In attendance at the European press conference for Marvel’s latest franchise offering were director Peyton Reed, Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-Man), Michael Douglas (Hank Pym) and Michael Peña (Luis). The panel was moderated by Empire’s Chris Hewitt.
Did this movie give you a newfound respect for ants?
Peyton Reed: I like to think I’ve always respected ants, but that level of respect has definitely increased throughout the making of the movie. It’s important to note also that no ants were harmed during the making of the movie in any way – *Michael Douglas slams the table as if to kill an ant* -let’s get that out of the way.
Paul Rudd: Until now!
Reed: Until this actual press conference.
Michael Peña: But it’s not when we were making the movie so it doesn’t count.
Michael Douglas: Yeah, I just never knew there were so many possible characters. It was phenomenally interesting between working ants and flying ants and seeing all the different characters. It was always a joy in the scenes when everyone would take a brief respite to look away at some of the anthills and watch them at work – [I] found it very peaceful.
Rudd: Yeah, it’s like looking at an aquarium.
Rudd: Yes – in answer to your question – yes. And I’m not trying to sound cute or anything but even last week I was standing by the sink and some ants started walking just toward the coffee maker where I was making coffee and maybe in an earlier time I would’ve given them a little flick, now I absolutely let them do what they wanna do and I stand back.
Did you try and get them to make the coffee?
Rudd: It didn’t work!
What’s going on with that! And Mr Peña?
Peña: I can’t believe it even made it this far, for me to have that question. They’ve said everything about ants that I could possibly – I can’t think of anything. Ants are awesome! Yay…
The film’s had quite a protracted production history, with Edgar Wright involved, and I really liked the film and I was wondering if you could talk about the changes you made to the Edgar Wright version, because he retains a screenwriting credit on the film along with Joe Cornish.
Reed: I’ll definitely start by saying I think it’s fair to say that none of us would be here and there might not even be an Ant-Man movie if it weren’t for Edgar and Joe and that should absolutely go said. The idea to make Ant-Man a heist movie structure was all Edgar and Joe. The idea of Hank Pym and Scott Lang as mentor and pupil, again that was all theirs. And also the idea of a movie that all drives towards a third act where the big battle between the good guy and the bad guy takes place in a little girl’s bedroom, that was always there from the beginning and I stand by the fact that I think that’s genius, I love it. I really came on at the same time Adam [McKay] and Paul were starting to do rewrites on the draft. And really it was taking what existed – Adam and I bonded over the fact that we were both kids who grew up reading those comics, probably untold hours alone in my bedroom reading comic books. And same for Adam. So there were some elements that had been in the comics that had not made their way into the script that we wanted to bring to it. And then I think we also wanted to sort of take that heist motif – add more, sort of the heist movie language in terms of the visual language of the movie. Then also it wasn’t lost on me that Hank Pym in the comics is such a complicated character. And we had a very complicated man playing that character. We had Michael who has made an amazing career out of playing characters I think it’s fair to say with a lot of grey area- *Douglas combs a hand through his grey hair to laughter* -and really it was to sort of just deepen that character and the idea that always appealed to me from the beginning that at the centre of this movie are two fathers and two daughters and that there was a lot of emotionality to be sort of mined from that. So Adam and Paul worked incredibly hard in doing the rewrites and then when we were in production Paul continued to work with our production writers Andrew Barrer and Gabe Ferrari, so it really was an evolution – but y’know I have to say I really think the spirit of what Edgar and Joe created from the beginning is still very much a part of the DNA of the movie. Sorry Paul, I didn’t leave much for you to say.
Rudd: No, I think you covered it all!
When creating personalities for these characters, in both acting and directing, how much inspiration did you draw from the comics, and if not the comics, other places that you drew inspiration for the personalities?
Reed: Peña, I’m not sure, were you a comic book guy?
Peña: There’s no comic book that I know called Luis. I’m portraying someone that actually lives in Chicago, he may or may not a criminal, he may or may not be in jail, I cannot say. But his name is Pablo. Actually, I have a little video.
Rudd: He may or may not have introduced himself to me at the premiere as your brother, right? That guy!
Peña: I can’t believe-! No, he’s not my brother. No, but it’s this guy, who I think is just funny…
*Michael plays an inaudible video on his phone – but the voice sounds exactly like Peña’s performance in Ant-Man, to much laughter from those on stage and in the crowd*
Rudd: Oh my god, that really is-
Peña: He’s still smiling, he’s complaining! He’s complaining and he’s totally smiling. A couple of times I think [Peyton] said ‘I think you’re going a little bit too much…’ and I’m like no, I think it’s- y’know, ‘coz he sounds like a caricature.
