Peyton Reed is funny, humble, well-spoken, and clearly excited about his work on the project. He reminded me of James Gunn and his excitement working on Guardians of the Galaxy when I interviewed him last summer. Peyton was like a kid in a candy store. Every thing he talked about elicited a big smile, a boyish grin showing all the love he has for the Ant-Man project.
Peyton and Kevin chatted with us for 15 minutes about the heist theme, the fun of directing such a humorous Marvel movie, character development, their favorite ants, challenging scenes, and the Wasp.
FYI This post contains spoilers, specifically Wasp spoilers. You've been warned.
On Ant-Man being a more humorous Marvel film
Peyton: 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. Scott Lang, his one goal in the movie, when he gets out of prison is 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. You know, 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.
And I also liked that it was always a part of the movie that 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 daughters. I like that there’s sort of a bond that they have. They may not realize that’ 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. And I loved that. I thought that was just a really strong relatable aspect about the movie.
In terms of the comedy, I love the idea that it can have big stakes and have heart, but it's funny, and 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's gonna be funny.
On being a departure from the types of movies that Peyton Reed typically directs and what's it like directing something like this and joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Peyton: 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 there are over 1600 visual effects in the movie, it's a big deal in that regard. But it really is what Marvel does extremely well. 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, unless there are other shrinking movies that I don't know about, 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 and how are we gonna achieve that? 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, but I loved it. It was amazing, and the stuff that they are able to pull off, it's kind of mind-boggling.
On Hawkeye and Ant-Man Joining Forces
Kevin: That's a great image, I love that image, usually images I love find their way into movies.
Peyton: 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 in 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 love those kinds of things.
On inspiration for the heist angle
Peyton: 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 sort of, they're sort of tropes that appear in these movies. But I wanted to be really kinetic and 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 that Edgar and Joe wrote where it was a heist movie structure and there's something really, really fun about that.
And, when Adam McKay and Paul Rudd came on to write, I really wanted to sort of enhance that, and we had a lot of fun. 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 Luis about a tip, it might not be a straight answer. We loved the idea, and we sort of added that 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 kind of helped build Michael Peña's character as this guy who he has this unsuspected depth to him, he's a connoisseur of wines and he's into expressionist art and he cooks waffles for the guy.
I love the idea of how crazy that was. But the heist movie idea, it was a fun structure to work in. Also something that came about was in all the heist movies, they've got the plan in place, everything's in place but, ‘Oh no, there's just one element that we still have to get,’ and 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?” And I loved that idea immediately; I thought that idea was fantastic. As a kid, I loved when 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 of ‘he's thrown into this way before he's ready to come up against the guy he comes up against.
On finding ways to get women excited for Marvel films
Kevin: I think all of our movies have 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 the women in the audience than by the men. So when people go, “Oh, you know, these, 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, there are women that [don’t], but it really is 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, and as Peyton said earlier at the press conference, but we want to see the 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 that we've made 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 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.”
Peyton: 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; 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, 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 sort of able to let go and accept that she's a powerful person. So 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 movie.
On what drew Peyton to want to direct Ant-Man
Peyton: Well, as I said, 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. And 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, and 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. I think when I came in and met with Kevin, about kind of “what I would like to do with the movie,” 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.
On what was the biggest challenge for Peyton on the film
Peyton: 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. Um, no but probably the most challenging thing was essentially Ant-Man has a couple of powers, shrinking. 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 it's so 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 there are these distinct types of ants, and they have specific skill sets. And they're all based on 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 on fact and 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.
I think specifically with the character of Antony we talked a lot about: “Can we create a Lone Ranger/Silver dynamic?” as Roy Rogers is with Ant-Man? ‘Cause in the comics, that's one of the big iconic images is Ant Man on the wings of a carpenter ant and it's pretty, it's a potentially kind of silly thing, but we wanted to make it real and like really cool and maybe go further, and what if they had this kind of nice relationship, and then what if something happened to poor Ant-Man, I mean, it really appealed to us about creating a real sort of relationship between these two, and I loved that we were able to do that.
On their favorite ant type
Peyton: Yeah I'm a big Bullet Ant fan.
Kevin: Paraparaponata. Number 1 on the Schmidt Pain scale.
Peyton: Yeah, exactly. Paraparaponata. I love them just because they look amazing. You know, they're like these sort of armored tanks, and there's something prehistoric looking about them. But then like there's the painting, there's real documentaries if you go on YouTube there's an Australian guy who does these travel shows and is like, [in an Australian accent] “I've heard so much about how painful the sting can be. I'm going to be bit by one of these things.” And he puts his hand, they have a ceremony where there's a glove and there are bullet ants in it and you have to put your hand in it and it's this rite of passage.
Kevin: It goes wrong.
Peyton: It goes wrong but, I mean, it's instantly painful but the pain lasts for hours and, I mean, he's shivering and sweating and they have to give him adrenaline, but go on YouTube and it's there, but yeah, that appealed to me.
Marvel’s ANT-MAN, one of the original members of the Avengers, makes his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut this summer following the global, critical and box office success of AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. ANT-MAN stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Douglas and is in theaters everywhere!
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ANT-MAN opens in theaters everywhere!