Casting for Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man is fully underway, ahead of the production getting started this spring to make a July 2015 release. Back in December 2013, it was announced that Paul Rudd (Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues) will be starring in the movie, following months-old rumors that the funnyman was in the running for Edgar Wright’s film – appropriately, given how the oddball nature of the property and Wright’s cheeky directorial style welcome an equally charming, yet offbeat leading man.

Yesterday, we received unexpected confirmation from Marvel that two-time Oscar-winner Michael Douglas has also joined the Ant-Man cast. The actor (fresh off his Golden Globe win for portraying Liberace in Behind the Candelabra) will play elder Hank Pym; in traditional (or something like that) Ant-Man comic book lore, Pym is a scientist who is responsible for inventing the Ant-Man technology, which is eventually stolen by good-natured criminal Scott Lang (Rudd).

The Wrap is asserting that Michael Pena has been offered a role in Ant-Man and that he is interested. For the time being, though, Marvel has denied that he is in negotiations for the project – the first installment in “Phase 3″ of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, after Avengers: Age of Ultron completes “Phase 2.”

Of course, a studio denial such as this doesn’t carry much weight (especially coming from the ultra-secretive Marvel), seeing how other reputable publications (like THR) have likewise gone ahead and proclaimed that Pena has started early talks for Ant-Man; all in all, it’s fair to assume that the actor (if nothing else) is circling a role. As for what that role might be: insiders describe Pena’s character as “a ‘tough Latino’ who has to be ready for a lot of physical play,” and are reporting that Oscar-winner Javier Bardem (The Counselor) and character actor Clifton Collins Jr. (Pacific Rim) were also considered.

Pena, like Douglas, is someone whose involvement with Ant-Man lends the Marvel project greater artistic credibility; he’s done broad comedies and blockbusters (30 Minutes or Less, Battle Los Angeles), but Pena tends to stick to dramatic fare – Million Dollar Baby, Crash and End of Watch – in addition to collaborations with auteur-types like Oliver Stone (World Trade Center) and Davis O. Russell (American Hustle).

Furthermore, Wright’s Ant-Man looks to keep the Marvel Studios’ brand moving in an interesting direction, by expanding the studios’ boundaries to encompass more unusual comic book/superhero properties in the build-up to characters like Doctor Strange and possibly The Inhumans becoming residents of the MCU in “Phase 3.” Of course, it won’t do it alone, seeing how this summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy will be first to test whether or not audiences will turnout in large numbers for a “weird” lesser-known comic adaptation.

The next step in casting for Wright’s movie will be to secure a female lead, with the list of actresses rumored as being – or having been – under consideration including Rashida Jones (Rudd’s former costar in I Love You, Man) and Bryce Dallas Howard; the latter is very unlikely, though, as she’s already committed to working on a little film called Jurassic World (a.k.a. Jurassic Park 4), which begins principal photography shortly after the Ant-Man production process starts up.

Marvel Studios will release Captain America: The Winter Soldier in theaters on April 4th, 2014, followed by Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1st, 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1st, 2015, Ant-Man on July 31st 2015, and unannounced films on May 6th, 2016, July 8th, 2016 and May 5th, 2017.

Source: The Wrap, THR