Reed: That was key to your character was – Luis as a character who, from the very first time we see him, some bad stuff has happened to him in his life. Obviously he’s been in prison, but y’know – his girlfriend’s left him, his mother died, his father’s been deported but he’s still so positive-
Peña: “But I got the van.”
Rudd: It’s a nice van.
Reed: But that’s such a rootable quality in a character, someone who in the face of all this adversity is so positive. And I think that’s something that we really throughout the course of making the movie developed because Peña was so good and so funny and involved-
Peña: I mean it’s just this guy is literally like, you can’t make this guy up. I remember maybe five years ago I saw him and I was like “hey, what’d you do this weekend?” and he was like *mock Pablo impression with a big smile on his face* “Oh I went to jail dawg.” Who does-!? Y’know.
Rudd: The idea of Scott doing everything that he does for his daughter is from the comics. That’s the imprint we used for the film. Y’know that said when we were working on the movie and writing the script an’ all that it’s kind of thinking of it as its own thing. I think both Adam and I felt like if we ever veered too far from something that doesn’t make sense in the Marvel Universe or something that isn’t true to the comic, or true to these characters that have been created, that they would rein us back in.
Douglas: Well I was not a comic guy, or kid, growing up. So I didn’t know anything about this. They were kind enough to send me the script of Ant-Man along with a leatherbound copy of two years of Ant-Man comics which I could digest. So we talked like two-dimensionally about superhero movies when in reality I was looking through these comics, and my goodness there’s Hank Pym, very brilliant scientist, warrior, created this incredible factory/building, the Pym Foundation/Technologies, all of this, wife was involved with him, lost her – there was more backstory for Hank Pym than any of the so-called reality movies I might have done so I had a pretty good blueprint to follow.
Another question for Michael, had you read many comics in your childhood? What did you read when you were very young? What was your experience making the movie and your impression of after you had finished?
Douglas: I guess I was at the cusp of that television audience so I did not go into my room to read comics, I watched The Lone Ranger, I watched Hop-Along and Cassidy, I watched Howdy-Doody, I was a black-and-white television fiend back there growing up. That’s how I remember most of that, other than that the books were more like Treasure Island and Tom Sawyer and that type. I was very excited about this opportunity when they came to me because I had never done anything in this milieu, y’know my entire career is contemporary-based, not by choice, I guess just by characters. All except for one in forty years is contemporary, never did an effects movie. I was also a producer so I was just really curious how this whole thing went together and [I’ve] got tremendous respect for Peyton y’know, in keeping all these pieces together. As we were filming all together as actors, there were the units doing special effects, there were stunts, and there were also just people doing ant point-of-views! Which is pretty phenomenal, the picture, and to be able to juggle all those pieces together was quite impressive. So I enjoyed the experience and also have a great appreciation for actors who work with green screen because there ain’t anythin’ there! Talk about playing make believe. Peyton was very good in terms of showing you what it would look like, so you get that impression of, y’know, you weren’t really over-acting, and all of that would be in place. And Paul was an anchor for the entire picture. He maintained- he was steady as can be, made all the other actors around him welcome, he gave himself a lot of good lines…
…but he’s entitled to that!
Rudd: I never really thought about that until you said it! Did I!? I didn’t mean to! Thank you Michael.
Paul and Michael, were you comic book aficionados growing up, did you read Marvel stuff, did you read other things?
Reed: Or did you have real lives?
Rudd: Nope, I didn’t! Yeah, I had comics, and I had some Marvel comics but I was a casual reader. There was a while I think I was kind of into the Hulk. Primarily because of the television show really.
Peña: Oh yeah, that was awesome. It was Lou Ferrigno.
Rudd: Yeah. And so I read some of the superhero comics and some of the Marvel comics. I read more English comics actually. My aunt and uncle would send me these comics from here called Beano and The Dandy.
[Laughter from the British press]
And I grew up with those characters. And I was into, y’know, like Roger the Dodger and stuff like that.
[More laughter in recognition of the character]
So I probably read more of those than Marvel comics, and also Archie.
Peña: I didn’t really… I grew up, like, poor.
Douglas: The question is, did you grow up?
Peña: Did I grow up? No, sir.
My kid’s gonna be seven years old, and I started reading comics to him when he was one – not anything like, The Punisher–
-but they have it on a really good gradient, y’know, with really kid-friendly stories. And now I’m still reading him – and he knows everything about the Marvel world. And before I left to go do Ant-Man he says “Da-da? Don’t mess it up.”
