MARVEL's Ant-Man introduces us to the first MARVEL Avenger, a pint-sized hero who packs a big punch. With an army of ants as his allies, Ant-Man storms into the heart of danger to protect and save the world from the villainous Yellowjacket.
We sat with President of Marvel Studios and producer of Ant-Man, Kevin Feige, star Corey Stoll, star Michael Douglas, director Peyton Reed, Ant-Man himself Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena, and David Dastmalchian, at the MARVEL's Ant-Man press conference to learn more about the addition of this latest character to the MCU franchise, the 12th film since MARVEL's Iron Man was released in 2008.
As we spoke with the stars we learned about MARVEL's desire to create the definitive shrinking movie of 2015, with a photo-realistic miniature world created through amazing visual effects, how Paul's son can actually watch one of his films and is legitimately jazzed about it, how Michael Pena's son warned him not to screw this up, whose dreams from when they were 15 years old were finally realized during filming, which two actors are now part of the exclusive Club 9-25, what Evangeline Lilly thinks about playing the biggest bad-ass of the film, and who is the real-life criminal that inspired Michael Pena's character.
MARVEL's Ant-Man opens in theatres this Friday, July 17th!
MARVEL's Ant-Man Press Conference
Q: Kevin, I’m going to start with you. What was it about the character of Ant-Man that you thought he would be an excellent addition to the MCU?
Kevin Feige: Clearly Ant-Man in the comics is a founding member of the Avengers. We have a big, giant poster of Avengers #1 that has been in all of the various offices we’ve had over the years, and I love looking at that and checking off, yep, yeah, that person’s been in a movie now, we’ve made a movie about that person, made a movie about that person.
Ant-Man and Wasp were the two that we haven’t done anything with, and it was always clear that we were going to assemble all the Avengers eventually. It also was interesting to do a movie, now that you’ve seen it, and I think most of you in this room have seen it, that plays with scale and that plays with 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 it when all of our films are unique and all of them are different, and all of them can surprise people. Now, this is our 12th film in the Marvel cinematic universe, so it felt time to do something even more unique and even more different, which I think these people have.
Q: Peyton, how intimidating is that when you come and you hear Kevin say, we’re going to play with scale, we’re going to do something different, we’re going to break from the traditional Marvel mode with this project?
Peyton Reed: I had no idea what Kevin was talking about, nothing. 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 they have a creative hunger and they don’t – I’m putting words in your mouth, Kevin – but they really don’t want to repeat themselves and 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. There was a high bar there, and it kind of energizes everybody.
Q: Paul, what was it about the character and the opportunity afforded to you through this film that excited you?
Paul Rudd: There was a lot, but the first thing was that it was a Marvel movie, come on.
The fact that it was different from anything that I’d 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 – that you wouldn’t necessarily think that, and I think that Marvel likes to do that and I was thrilled to have the opportunity.
Q: For Paul. The movie is so entertaining, so much fun and great to watch. I wanted to ask you, how did you prepare the role? Did you go back to the source material? Was it all in the script? Were you a fan of the character before?
Paul Rudd: Growing up I really didn’t know the character. Before we ever started shooting I read the comics, tried to do a little bit of research, and tried to get into the mindset as much as possible. There was also all of the physical stuff that I wanted to throw myself in to, to feel as if I could play the part, and not only be convincing but just help me feel the part more.
Q: I read a funny thing that your 9-year-old thought that you weren’t that cool when you said that you’re going to play Ant-Man. Has he seen it yet and has that been redeemed?
Paul Rudd: My kid more than anything likes to make me laugh, so when I told him that, even at 9-years old he has such a funny sense of humor, that’s what he said, but this is the first time I’ve ever done something that he is legitimately jazzed about.
He can see it, and his friends know about it. We were at Disneyland two days ago and they have a sneak preview, the Ant-Man event that’s there, and 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’s watching this, I’ll never forget it.
As soon as it ended he just looked at me. He’s like, ‘That’s awesome!' And every time a commercial is on, he’s like, ‘Dad, Dad, Dad!' He’s so excited and I’ve never experienced that, so it’s so cool to be able to share this with my own family, and especially my son.
Q: Evangeline, without wanting to spoil or anything, there’s a moment when you say it’s about damn time, and I wonder if you feel you’re speaking for woman everywhere getting their super moment.
