Yep, Ant-Man‘s gone big time.
With a literal and metaphorical low pop cultural profile when measured against Marvel’s more marquee-level superheroes — not to mention a seemingly-not-splashy power set and some creative friction behind the scenes — many wondered if “Ant-Man” might be Marvel Studios‘ first major misstep bringing its champions to the big screen.
But audiences embraced the quirkily charming and off-kilter take on ex-con-turned-unexpected superhero Scott Lang, as delivered by director Peyton Reed, star and co-screenwriter Paul Rudd and his writing partner Adam McKay (building out concepts from the project’s initiator, Edgar Wright). In fact, the Tiny Hero That Could is now franchisable — he’ll next appear in “Captain America: Civil War” alongside one half of a splintered Avengers lineup battling in the Cap/Iron Man conflict, before co-headlining his own sequel film, “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” alongside his winged female counterpart.
With “Ant-Man” making its home video debut Dec. 8, Reed joined CBR News for a revealing peek at the plans he and his team already have percolating for Scott Lang’s future Tales to Astonish.
CBR News: What was the coolest thing you walked away with from the “Ant-Man” experience? Something that you didn’t expect.
Peyton Reed: I think one of the surprises to me was how amazing that kind of Marvel system is to work in. I really enjoyed it. As a director, you’re put into this movie with such a great support system. Visual effects artists, from the very beginning, all the visual development people — you just feel incredibly supported with what you’re doing.
I also think I was a little bit surprised at the flexibility that you had in terms of changing things. Even at the last minute, it’s a lot less rigid than I would have thought. There’s great flexibility and a desire on the part of the studio to really up any — like, the best idea wins. How to make it better and different from anything they’ve done before. That creative energy and that creative hunger was probably the most exciting thing to discover.
Now that the movie is successful and everybody loved it, how much creative ownership do you feel over Scott Lang?
Did you want to be able to kibitz a little about how they use him in films like “Captain America: Civil War?”
Yeah. As the Russo brothers were working on the “Civil War” script with [Christopher] Markus and [Stephen] McFeely, the screenwriters, when it was decided that Scott Lang was going to be a part of that movie, they came in the editing room, and I showed them a bunch of scenes from the movie just to give them an idea of the tone of our movie and how Paul was playing Scott Lang and that character and all that. I think it was very informative for them to write that character in “Civil War” because it had to be consistent.
Once they had written it, we looked at the scenes and stuff in terms of, Scott’s attitude about certain things had to be consistent, and where he ended up in that movie had to work for what we hopefully will do in the next movie. I like that. It was a very interesting experience I’ve never had as a filmmaker, doing something that has a connectivity with another movie or in other movies. But I found it liberating and interesting as opposed to constricting because
I think people forget — we were the twelfth Marvel movie to be made. I think people can take it for granted now that they work, because Marvel’s been really successful at making them work. But you forget that not very long ago, it’s this grand experiment. There have been plenty of movies that have endless sequels, but there’s never been a thing where they’re movies, and they build, and they work in the same universe. They all have their different tones and characters, but they work as a whole. It’s something that just simply has never been do before in movie history, and I get excited by that.
Marvel’s learned over the years, “Ant-Man” had to work as its own movie. If you were just walking in cold, and you didn’t care about superhero movies, and you’ll never see another one — it has to be an enjoyable experience on its own, even as it also interconnects with the larger thing. That’s a challenging thing, but I like that there’s a desire to not have the needs of setting up things for other movies, like, co-opt your movie. I never felt like that was the case on our movie, so that was also exciting.
As you start noodling around with concepts and story ideas, in the way that you hung a heist movie element onto your superhero film, do you want to stay in that same general zone, or try on a different tone or different genre?
I think there’s probably going to be some aspects that maybe call back to the tone of this movie, but for “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” we have an entirely different template. We know what that template is, and we have an entirely different genre template for that movie. But it’s going to remain a surprise. But yes, that’s already been decided.
I ran into one of your screenwriters, Adam McKay, recently, and he’s ready and willing if you want to call him.
Did you see his movie [“The Big Short”]? Really great! Well, definitely, Paul [Rudd], and we’ve got [Andrew] Barrer and [Gabriel] Ferrari, who were not credited on the movie, but they’re our production writers, they’re coming back. And Adam’s going to come back in some capacity. A lot of it has to do with his schedule on “The Big Short” because he’s promoting that movie and is probably, I would think, well into the Oscar season.
I went to one of the first screenings of Adam’s movie, and, of course, I loved the movie. I thought it was amazing. But, of course, we talked about “Ant-Man,” and he’s psyched to come back. We want him back. It’s going to be a scheduling thing.
We’re in a really exciting time when it comes to female superheroes, across the gamut — everything from the lighter tone of “Supergirl” to the darker take with “Jessica Jones.” What are you excited for as far as the opportunities you have with the Wasp?