A question for my ten-year-old son for all four of you; he would like to know, if you could be any insect, what would you be, and why would you be that insect?
Reed: I think I’d be a Praying Mantis.
Douglas: Ah that’s what I was gonna say!
Reed: Sorry! Some people say that I somewhat look like a Praying Mantis, that would be my answer. Sorry Michael.
Douglas: Ah man, that was right on cue. I’ll be a Ladybug because everybody’s happy to see ya.
Rudd: A lightning bug, a firefly.
Peña: SH*T! *bangs table in frustration* That’s what I was gonna say man! I was literally catching fireflies in Chicago last week, thanks buddy.
Rudd: Mike, take it. I’ll think of something else. What do you want?
Peña: I’ll be a lightning bug.
Rudd: I’ll be a Praying Mantis.
It’s a question for Paul, I was wondering if you could tell us about the physical aspects of the role and how long you had to prepare and what you went through to get into such good shape for playing Ant-Man?
Peña: You’re asking about his abs.
Rudd: I didn’t do anything fun for a year.
I ate no carbs. Or sugar. I basically made health and fitness the focus of my day. For a long time. I would work out with a trainer, I worked with a guy that was teaching me tumbling, and flips, and things like that .I was eating a lot of protein, and vegetables, and I was eating at very specific times of the day. And I didn’t drink any alcohol. And I was miserable to be around for about a year.
No, I liked it. Actually I found that- I enjoyed having the focus. I knew I was going to have to be held accountable so that made it a little easier but I had never done anything like that before to that extreme and having the majority of my day built around that instead of making fitness something I try and work in on the side while I went about my day was really kind of great. I woke up very early in the morning, I felt really good, I had lots of energy. It helped me also just get in the mindset of this character, I figured if I’m in really good shape I would feel like less of an impostor in the role.
Reed: Paul, would you take your shirt off for us here today?
Who wants to see that?
As we reach the end of the first iteration of Marvel heroes, does that add an element of pressure to you going in as one of the newer breed of heroes?
I don’t really think in those terms. There’s so many external pressures that you can feel if you think about it for five minutes. I just worry about what I’m dealing with in the moment, I wanna try and be believable in this part, focus on this. I have no idea what the future holds, I’m excited about it… I’m interested in playing this part in whatever way Marvel sees fit I suppose. But I don’t think in those terms really.
Peña: But I also think he was a founding member of the Avengers, wasn’t he? Ant-Man? *Peña sniffs in a combative way and clears his throat*
Peña: Walk it off, bro. Walk it off.
Both Michaels, neither of you get to wear the Ant-Man suit in this movie. So… next time maybe?
Douglas: Well who’s to say I wasn’t wearing it? I myself saw me coming on a missile, heading right for a big city, so I could easily have been in there. Maybe it was a blur because it was coming so fast. Listen, after seeing myself CGI’d in the beginning of the movie, thirty years younger, which was incredible because it was – one of the scenes we were looping the lines, and Peyton said, “you’ll get a kick out of this” because they’d completed half of it – there’s a scene at the beginning of the movie, and I had these little dots all over my face, and I’m looking at it – and halfway through the scene *makes ringing sound* it just appeared, and there I was, thirty years ago. Oh man. Romancing the Stone.
Rudd: By the way I watched that, two days ago it was on TV. “Oh my gosh this is great!”. So cool. So great to see that again.
Douglas: I’m thinkin’, I’m all for a prequel myself!
Reed: Michael may have actually enquired about purchasing the company that did that.
[More laughter – this was an extremely funny press conference!]
And Michael would you wanna don that suit?
Peña: It’d be great to wear that suit, probably not after Paul. Not right after Paul.
Rudd: Makes sense.
Reed: We would have it cleaned for you.
Peña: Thank you buddy I appreciate it! Swapping suits…
Mr Reed, Does your heist movie signal a trend in the Marvel Universe going forward, more of a sub-genre style of film. Secondly you mentioned the comics you read when you were younger, can you tell me some of your favourite stories?