Evangeline Lilly: Amen and touché, sister. I think that there is a lot of excitement in the focus groups that we’ve seen already, with the female audiences, about this character in general and about the fact that Marvel is really taking female characters very seriously and looking at their lineup. You can see that they have great intentions.
As a woman who came into a predominantly male film, I had a great time working with Peyton and with the producers on this character because I could see a hunger in them to really, really do right by Hope, and do right by their female fans, and the female audience. When I pick a role, one of the things that I aspire to do is create a character that somebody’s parent will come up to me after the film and say, ‘My daughter idealizes that character. You’re her hero.' And that’s what we aim for, especially in this brand, right? We’re in the business of making heroes.
Q: Mr. Douglas, I wanted to ask you, Paul talked a little bit about being a hero for his kids, now being Ant-Man. I was just wondering for you, did this kind of boost your stature with your own kids?
Michael 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.
Q: The film is thoroughly enjoyable and really funny. Michael Pena, you had a lot to do with it, you were hilarious – was all that on the page?
Michael Pena: I basically wouldn’t shut up. Peyton and Paul, they were fantastic. The first day of shooting I was scared out of my pants, because I’d been reading Marvel comics and there’s a thing with Marvel where there’s one stage for my kid that was one years old, and then all of a sudden it gets more sophisticated as time goes on.
My son said, ‘Don’t mess this up, Dad.' And so I was really nervous because I wanted to be the cool dad, but it was really loose on set. I was a nervous wreck and Paul said ‘You know, just do what you want, man. Let’s do things. Let’s do things. Let’s explore and let’s have fun.' After the first week, it got to be a lot of fun.
Q: T.I. and David, you guys are really part of that huge comedic element that gets injected to the film, along with Michael. Can you talk a little about what excited you about being the ones to bring the funny in Ant-Man?
David Dastmalchian: Terrifying at first for me because that’s not the zone that I’m the most comfortable playing in, and then you show up and you’re with these guys. Oh my god, I was terrified, and I’m a lifelong comic fan. I thought all my knowledge of what I know about comic books was going to go into informing my character, but this is a totally new character that isn’t part of that world.
So it was a blast. I showed up the first day and I learned quickly that I just needed to hold on, and the guys are so generous, Peyton, Paul, Michael, T.I., and everybody in the film, but they just kept throwing me the ball and giving me an opportunity to play, and as long as I didn’t break, that became my biggest challenge because these guys are so funny, and I would hold my knees under the table.
T.I.: I was really just happy and enthused to be a part of it. Just to be introduced into the Marvel universe and to be a part of such a stacked franchise, a cast of so many well-trained and highly skilled actors and actresses, or actress.
I wanted to not mess it up, just come and contribute however I can to the film. Paul’s an incredible leader and Michael’s just the right amount of a-hole to where it comes out great on-screen. You know what I’m saying?
Michael Pena: Thanks, bro. That means a lot.
T.I.: Any time, dude. Peyton really set an awesome environment for us to be creative and just do what we felt was right for the scenes, and of course with the legendary Michael Douglas, finding out that we have the same birthday. What’s up, 9-25er, how you doing?
Michael Douglas: Club 9-25.
T.I.: Just so many awesome and amazing experiences that I will take with me from this point forward for the rest of my career. I appreciate the opportunity.
Q: This is for Corey and Paul. I love the suits, the Yellowjacket and the Ant-Man suits. Was it comfortable wearing it, and how much do you have to slim down, or what food did you have to give up in order to fit into those suits?
Corey Stoll: We tried to make it a practical suit and we went through several iterations, and it just was not working, so in the end it was completely CGI. Of course I had been working out like a fiend to be able to look good in the suit, and in the end it just turned out to be for the behind-the-stage, behind the scenes footage, of me in, you know, my pajamas, a little.
Peyton Reed: There's an entire piece for the DVD and Blu-ray that’s just shots of Corey in his motion capture suit. It really looks great.
Paul Rudd: I’m biased because I loved the suit and I think it’s the coolest-looking suit of all of them, and I loved wearing it. It helped me feel the part, you know, there’s something that happens when you get in that thing, that’s inevitable. I would stand differently, I would feel different, I’d feel like Ant-Man in that thing.
