to buy in.

Caplan: Yeah, you don’t play the weirdness of a weird situation. It’s like in comedy, you play it not for laughs but as straitlaced as possible.

Bradford: You have to add straightification.

Caplan: You have to straightify the loops.

THR: How important is that transformational aspect for you – becoming someone totally unlike yourself?

Bradford: It depends. There’s the role where you need to get as far away from yourself as you can, and then you go, “I know why they hired me – let’s go do this. I’m not going to go put on airs – I’m just going to try to be natural – which is like I said a kind of weirder skill than people give credit for sometimes.

Caplan: Yeah, I think it’s necessary to identify with anything – with any character you play, there’s got to be something in common, so you can link up to that person, even if it’s like one tiny thing. But it’s equally fun to play somebody completely different, and trying to find what that thing is to make it.

THR: So I started with a joke about the acting process, and we ended up talking seriously about it.

Caplan: Damn it, you tricked us!