Reed: With the first question, I don’t know if this signals a change in Marvel. I think they’ve always done these sorts of sub-genres and I think that’s one of the things that keeps the Marvel movies so interesting. If you look at last year – Captain America: The Winter Soldier owes to kind of a 70s political thriller, like a paranoia thriller. And Guardians of the Galaxy, which came out the same year, is this crazy Gonzo space opera. And our movie happens to have the structure and feel of a heist movie and I think that’s one of the things that Marvel’s really done is… y’know sometimes you’ll talk to Kevin Feige [Marvel Producer extraordinaire – Ed.] and he’s like, we don’t make superhero movies, we make genre movies. And I think that’s been a very smart thing. In terms of the second thing, in terms of the comics, I always loved the original Hank Pym, right around ’62 on up, the original Avengers comics. I love the relationship between Hank and Janet [van Dyne, The Wasp], the fact that they were an amazing superhero duo, but also the romance between those two characters was always fascinating. Then also the fact that Hank Pym- there’s a little bit of schizophrenia and maybe a little bit of an inferiority complex, because in The Avengers he was fighting alongside Thor and Hulk and he always felt inadequate and as we know in the comics he changed his identity a lot and I always found that fascinating. So those early years to me were great.
The Marvel movies always have quite a light touch to them, but this in particular is extremely funny. Is this something you guys are gonna continue with? Is Ant-Man gonna stay lighter? Or are you gonna go darker maybe?
Peña: Where’s Kevin Feige?
Reed: Listen I’m hoping that audiences will respond to this movie, and if we’re fortunate enough to make another Ant-Man movie, I think there’s a lot of story left to tell with these characters and I think there’s also a freedom at Marvel, to kind of tonally, do whatever we think is best, what serves the story best. So this one happens to be a highly comedic heist movie in terms of its structure and tone. I think there’s a portion of Ant-Man that will always have a comedic component to it. But I like the idea that we could invent an entirely different field for a sequel if we’re fortunate enough to be able to do one.
Rudd: Ant-Man 2 will be like a Bergman film.
Very quiet. Very serious.
Reed: We’re gonna do black and white. We’re gonna shoot in Sweden. And it’s gonna be all about God’s silence.
Douglas: In acknowledgement of Evangeline Lily, who’s not with us today, who’s 8 months preggers…
Douglas: Preggers *clears throat*. For those of you who stayed till the very end of the credits, I thought there was a little taste of what might be coming.
What themes you’d like to explore in Ant-Man 2? Where would you like to take your specific characters? Let’s start with Michael.
Peña: Ah man, I really thought it was for [Paul], I wasn’t paying attention.
I personally would like- of course, if you’re in a Marvel movie you wanna be some kind of superhero and y’know, but who knows. But it’s all up to Marvel.
Rudd: Yeah I don’t know. I’ve had thoughts of where it could go, things that might happen… But it’s so embryonic, and I’ve had no conversations with anybody about it. I don’t know. But like Peyton said I’d be thrilled to get the opportunity to start exploring some of that.
Douglas: I have no comment, I don’t know anything. I signed on for this one… I wish we had Kevin Feige…
Peña: He wouldn’t say anything either though!
Peña: He’d blame it on Marvel.
Reed: I think we get to the end of this movie and there are lot of questions at the end of movie about what may or may not happen to these characters. In terms of Scott Lang, he’s become Ant-Man for the purposes of this heist, but what next, y’know? There are definitely some hints in the movie, and we also know that Paul is gonna appear as Scott Lang in Captain America: Civil Warwhich is very exciting. And if you could have heard Paul’s voice when he finished his first day of shooting – you were very excited!
Rudd: I was, well I saw Iron Man in person.
And Captain America. It was weird, it made this whole thing seem real in a way it wasn’t even real for all of us. I think we were kinda shooting in a bubble when we did this and then it’s like *whispers* “Oh my God! I’ve seen all of them in the movies”.
Reed: Also, I’ll speak for Evangeline who’s not here, but Hope’s arc in this movie is every bit as important as Scott’s. Towards the end of the movie [it looks like] she’s gonna finally have a chance to be a hero as well. And I think that’s exciting to imagine what might happen with her. As far as Hank Pym, given the things that happen in this movie, he’d been obsessed in the past with exploring the quantum realm and trying to figure out if he could save his wife and wasn’t able to, but there’s that happen at the end of the movie that might reignite that obsession and it remains to be seen if that’s a good thing, or a bad thing, who knows-
Douglas: I think that’s a good thing.
Close-Up Film: This question is for Paul; I was wondering – Captain America: Civil War, what’s the scale gonna be like? How much war is there gonna be in Civil War?
Rudd: There’s a lot of war, but it’s a… civil war. To an extreme.
Chris Hewitt: And on that bombshell, thank you so much for coming, thanks for your questions.
Ant-Man is in cinemas now.
- With the release of Everyone’s Going To Die, Simon Childs Chats To The Jones Collective
- Housebound (15) | Home Ents Review