During the press event for the in-home release of Marvel’s Ant-Man, I had the privilege of speaking with the director of the film, Peyton Reed. In the interview below, Reed talks about the family tone of the film, script changes, fitting Ant-Man into the MCU and even talks about the Ant-Man sequel a bit.
Chris “the Scoop” Salce: As far as the tone of the film, it’s very different than any of the other Marvel films other than ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, which was pretty much a family film in a lot of ways. When did you decide on the tone of the film for Ant-Man and how did you decide to go with that tone?
Peyton Reed: Well I think that tone was generally in all the drafts from Edgar’s [Wright] and Joe’s [Cornish] drafts. It was always designed as a heist movie and a comedy but also as a Marvel-style action movie. I think the trick of it totally was making sure that they all were woven together organically because the family aspect of it was important, the dual father and daughter stories. But the tone of it, I think of it from the get go was like you said, had more of a foot in the Guardians world, was a little more comedic than some of the other Marvel movies and I like that. That was very much in line with what I like to do but at the same time, it takes the character and the world very seriously. It was never designed to be a grim dark version of Ant-Man.
Chris: When you first got attached to the film, did you guys rewrite most of the script that Wright did or did you go with most of what was already in the script?
Peyton: There was a substantial amount of rewrite that we did. I think that when Adam McKay and Paul [Rudd] came on to rewrite, there were a couple of drafts before that, Eric Pearson and Callahan I think did one, but yeah…we changed a substantial amount. I think the DNA, the basic structure, stayed pretty intact. The basic idea of Hank Pym being the mentor and Scott Lang being the pupil, stayed intact.
Chris: What is the reason that Marvel and Disney wanted to go more with Scott Lang as the center of the film rather than Hank Pym? To most people, Hank Pym is more known as the Ant-Man. It was almost a surprise to fans when Marvel announced that it would be more about Scott Lang.
Peyton: I think that was Edgar’s idea. What Edgar Wright had originally pitched was you know…cause’ I think Edgar had grown up with that introduction of Scott Lang in 1979. I think that was more of the Ant-Man, but you’d have to ask him, that he was more familiar with, and it made sense to those guys, Edgar and Joe, to make it a dual story, like have a passing of the torch, which I think was a fantastic idea.
Chris: Right. It almost tells like four or five stories in one story, so it was very complexed and layered.
Peyton: Yeah, there’s a lot, a lot to set up in the movie and Paul and I talk about that on the audio commentary a lot, about how we had to set up Hank Pym and the discovery of the Pym particle, his past with S.H.I.E.L.D., the fact that they betrayed him and then we had to set up Scott Lang as a thief and what happened with him and he’s estranged from his family and then Hope and how she came to work with him, and then Darren Cross. There’s just so much stuff to set up you know, and also the powers of the suit and everything. So that was probably the single biggest challenge of the screenplay and the movie itself was how to do that briskly and in an entertaining way for the audience.
Chris: As far as the design of the Ant-Man suit, the helmet is pretty similar to what we have seen in the comics but the suit is pretty different than the traditional Ant-Man suit. How many designs do you think you went through before ultimately choosing the one you went with?
Peyton: Marvel has this amazing visual developmental department and they do all these beautiful preproduction paintings and explorations and I think that’s one of the real secret weapons of why Marvel has been so successful because it’s not real easy take these costumes and make them come to life in a movie. In the comics, they are mostly you know…tights and really vibrant colors and everything, and the movies have to make them functional, the actors have to look good in them and they have to make sense. They have their own eternal logic about how they work. There were a lot of different versions both the helmet and of the suit, and we were augmenting it right up until we shot. Like the triggers on his hands at one point were like these big unwieldy things. Also, having fun with the idea of the Ant-Man suit was a little bit of a relic from another era, it’s a very analog suit, we kept saying. Where as like the Yellowjacket’s suit is like a twenty-first century thing that’s more digital and weaponized, we liked the contrast between those things but yeah, the Ant-Man suit is a bit more scuffed up and dented. It sort of implies this whole history that Hank had with it.
Chris: How excited where you to be a part of this film? It’s sort of this whole new world compared to everything that we have seen because the other Marvel films usually take place in New York and then you guys take it to San Francisco. How exciting was that for you to kind of have this whole new part of the Marvel universe?
Peyton: It was really exciting to me ’cause yeah…it expands the West Coast presence of the Marvel universe and San Francisco made sense just because of all the tech stuff going on up there. Northern California felt right. There’s this area Treasure Island, where we placed Pym’s company there. It’s actually a building we shot in Atlanta but we placed it in San Francisco but it felt right, It felt like a different corner of the Marvel universe, that we were really free to create on our own and it’s going to be fun to see how it intersects with the rest of the Marvel universe.
Chris: Did Disney and Marvel kind of give you kind of a list of what needs to happen in the film in order for it to set up the next phase?
Peyton: No actually. It really was a process of discovery and I think that they were a little more excited at the fact that Ant-Man could be a little more of a standalone movie. You know, there’s no Thanos in the movie, there’s no Infinity gem thats discovered and it could be its own thing. And the idea of Ant-Man coming up against the Falcon was something that Paul and Adam brought to the table of like it’s a heist movie and their needs to be that kind of trial by fire moment where he’s not quite trained but he’s got to go in anyway. That appealed to all of us because that’s what we all love about the comics, is the heroes going up against each other. We landed on Falcon because he felt like the right guy. We liked the idea of their powers going up against each other. That kind of led to this other plot point in the movie, sort of how in the final montage, the fact that Ant-Man has made sort of this impression on Falcon and by the time that he gets seen in the movie it’s like okay, he’s looking for him, they are looking for Scott Lang, we are not sure why yet but that was fun. That was never a mandate from Disney or Marvel, it just kind of happened organically which is kind of the cool thing about the Marvel universe is that you discover this thing on a movie and suddenly, it may affect this thing in another movie. I like that. There is stuff that’s pre-planned but there’s stuff that I think just happens organically.
Chris: What are you planning or hoping that the sequel will do? Do you guys have a script already? Do you think it’s going to be much more complexed than the first one?
Peyton: I think it’s going to be a lot more complexed than the first one. We really will start in earnest, in the writing process, in January but we have tons of notes and things we set up in the first movie and outlines but we are really going to start breaking it in January. We’re real excited because like I said, there were tons of things that we set up in the first movie and now that we are kind of freed of that, we can go to some weird places.
Chris: There’s more room for story telling…
Peyton: Yeah, exactly.
Peyton Reed seemed genuinely excited and passionate about the Ant-Man story and characters, which also makes me very excited for the sequel which will get underway in January when they start the writing process. While we try to patiently wait for the sequel, Marvel’s Ant-Man comes to Blu-ray combo pack and DVD on Dec. 8.