They would keep the sound stages a little bit cooler because it doesn’t really breathe that well. I would just sometimes catch myself as I was – oh, gosh, this thing is amazing-looking. As far as getting skinnier to try to fit in it, I didn’t eat anything for about a year. I worked out all the time. I took that Chris Pratt approach which is just basically eliminate anything fun for about a year, and that’s a good way to prepare to play a superhero.
Q: Mr. Stoll. I think that one of the movie’s strongest points is Yellowjacket, and I was wondering if you were nervous or anxious about the character, because Marvel has shown some great films on the past years.
Corey Stoll: I would have moments of terror realizing what a huge audience there was and what a huge, incredibly passionate and well-informed audience there is, but it was just too much fun.
Every day I came onto set there was some new piece of art that Peyton would show me, or I would step onto the Pymtech set and see the size of it, and it was just all these dreams of the 15-year-old Corey being realized. Even the civilian costumes that he wears are so outrageously villainous. I had to stop myself grinning from ear to ear every day. It really was, it was awesome.
Q: A word I have not used for any Marvel film is ‘adorable' Let’s face it, ants are adorable, as they are portrayed here.
So I want to ask, Kevin, Peyton, and Paul, since you did rewrites and were involved in this, the research as to the science aspects with the ants, how much research did you do, and then how difficult was it in the visual portrayal of the various types of ants and their various duties and jobs?
Peyton Reed: There’s a definitive ant textbook that’s written by this guy, Edward Wilson, who’s considered the ant man, the actual real ant man, a New York Times bestseller. It talks about all the specific types of ants there are in the world, and there are thousands of them, but also there are specific skill sets. One of the things that I loved about the movie is that we introduced, at least four of these specific types of ants.
It was fun because it’s a heist movie at its core, and here’s the guys doing this and this and this, and here are the ants that are doing this, here are the ants that are doing that, and I guarantee that’s something that you’ve never seen in a movie before.
People talk about the shrinking when they talk about Ant-Man, but it’s the other power, the being able to control ants, that’s the weirder power that I think is going to really surprise people in the movie. One of the things I liked about doing research was all the things that we have the ants do, for example the fire ants, they’re architects. They can make little rafts and ladders, they do that in real life. The kid in me was like, oh, I can go on the internet look at these ants and it’s actually real. I think that’s a really cool aspect of the movie.
Q: When are we gonna see Ant-Woman?
Kevin Feige: I’m going to say there’s not an Ant-Woman, maybe there is somewhere in the comics, but there is a Wasp, and if you stay through the credits of the movie there’s a chance you’ll see something. Somebody already asked about ‘It’s about damn time,' and we have plans for her in the future. We see that not so subtly in this film.
Q: Paul, the fact that you had this father-daughter storyline that was going on, did that give you another level to play with this character?
Paul Rudd: It was the thing that I hung the whole thing on. You can have a movie that has amazing effects, and this certainly has that, and brilliant visuals, a lot of action, humor, whatever, but whenever you see something that you can connect to, that’s emotionally resonant, it stays with you in a very different way. I think that’s the key to any movie, and that’s what I thought about throughout this whole film. This is what the movie is about.
Q: Mr. Douglas. Hank Pym in the comics is a really damaged guy with a lot of really unfortunate history, and I’m wondering, in your research and preparing for the role, how much of that damage plays into your mindset in playing the character?
Michael Douglas: I was not familiar with Ant-Man before this movie, and Kevin and Marvel were kind enough to send me about two years of comic books, that’s when I read the script, to kind of catch up on this history and background. I think there’s echoes certainly of the loss of his wife and the distance between he and his stunning daughter, played by Evangeline, so I think there’s remnants, elements of that. I don’t think we wanted to dwell on it but it kind of pays off a little later in the picture.
Q: This is for the producer and the director, and Paul, if you want to jump in later too. The father-daughter relationship is a very important element in the movie, and I was wondering how did you arrive at that, the storyline, and can you talk a little bit about keeping the film funny and upbeat without losing the premise of the story?
Kevin Feige: That’s right out of the comics. Scott Lang’s character has a daughter named Cassie in the comics and in his original origin story. In the books, it’s tied directly to his desire to help his daughter, and that’s the reason he sort of resorts to crime, to try to do that. So that came right out of the comics, and as I said earlier, we’ve never had a hero in any of the 11 films leading up to this whose motivation involved a child, or involved a son or a daughter, so that felt, again, like a reason to do this film now, which was very meaningful for us.
