Beyond the fact that it’s a film about a man who can shrink to the size of an ant, Marvel’s new film, Ant-Man, is mostly known for the departure of director Edgar Wright.
After developing Ant-Man for eight years, Wright – famous for Spaced and Shaun of the Dead – abruptly left the project in May last year, citing differences with Marvel over “their vision of the film.” The following June, it was announced that Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Yes Man) would be taking over director duties, with Anchorman co-writer Adam Mckay and Ant-Man himself, Paul Rudd, re-writing the script.
However, Edgar Wright and original script co-writer Joe Cornish are still credited with the story, and Wright’s DNA – his quick wit, his sharp visual language – clearly lives on in the final film. Which, of course, begs the question: what in Ant-Man was originally Wright’s? We sat down with Peyton Reed to find out.
Obviously, there are spoilers ahead.
The general premise
“I came on about the same time as Adam McKay and Paul Rudd were beginning to write the script,” he says. “I had gone back and read all of Edgar and Joe’s scripts, which were terrific, and it was Edgar and Joe’s idea to make it a heist film in terms of its structure and its tone. It was also their idea to create a mentor/pupil dynamic between Hank Pym and Scott Lang, just to tee off [Marvel comic it’s based on] number 47, To Steal An Ant-man. That was all Edgar and Joe.”
The tip montages
One of the most Edgar Wright aspects of Ant-Man are the two tip sequences, where Michael Pena’s Luis will tell a long-winded story of how he got a tip for a heist and every character in it is hilariously dubbed over with his voice. Except – it isn’t Edgar Wright’s.
“When Adam and I came on, we had a series of conversations about things we had loved in the comics and had not found their way into the movie, and some certain ideas that we wanted to strengthen. I also wanted to increase the heist movie language, in terms of the visuals and stuff. For example, there’s a handful of things we brought to the table – there’s the tip montages that we do with Michael Pena, where Scott Lang – needs to know about a solid tip. And the idea is that Pena got to tell this story about the tip, make sure that it’s solid, but he’s a little ADD and he goes on walking rambles. That’s something new that was never in those drafts that we brought to it.”
Stealing the suit
“In all the drafts, Scott Lang was always going to steal the suit from Hank. Adam McKay and I met with this security guy and we’re all sort of in the suite working on the script. And we were talking to the guy and we were like ‘what would you do? How would you actually break into a safe or whatever?’ and this guy was the one who introduced the idea of freezing the metal and doing all that stuff. We also wanted to add another layer of this laser activated fingerprint lock that he had to then sort of MacGuyver his way out of.”
“Michael Douglas was cast in the movie before I came aboard, and Hank Pym in the comics is a really rich and complicated character and knowing that we had Michael playing it, I wanted to really deepen that character.”
“I liked the idea that Pym could be a character in this movie motivated in the large part by guilt and tragedy and an obsession in his past, and the idea that he created this incredible technology but had mixed feelings about it in the way that I think Oppenheimer had, you know, about the use of his technology with the bomb, or even Nobel who created dynamite and when it started being a weapon, felt so guilty about it that he created the Nobel Peace Prize. We liked that idea of someone who creates this technology for positive means and how it gets co-opted and weaponised, and that was something that we added as well.”
One of Ant-Man’s surprise cameos is an Avenger, albeit one of the lesser known ones – the Falcon. It’s not his only appearance either. He re-emerges in the end credit sting to tease Ant-Man’s role in Captain America: Civil War. Was this in Wright’s script? Or something that Reed – or possibly Marvel – added in?
“I have to say that there were no requirements [from Marvel] about slotting in anybody else. The Falcon was something Adam McKay pitched early on, purely because the comic book nerd in both of us was like, ‘it would be great to see these two guys come up against each other.’ And it felt organic to the heist structure of the movie that before this big heist there’s this trial by fire where you got to send Scott in [to Avengers HQ], relatively untrained, to get this device.”
“But there was no mandate about this ever. In fact, when we decided to do that – and when we decided to get into the post-credits ending of ‘hey, the Falcon is looking for him’ – it was late in the game. As [directors] the Russos and [co-writer] Stephen McFeely were developing Captain America: Civil War, there were a lot of question marks about all the pertinent issues of ‘who’s in it? who would be on what side? could Ant-Man be a part of that?’ as we were shooting this movie. That stuff only happened later on and by that time Falcon was an organic part of our movie.”
Thomas the Tank Engine
In one of the most memorable sequences in the film, Ant-Man and Yellow Jacket have a dramatic showdown on top of a Thomas the Tank Engine toy. In answer to whether it was Wright’s idea, Reed confirms that it was.
“Yes! It was [Wright and Cornish’s] notion to have a movie that drove towards a third act battle all taking place in a little girl’s bedroom, which I thought was amazing.”
The quantum realm
In Ant-Man it’s established that if you shrink beyond the suit’s limit then you go “quantum,” which is when you shrink so small that you barely exist. It’s what happened to Hank Pym’s wife Janet (AKA the Wasp) and happens to Lang himself toward the end of the film, where he appears to enter some sort homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
“Adam McKay and I were both fascinated by the microverse in the comics, which in the movie is called the quantum realm. We liked the idea that in a movie where you have a lot of shrinking, we could get to a third act where we could take it even further.”
“We also really wanted to embrace the psychedelic era of Marvel comics that was late 60s, early 70s, and really have that represented in a movie. But we wanted to make it organic to the story so it led to this sort of notion that Scott would have to make this sacrifice to save his daughter’s life and it required setting up the ideas of quantum realm, the fact that no one could ever make it back. And of course Scott succeeds.”
“The other thing that was not really in any of those early drafts was that there was a mention of Hope’s mother, Janet, but it was important to me that she be a presence in the movie because – in the comics I grew up reading – Ant Man and Wasp were inseparable. I really liked the idea that since we had Hope (who was always in the movie), doing something with Janet and [amplifying] the loss of her mother. And then, by the end of the movie, you have the potential that she’s not dead, that she’s just lost, and maybe she could be found again.”
Marvel’s Ant-Man is out now