Ant-Man is Marvel’s latest superhero movie, but its director Peyton Reed pulled off some heroics just to get it into existence. Stepping in to replace Edgar Wright, who parted ways with Marvel eight years into the production of the film in May 2014, the script was re-written by Adam McKay and the film’s star, Paul Rudd. In this new heist caper, con-man Scott Lang (Rudd) is armed with a super-suit that gives him the astonishing ability to shrink to the size of a bug but increase in strength, and he must find his inner hero to help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) pull off a scam that will save the world. We caught up with the film’s director to find out how the brave small world of Ant-Man was created.
How much of a Marvel fan are you?
I grew up as the classic Marvel comic nerd, and when I was reading comics as a kid there was very much a dividing line of Marvel and DC. What I liked about Marvel comics was the attitude they had. I also liked how they created this interlocking universe in the Marvel comics realm where you could be reading The Incredible Hulk and Captain America would show up in that comic-book, or you’d read Iron Man and Spider-Man would show up in that. I knew the Ant-Man characters inside and out – the Hank Pym version, the Scott Lang version – and I definitely had feelings about those characters. I think when you grow up a comic-book kid, you have your own personal relationship with those characters and in the movie version I had clear ideas about what I wanted to see.
What was it about Paul Rudd that made him right for the part of Scott Lang/Ant-Man?
Paul Rudd is like an insurance policy – a really charismatic insurance policy. One of the great things about Paul is he’s mostly known now for his comedic roles and people forget what an incredible dramatic actor he is. Paul got in amazing shape for the movie and at the beginning we present him as this guy who can hold his own in a prison fight. But we also like the idea of an Indiana Jones-like guy who gets pummelled but comes back for more. He’s a very scrappy character.
Tell us about how you approached the shrinking effects.
This is a shrinking movie at its core. And there’s a long history of cinematic movies from The Incredible Shrinking Man to Honey I Shrunk the Kids, but this had to be 2015’s version of a shrinking movie and by that it means the bar is very, very high in terms of technology. It’s got to look photorealistic. We used a combination of motion picture macrophotography, still macrophotography, motion capture with the actors, motion capture with the stunt people, and then for every set we would build these miniature sets, called macro sets. Because if you’re down small with Ant-Man, and he’s running across a floor or running through a carpet, I wanted to feel those textures and make it really tactile.
Was it important to put the actors on the green screen and have them physically doing things?
There’s nothing worse to me in a movie like this than when you feel disconnected from the heroes when they’re in their suits to the point where you don’t relate the actor to that thing that’s flying around. So it was important to have Paul Rudd and Corey Stoll in these motion-capture suits in front of a screen, doing motion-capture photography, so that it would be their movement and when you see the masks, it would be their faces, their eyes. My biggest fear early on was what we were going to do in the full-scale live-action stuff. When they shrink down it suddenly can’t become a Pixar movie. I love Pixar movies but it’s a certain aesthetic. This had to look photorealistic and that was one of the biggest drums that I kept beating.
Where does Hank Pym fit in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
In the Marvel comic world, Hank Pym is one of the elder statesmen. To have Michael Douglas play Pym was a dream come true. When you see the movie, you’re going to experience Pym’s attitude about the Starks and he may have some very strong feelings about The Avengers too.
Have you upset purist Marvel fans with your use of the Yellowjacket identity in this film?
In the Marvel Comics world, Hank Pym became Yellowjacket, in our movie Hank Pym is not Yellowjacket. It’s his former protégé Darren Cross who becomes Yellowjacket. Some die-hard comic fans might raise eyebrows about that, but I think once they see the movie they’ll be psyched about it. To those who love the idea of Hank Pym being Yellowjacket in the comics, it really is almost like the darker part of Pym’s psyche now has control of this technology and that’s definitely the story that we’re telling.
What can audiences look forward to in Marvel’s Ant-Man?
I wanted this to be a movie that’s, in a lot of ways, a bit of a palate cleanser after something like Avengers: Age of Ultron, which is amazing and huge and giant with tremendous scope. But now we’re telling a story about a guy who lives in San Francisco, finds a suit, and shrinks down, so by its nature the scale is smaller, but it absolutely delivers all the action of the other Marvel movies – just on a tiny scale.
Ant-Man is out in cinemas across Dubai from Thursday July 30.