This is the hardest part of my job; how do you write a post introduction explaining the feeling of being in the same room with Ant-Man director Peyton Reed and the president of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige?
These gentlemen, largely due to Marvel and Marvel movies, have advanced their status from Gods of the Geeks to admired by peers and movie-goers everywhere. Where once their names would be associated with ComicCon and graphic novels, they’ve now become household names – and not just among men!
Last month, I had the opportunity to sit down with Peyton Reed and Kevin Feige to talk about Marvel’s newest superhero, Ant-Man, what attracted them to the project, and what the hardest part about the film was to make.
Q: Ant-Man is a Marvel superhero that is meant to be more humorous compared to others in the past; what was that like, or how was it different for you?
Peyton Reed: “Well, I think that was one of the things that appealed to me about it in the first place was that, particularly in the context of Marvel movies, it was sort of a smaller, more intimate Marvel movie and it did kind of revolve around family. For Scott Lang, his one goal in the movie is – when he gets out of prison – to become a part of his daughter’s life. That’s it, that’s all he wants. And it’s a really strong, relatable personal goal. Of course, he has to go on a crazy journey and achieve a lot of crazy things to become a part of her life, but that’s it.
I also liked that it was always a part of the movie that, you know, Michael Douglas and Paul Rudd’s characters both have daughters and they both have kind of strange relationships. They want to be closer to their daughter and I like that that’s sort of a bond that they have. They may not realize that that’s their bond at all, but it is. And with Hank Pym and Hope, it’s crucial to the success of pulling off this heist they have to repair that relationship. They’re never gonna achieve that goal unless they find some peace with each other; I loved that.
I thought that was just a really strong relatable aspect about the movie. In terms of the comedy, you know, I love the idea that it can have big stakes and have heart but it’s funny and I really… I like the idea, I wanted to make it sort of a tight, fun movie that hopefully is a repeat movie going experience that makes you feel good and it’s fun. And in particular when you have Paul Rudd at the center of it, you know it’s gonna be funny.”
Q: This is a pretty big departure from a lot of the types of movies that you typically direct and what’s it like directing something like this?
Reed: “Well, it’s a kind of movie that I’ve wanted to do for a really long time and technically, it’s a big departure. There are, I think, 1600 visual effects in the movie; it’s a big deal in that regard. But it really is what Marvel does extremely well. I mean, we have Jake Morrison who’s our Visual Effects Supervisor. I spent a lot of time with him and sort of talking about the look of the movie and the realism that we wanted. We were gonna be doing what’s hopefully the definitive “shrinking movie” for 2015 [laughs]. And we really wanted it to – unless there are other shrinking movies that I don’t know about – but, you know, it had to look as photorealistic as possible.
And it really had to put the viewer down in that environment. When he shrinks down, we were gonna be shrinking the audience down with him. And what would that look like and feel like and how are we gonna achieve that? I wanted, you know, if he’s running across a table, I wanted to really feel like the texture of the table and all that. Marvel just happens to employ the top people in Hollywood for doing that and it was a huge education for me in that regard and I loved it. It’s amazing and the stuff that they are able to pull off is, it’s kind of mind-boggling.”
Q: When we will see Hawkeye and Ant Man join forces?
Kevin Feige: “That’s a great image, I love that image; usually images I love find their way into movies. So…”
Reed: “That is one of the things like. When I started on Ant-Man, I was just pouring through the old comic books and finding images that I loved as a kid, or that appeal to me now, like “Oh that’s a cool use of the power – that’s gotta find its way into the movie.” And those are the kinds of images that are really iconic and I think some of the first Ant-Man things he had in his headquarters a slingshot system where “How does Ant-Man get across town?” and it literally was like some kind of a rubber band that did not find its way into the movie. But I–– I love those kinds of things.”
Q: As Ant-Man is essentially a heist movie, what did you use for inspiration in directing it?
Reed: “I actually did go back and look at a bunch of heist movies – Oceans Eleven and Thomas Crown Affair and things like that. But there’s a certain rhythm that these heist movies have and they’re tropes that appear in these movies. But I wanted to be really kinetic have a lot of movement to it. And I think there is a big correlation between how a comedy plays and how you shoot a comedy to how you build tension. It was something that was always there in the original scripts; Edgar [Wright] and Joe [Cornish] wrote where it was a heist movie structure and there’s something really really fun about that.
When Adam McKay and Paul Rudd came on to write we really wanted to sort of enhance that and we had a lot of fun with, you know, we knew there was gonna be a moment where Scott Lang was gonna be tempted to go back into a life of crime. And he had to know that the tip was solid so he goes to Michael Peña he goes, “Tell me about that tip.” Now, if you ask Louis about a tip it might not be a straight answer, you know. We loved the idea and we sort of added, in pre-production as we were writing, this is a fun element of a guy who sometimes goes off point as he tells these stories. And it also kinda helped build Michael Peña’s character as this guy who, he has this unsuspected depth to him, you know, he’s a connoisseur of wines and he’s into expressionist art and he–– he cooks waffles for the guy.