I’m excited just for Evangeline [Lily] to actually suit up and become a hero in the movie. I’m also excited about the idea that Ant-Man and the Wasp were a partnership throughout the history of Marvel Comics. It’s a different dynamic than we’ve seen in the rest of the Marvel movies, an actual partnership. You’ve got Captain America and the Falcon, obviously. But this is a thing that in the comics was a romantic partnership and a heroic partnership, so it’s going to be fun to play around with that and discover what the movie version of that is.
I feel like we’ve set up a pretty complicated character in Hope van Dyne in the first movie. It’s going to be fun to see how that plays out in the second movie, and continue that exploration of the family dynamics between Scott Lang and his family, but also, between Hank Pym and Hope and possibly even Janet. So that’s exciting.
I know Michael Douglas had floated up as possible casting for Jan — namely, his actual wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones. It must be fun to have on the table.
Oh, it’s great to have that on the table! I mean, we’re so early on. We’re really going to start in earnest in January on the writing. But we obviously have tons of notes — things that we set up in the first movie — and it’s going to be fun to actually really hit the ground and start developing and writing the movie. It’s so early on to start talking about that stuff. And also, I talk a lot to Michael about — there’s a lot of exposition that he was called on to present. There’s a lot of set-up in “Ant-Man,” and it will be fun to give Michael different stuff to do in this movie.
I remember when the movie came out, you were really happy to have done the retro sequences. Do you think you might do some more time-hopping next time around?
Yeah, I mean, it’s something that we’re discussing, and we’ll see if it actually works within the context of the story. It’s something that’s definitely interesting to all of us. Because I think it gave us an opportunity, even with the opening scene in Ant-Man, the S.H.I.E.L.D scene, to retroactively place this guy into the Marvel Cinematic Universe who’s such an important character in the comics, and all the possible relationships that could exist there, that’s really exciting. It’s something that we do want to explore.
Does that multiple-identity aspect of character’s history — his incarnations as Giant-Man, Goliath, etc. — intrigue you on a story level?
Yeah. I mean, it’s such a crucial part of his character in the comics. I think to ignore that would be crazy, because there’s a lot of rich stuff. Not only with the different sort of super heroic identities that he had in the comics, but just his psychology. I mean, we do set up in the movie that when Scott says to him, “Why don’t you just put on the suit?” He’s like, “I can’t. I did it for a long time, and it took a toll on me.” It’s like, “Well, what does that mean, exactly?” I think there are a lot of things that we’re going to explore in the next one that will explain a lot of that stuff.
Tell me about wanting to raise the bar on how you do the size-changing effects the next time around.
Just the camera technology changes so quickly, and we won’t start prepping the movie until probably October of next year and then shooting sometime in spring of 2017. So much can change between now and then about camera technology. I mean, we shot with the Arri Alexa, the 35mm, hi def format, and now, there’s the 65mm version, and are we able to get into the larger format stuff? And there are advances that have been made with the RED digital camera.
A big part of my job is keeping abreast of all the technology and really trying to make it as vivid and immersive as possible. Such a massive learning curve on the first movie, and I’m sure that learning curve will continue in terms of the technology on the next one.
Was there a takeaway from the audience’s reaction to the first film that’s in the forefront of your mind?
Yeah, I suspected it when we were making the movie, and I think we doubled down on it, but the appeal of those comics to me was always that the hero was one of the strangest things. The world is our real world and sort of ordinary, and there are these exceptional things that can happen within it. A lot of times, these movies create such bizarro worlds that the hero’s kind of the least interesting thing in the world. The idea that Paul plays a guy who’s a pretty normal person — he’s made bad decisions, but he’s a pretty normal person and gets pulled into this larger universe. Just the idea of a guy who wants to get his life back on track and be a part of his daughter’s life.
The hero’s goal in the movie is a really relatable goal. That was, I think, a fun thing to kind of get back to a little bit. That he’s not a super scientist, and he’s not a billionaire. He’s just a guy just out of prison and trying to make ends meet. The ordinary quality, I think, really resonated with people. The father/daughter stuff — I was pleased that people responded to that.
Your creative partnership with Paul, that must have been great to develop and also to know there’s a future to it.
Yeah, we had a great time working together, I think because I had known Paul socially before this movie, and we have a lot — a lot — of mutual friends in the film world and in the comedy world and in the music world. Our areas of interest — I think there’s such a large intersection of things that influenced Paul and myself, and we really get along on that level. I think it informed kind of the choices that we make in the movie.
When we talked about in the briefcase scene where the fight happens, it’s like, we were going to come up with an iPhone joke, a Siri joke. There were a lot of jokes, and some very funny jokes, but then it felt like, “Well, what if it’s the music thing?” When I showed Paul the scene with The Cure song — he’s a massive Cure fan! He got what I liked about the joke, that it’s funny, but it also scores his action sequence in a different way and is a whole different flavor. So there’s a shorthand that I think we have, and I’m really excited to continue working with him on the movie, both as the actor and as a writer.