Peyton Reed: One of the things that I loved from the beginning, and it is very different from the other Marvel movies in that way, is these dual stories about these two fathers and their daughters. In various different ways they are not a part of their daughters’ lives, and they have to be by the end of the movie to repair those relationships.
In the case of Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne, they’re not going to succeed in this heist unless they repair that relationship. It’s an important thing that has to happen before they succeed, and I liked the intimacy of that thematic in the movie.
Paul Rudd: I also think there’s an interesting kind of father-son dynamic with Darren and Hank. So this whole idea of parents and children runs throughout the movie makes it one of the thing that’s most relatable.
Evangeline Lilly: Even with Bobby Cannavale’s character and Cassie, I thought that was really cool that there was also the stepfather and the daughter relationship.
Corey Stoll: Definitely for me. It was totally central because through the different drafts of the script, playing with motivations, we came to the realization that Darren is after the glory of the scientific discovery and the money and the fame and the power, but in the end it really comes down to the sort of small, little boy inside that just wants his father’s approval, and that’s so much easier to play than desire for world domination. I could relate to that more.
Q: For Evangeline, it’s pretty clear in watching the movie that Hope stands out as by far the biggest badass in the entire film. In having an opportunity to play a character where you’re never sitting in distress waiting to be saved by someone else, can you talk about getting to play someone who’s a full-on superhero, even without a costume already, and the example that kind of sets for the girls who are watching the movie looking for someone else to relate to?
Evangeline Lilly: That was the most exciting thing for me about the role. While we were filming during post-production there was a lot of buzz on the internet, is Evangeline playing the Wasp, and is she a superhero, and I had a lot of questions directed my way about that.
I couldn’t have felt more comfortable or more happy saying she is a really capable, very powerful force to be reckoned with, and she doesn’t have a superpower, she doesn’t put on a fancy suit and look dorky in it. My super-suit was my power suit that I would go to work in and be a high level scientist on the chair of the board of a very, very powerful corporation. I do think that’s a fantastic example for young women.
Marvel is actually doing this incredible campaign right now where they’ve put out a competition to young women in America to create scientific gadget projects, and they’re promoting the maths and sciences for young women and young girls. They’ve put a lot of heart and love into that and they did it a couple of years ago also, and I was happy to be the face for that campaign. Playing the role of a female scientist in a world where mostly scientists are men is a great role to play.
Q: Peyton. The movie features some incredible unique action sequences that are definitely different from most films, especially all the Marvel films because you’re dealing with ant-sized environment. Besides the ants being definitely a big challenge, what was the other challenge with dealing with the smaller environment.
Peyon Reed: In terms of the shrinking, I went back and watched all the shrinking movies. There’s a long cinematic history of shrinking: Incredible Shrinking Man, Incredible Shrinking Woman, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Honey, I Shrunk the Audience Preshow at Disney, Innerspace. All of them.
We were making sort of what would be the definitive shrinking movie of 2015 and the drum I kept banging was it’s got to look photo-realistic. We can’t have a movie where, when you’re in the normal world, it’s realistic and when you go down it feels like an animated movie. It had to look photo-realistic.
Jake Morrison who is our visual effects supervisor, we spent a lot of time together and talked about how we were going to achieve it and how we were going to shoot it, what lenses would we use, what does the world look and sound like when you’re down there? When you see dust particles floating around, how does the light play? And I’m really, really happy with where we ended up because in a movie like Ant-Man it’s got to look real, and that applied to the ants, too. That was really one of the challenges is creating ants that looked photoreal, but also giving them some real character and particularly in the case of Antony.
The idea that we’re going to create a Roy Rogers/Trigger or a Lone Ranger/Silver relationship between Ant-Man, because in the comics that’s one of the iconic images is Ant-Man flying around on an ant, and I wanted to embrace that so I was thrilled with where we ended up in the visual effects. One of the things about Marvel is you’re surrounded by the top people in all the fields, but in visual effects they did some amazing work.
Evangeline Lilly: Can I add to that question? I’m wondering, you said photorealism, what about sound realism? How do you know what ants sound like?
