After nearly a decade of development, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World director Edgar Wright's entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man, had signed on a stellar core cast (Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Patrick Wilson) and secured a July, 2015 release date.
Then, just yesterday, the stunning news broke that Wright is no longer directing. Now, "what happened?" is the refrain across the electronic fanscape. After all, it was Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige who continually championed Wright's vision, citing the fan-favorite director as the "only reason we’re making the movie.”
So why has Wright suddenly left Ant-Man? Theories abound, but Latino-Review claims to have the inside story. As always, though, take it with some salt, as none of this has been corroborated with official sources.
According to El Mayimbe, Wright's departure was not a firing, as some were reporting, and had nothing to do with what certain sources were reporting as Wright's inability to get the production focused or on schedule.
In fact, the entire production had reportedly been halted by Marvel for a series of script rewrites. As told by El Mayimbe:
About 3 months ago, Marvel had notes. The meat of the notes were about the core morality of the piece, must include franchise characters. etc., These notes came from the big four at Marvel. Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright did two drafts to try and answer the notes without compromising their vision.
Six weeks ago, Marvel reportedly gave the Ant-Man script to "two very low credit writers," one of whom was part of the studio's in-house writing team. Earlier this week, Wright received the new script, described thusly:
Poorer, homogenized, and not Edgar's vision. Edgar met with Marvel on Friday to formally exit and the announcement went out directly after.
As for the cast: "it is believed they don't have the option to walk like Edgar did." This sudden about-face from Marvel was completely at odds with Feige's long-time support, but this "apparently felt like it came from the higher ups." Just who are the "big four" at Marvel? Well, Bloomberg Businessweek lists the key executives of Marvel Studios:
- Tim Conners, Chief Operating Officer
- Geoffrey Ammer, President of Worldwide Marketing and Home Entertainment
- Douglas Finberg, Executive Vice-President of International Marketing
- Kevin Feige, Co-President
- Louis D'Esposito, Co-President
Any and of all of these executives would've had a say in what happened with the Ant-Man script, provided that LR's insights turn out to be accurate. Despite Feige's inferred support, he is the main architect of Marvel's overall plans for the MCU, clear out to 2028. Artistic vision and integrity typically does not survive a collision with corporate mandate.
By now, it's no secret that Marvel has a well-documented history of butting heads with their high-profile directors. Thor director Kenneth Branagh and Captain America: The First Avenger helmer Joe Johnston did not return for the sequels and while Jon Favreau reprised his role as Happy Hogan in director Shane Black's Iron Man 3, his clashes with the studio over the Iron Man 2 script are well-known.
How much of LR's coverage is true? This report sounds fairly credible, and clearly on par with Marvel's tendency to exact overall control over its franchise properties. The Ant-Man movie may exist mainly thanks to Wright, but it now appears to be a key part of the MCU's Phase 3, with the effects of the now-filming The Avengers: Age of Ultron perhaps directly informing the standalone narrative as well as the lead-in to the next few films.
We may or may not learn Edgar Wright's or Joe Cornish's side of the story anytime soon (probably not), but the outpouring of fan support has been generous, with many across the blogosphere calling on Disney to hire Wright for a future Star Wars film, which is premature wishful thinking, even if its a good idea.
One big show of support came from The Avengers director Joss Whedon, who tweeted this single image, which speaks volumes:
— Joss Whedon (@josswhedon) May 24, 2014
With his head down and a Cornetto ice cream cone held high (a reference to Wright's "Cornetto trilogy" of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and At World's End), it's clear how Whedon feels about this development.
Marvel has promised to announce a new director for Ant-Man soon, so stay tuned for more details.
Ant-Man hits theaters on July 17, 2015.
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