I love the idea of how crazy that was. But the heist movie idea was, it was a fun structure to work in. And something that came about was in all the heist movies, they’ve got the plan in place; everything’s in place but I think it was Adam McKay who came in and said, “What if that required Ant-Man, who’s not quite prepared, to go in and maybe face this other Marvel character? I loved that idea immediately! I thought that idea…I thought that was fantastic. As a kid, Marvel characters meet each other and how does this power stack up with this one? And so that was something that was incredibly fun to shoot in the movie and really sort of served the purpose in the plot. He’s thrown into this way before he’s ready to come up against the guy.”
Q: When creating these films, how do you incorporate things to get women more involved and excited about the film, as well?
Feige: “Well, I think all of our movies appeal to both. And I think people still feel – this is our 12th movie so I’m not sure why it still seems surprising – but in test screenings oftentimes the movies are rated higher by women in the audience than by men. So when people go, “Oh, you know, women don’t usually like these kind of movies,” I go, “Well, that’s not true.” I mean, there are men that don’t like them, but [women] really are a huge, huge portion of the fan base now. I don’t know that we sit and go, “Okay how do we make the movie work for us, frankly.” Because we want to make movies that we want to go see, as Peyton I think said earlier.
But we want to see powerful women because we all have powerful women in our lives. That’s the way of the world. So when it comes to Hope, it was a big part of the development of the movie, in particular when Peyton came on board and when Evangeline was about to come on board, the big question was, “Well, why isn’t she in the suit?” She could easily be in the suit. She is, clearly in the movie, more capable than Scott Lang is to be in the suit.
And it became the crux of her issues with her dad and her issues with the way that he… that the relationship they had growing up and why it becomes a big reveal in the movie. This is why I’m so adamant about it, leading up to the moment at the very end of the movie where he gets over those issues and she says – which I think is one of my favorite quotes of any of our films – “It’s about damn time.”
Reed: “I love the idea that the key to Hank Pym’s problem about playing off this heist and solving it was right under his nose the whole time like, clearly Hope is the more capable person at the beginning of the movie and Hank can’t see that yet. In his mind his motivation is, he’s trying to protect his daughter; he doesn’t want her to meet a fate that his wife might’ve met in the movie. So he’s being a little overprotective. And throughout the course of the movie, as I said, that heist is not gonna work unless these two find peace with each other and part of that finding peace is Hank starting to realize how capable she is.
And so, by the time we get to the end of the movie, there’s a sequence that occurs in the credits but, both figuratively and literally, she’s finally allowed to spread her wings and it’s because her dad finally realizes that she has value and he’s sorta able to let go and accept that she’s a powerful person. But, there is a version where if Hank had been a little more enlightened in the first act, it would’ve been a 10 or 15 minute movie.”
Q: What finally motivated you to make Ant-Man?
Reed: “I’d wanted to do this kind of movie for a long time and then, specifically, I had wanted to do a Marvel movie for a long time. Years ago – too many years, probably 2003 – I developed Fantastic Four for a time and that’s where I first met Kevin. I did not end up doing that movie, but it was something that I really wanted to do and I actually came in and pitched on Guardians of the Galaxy, so when Ant-Man came about, when the opportunity came up, I really jumped at the chance. I knew the character from the comics, I had wanted to work with Paul Rudd for a long time, I had known Paul, and we had never had a chance to work together, so it just made sense. And I think when I came in and met with Kevin, about what I would like to do with the movie, and as a fan, what I wanted to see in the movie, I really feel like we were of like mind about what the movie could be.”
Q: What would you say was the most challenging about filming Ant-Man?
Reed: “Paul Rudd’s shirtless scene was very challenging. As strange as it was to watch him work out, to sit and have a really nice lunch and watch him eat one almond for lunch – no, but probably the most challenging thing was essentially Ant-Man has a couple of powers; how are we gonna realize the shrinking and make it seem absolutely real? But the second power, he controls ants. I was intrigued by that story-wise about how it’s absurd as a power and I loved that the movie really answers the audience’s question about, “Well, how can that be cool?” or “How can that achieve anything?”
And I loved that we were able to tell the story of, you know, there are these distinct types of ants and they have specific skill sets. And they’re all based in reality. I love that a kid can see the movie and he’s like, “Oh a carpenter ant, how could that happen?” They go on Wikipedia or they read a book about them and it’s all based in fact and, you know, how do these fire ants – they make rope ladders and they can make bridges and they actually can. That would’ve appealed to me as a kid, but that was a big challenge is, how we create these ants and make them seem like real ants, give them specific qualities and characters.”