Peyton Reed: We did a Dolby Atmos mix because we really wanted to immerse the audience in this, and sound becomes even more immersive and it surrounds you when you’re small. I know, I’ve been there. We also really had to create kind of an ant language, and it was important particularly in that bond with Antony and with Scott Lang, to have a sound, and the geniuses at Skywalker Sound started auditioning and combining these sounds and they kind of came up with a language.
Q: I think one thing a lot of people are overlooking that this is probably the funniest Marvel movie I’ve ever seen. From the beginning to end, whether it’s the visual comedy or about the size or just the dialogue, or Michael’s riffs, it was just amazingly funny.
For Kevin, was that a goal, especially in light with the timing after having a darker film like Ultron, to have a really funny film following that? And for Peyton and Michael, to get some of those riffs down where Michael is going off and you’re doing a montage mouthing his words, it works beyond belief.
Kevin Feige: I don’t think we set out and said this will be our funniest movie, or this is a comedy. I don’t look at any of our films as necessarily one thing, but humor is a huge element. When you’re dealing with a concept, people riding ants, people communicating ants, calling ants ‘Antony,' you have to acknowledge to the audience that we know this is funny to a certain extent. Even when we cast Paul, people thought, oh, is it a comedy, because you cast the comedian? We cast the guy we thought could be a kickass superhero, who happens to be funny.
In terms of coming off of Ultron, when we put these two films together in this year, it was always knowing that one could be the antidote to the other, that coming off of Ultron, being as sort of gargantuan an exercise as it was, that it’d be fun to do something that was funny, but also dealt in a very different scale yet had the same kind of thrills and action elements.
Peyton Reed: In terms of what we called the tip montages that Mike did, it’s always been a heist movie, that’s part of the DNA of the movie, and when Paul and Adam McKay were working on the rewrites that was one of the things we looked at. How can we bolster the heist language in terms of the way we shoot and write the movie?
That’s sort of a key element in these heist movies is the tip. You know, tell me about that tip, I need to know that it’s legitimate. So when we were working with Michael, we liked the idea of creating this character, he’s a very excitable guy, who’s a very sweet character. He’s kind of the father figure.
Michael Pena: It’s a real person, by the way, that I’m imitating. His name is Pablo, he’s a criminal, not bullshitting at all. The guy lives in Chicago. My best friend just flew in for the premier, and he’s in and out of jail. He’s the kind of guy, swear to god, when I’m like: ‘What’d you do this weekend?' He’s like: ‘I went to jail, Dawg.' Who really says that for a weekend trip?
Peyton Reed: Luis had always been in the script but I think one of the things that Paul and Adam McKay added was, one of the first scenes that they wrote was Luis serving waffles to the other guys. The idea that he’s sort of this father figure to these guys, he really takes care of his criminal buddies. Then it just grew from there, the idea that he loves fine wines, and he loves expressionist art, and he's got this very wide-ranging taste .
That was something that Adam and Paul added, and then we built on through the shooting and we just liked the idea of making it kinetic and feel like a heist movie, but that Luis’ tips were not always solid and he tends to ramble as he tells these stories ‘cause he’s very excitable.
One thing I love about press conferences is the unexpected. From Robert Downey Jr.'s foul mouth rant about not being asked the first question during the Avengers: Age of Ultron press conference (he was joking of course) to this interview, when a press reporters phone (not mine) rang right in front of actor Paul Rudd.
(Ring…..Ring….. Paul Rudd picks up the phone and answers it.)
Paul Rudd: We’re in the middle of a press conference right now. Gonna call you back, okay? Thanks. (Insert gasping, and laughing press now.)
I wonder what the person on the other line said when they found out they were talking to THE Paul Rudd?
About MARVEL's Ant-Man
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 must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, 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.
Marvel’s ‘Ant-Man’ stars Paul Rudd as Scott Lang aka Ant-Man, Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne, Corey Stoll as Darren Cross aka Yellowjacket, Bobby Cannavale as Paxton, Michael Peña as Luis, Judy Greer as Maggie, Tip “Ti” Harris as Dave, David Dastmalchian as Kurt, Wood Harris as Gale, Jordi Mollà as Castillo and Michael Douglas as Hank Pym.
Marvel’s ‘Ant-Man’ delivers a high-stakes, tension-filled adventure on July 17, 2015.
Portions of the material have been provided courtesy of MARVEL and Walt Disney Studios.