The next evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings a founding member of the Avengers to the big screen for the first time with Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man.” Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, master thief Scott Lang, also known as Ant-Man (played by Paul Rudd), must embrace his inner-hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym (played by Michael Douglas), protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering threats. Against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.
Even before “Ant-Man” was released, it generated a lot of publicity for its behind-the-scenes drama when writer/director Edgar Wright abruptly exited the project, reportedly because of “creative differences.” Peyton Reed replaced Wright as director of the movie. Here is what Rudd, Douglas, Reed, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and “Ant-Man” co-stars Corey Stoll (who plays villain Darren Cross/Yellowjacket), Evangeline Lilly (who plays Hank Pym’s estranged daughter Hope van Dyne), Michael Peña, David Dastmalchian and T.I. (who play Scott Lang’s heist associates Luis, Kurt and Dave) said at an “Ant-Man” press conference held in Burbank, Calif.
Kevin, what was it about the character of Ant-Man that made you think it would be an excellent addition to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe)?
Feige: Well, Ant-Man in the comics is a founding member of the Avengers. We have a big, giant poster of “The Avengers No. 1” that’s been in all of the various offices we’ve had, over the years, and I love looking at that … With Ant-Man and Wasp, it’s been the longest that we haven’t done anything with them. It was always clear that we were going to assemble all of the Avengers, eventually.
It was also interesting to do a movie … that plays with scale and action in a very different way than we’ve ever done before. As I’m sure you all have heard me say, many, many times, I like that all of our films are unique and different, and that all of them can surprise people. This is our 12th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it felt time to do something even more unique and different, which I think these people have.
Peyton, how intimidating was it to be the one responsible for playing with scale like this and doing something so different, we’re going to break from this traditional Marvel mold?
Reed: I had no idea what Kevin was talking about. There’s a high bar with these Marvel movies, and one of the things that I really discovered, working with Marvel, which I loved, was that they have a really creative hunger …. and they really don’t want to repeat themselves. They encourage these movies to be really idiosyncratic. And one of the things I love about Ant-Man is that it’s a pretty weird movie in a great way. It was allowed to be weird, and that was fantastic. So there was a high bar there, and that kind of energizes everybody
Paul, what was it about this character that excited you?
Rudd: Well, there was a lot.
Lilly: [She says jokingly] Me! Mainly me.
Rudd: Well, there was a lot. First, there was the fact that it was different than anything I had ever done. I liked the challenge. I thought it would be an exciting adventure. And I enjoyed the fact that when I was cast, people went, “Huh? Really?” You wouldn’t necessarily think that, and I think that Marvel likes to do that. I was thrilled to have the opportunity.
How did you prepare? Did you go back to the source material. Were you a fan of the character before or did you read some of the comics?
Rudd: Growing up, I really didn’t know the character. Before we ever started shooting, I read the comics and tried to do a little bit of research, just to get into the mindset as much as possible. There was also all of the physical stuff that I wanted to throw myself into, to feel as if I could play the part and not only be convincing, but just help me feel the part more.
Peña: Did you enjoy being ripped?
Rudd: I enjoyed doing shoulder rolls …
Peña: But you thoroughly enjoyed being ripped.
Rudd: I was very self-conscious that day of shooting.
Reed: I remember when we shot your abs that day. I had for lunch one almond.
Rudd: And I felt so bloated!
Paul, since your 9-year-old thought that you weren’t that cool when you said you were going to play Ant-Man. Has he seen the film yet, and has that been redeemed?
Rudd: There was nothing to redeem. My kid, more than anything, likes to make me laugh. Even at 9 years old, he has such a funny sense of humor. So when I told him, that’s what he said. This is the first thing that I’ve ever done, ever, that he is legitimately jazzed about.
He can see it. His friends know about it. We were at Disneyland two days ago because they have a sneak preview “Ant-Man” event there. We went there and I was sitting next to him, and to see, as a parent, the look on my kid’s face when he was watching this, I’ll never forget it.
As soon as it ended, he just looked at me and said, “That’s awesome!” And every time a commercial is on, he’s like, “Dad! Dad!” He’s so excited. I’ve never experienced that. It’s cool to be able to share this with my own family, and especially my son.
Evangeline, without spoiling anything ….
Lilly: Yeah, right! They all start that way, but then they spoil away!
When you say “It’s about damn time,” did you feel like you were speaking for all womankind?
Lilly: Amen and touché, sister! I think there is a lot of excitement from female audiences about this character, in general, and about the fact that Marvel are really, really taking female characters very seriously. Looking at their line-up, you can see that they have great intentions.
And as a woman who came into a predominantly male film, I had a great time working with Peyton and the producers on this character because I could see a hunger in them to really, really do right by Hope and by their female fans and by the female audience. When I pick a role, one of the things that I aspire to is that somebody’s parent will come up to me after the film has come out and say, “My daughter idealizes that character. You’re her hero.” That’s what we aim for, especially in this brand. We’re in the business of making heroes.
Michael Douglas, did this boost your stature with your own kids?
Douglas: My 14-year-old’s reaction was like an agent. He said, “You know, Dad, this could be a whole new audience for you.” So I took that to heart, and here I am.
“Ant-Man” is a really funny movie. A lot of that had to do with you, Michael Peña. Was that all on the page or did you improvise?
Lilly: None of that was on the page. He wouldn’t shut up!
Peña: Peyton and Paul were fantastic. The first day of shooting, I was scared out of my pants … My son was like, “Don’t mess this up, Dad.” I was thoroughly nervous. I want to be the cool dad, but it was really loose on set. I was a nervous wreck.
And Paul was like, “Let’s do what you want. Let’s do things. Let’s explore. Let’s have fun.” And after the first week, it got to be a lot of fun. When it’s too much fun, you don’t know what kind of movie it was.” Peyton, you did all right.
For more info: “Ant-Man” website