With credits like Netflix’s House of Cards (where he played doomed, alcoholic Congressman Peter Russo) and The Strain (where he is cast as heroic, alcoholic doctor Ephraim Goodweather) on his resume, as well as a growing number of film credits, Corey Stoll is one of the most interesting and dynamic actors to emerge in the past few years. Now he gets his chance to play a supervillain in a Marvel movie, suiting up as Darren Cross a.k.a. Yellowjacket in Ant-Man.
The one-time protégé of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), Cross now runs Pym Tech but is set on reactivating the Pym Particles technology and selling a weaponized version of the Ant-Man suit to the highest bidder. But Pym and Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) stand in his way. We spoke with Stoll about his own love of comics, playing Cross and working with the legendary Michael Douglas.
I read that you were a big comic book fan growing up. What did you read and which superhero did you want to be?
I think I started with the Marvel superhero stuff. I was really into Spider-Man and Hulk and X-Men. I think later in high school I was more into Frank Miller and Alan Moore, more interesting stuff – I mean, all that stuff is interesting, but the storytelling was a little more sophisticated.
Were you aware of the history of Yellowjacket, which is very different in the comics?
Yeah. It’s totally unrelated. It’s just the word, because Yellowjacket was pretty much just another alias of Hank Pym’s when he was a little bit more violent (laughs).
What drew you to this and appealed to you about playing Darren Cross?
I loved the sort of tension between the image he was trying to project onto the world of being basically Lex Luthor – this big, strong, intimidating, smart winner – and the very small, pathetic, needy loser that was at the core of his being.
Your scenes with Michael Douglas are great because you can tell how much Cross wants his approval, but at the same time he wants to be his own man. Can you talk a bit about working with Michael Douglas?
Yeah, he’s great and so simple, you know. You show up on set and you just do it. It’s easy. He’s such a good listener and he’s so present and generous. There’s just a sort of simplicity to the way he works, where it’s not fraught, there’s no sort of sense of trying to work out the method or anything like that. We’re just in a room talking and that was really great to be around.
Sadly you don’t get to wear an actual Yellowjacket costume in the movie, but what did you have to do to embody that for motion capture, in terms of moves and training and things like that?
Well, they really used my movements for when he’s small, so I did several sessions of motion capture where they’re just capturing my movements and there’s no performance capture, but it’s just to feed that into Yellowjacket when he’s small. Then when Yellowjacket is large, I’m just interacting with the other actors and the set in real life, and I’m just wearing an approximation of the suit just for reference. It was super fun. It’s one thing to do that in a low-budget movie where you’re like, “I hope this looks good,” but when you know that they’re the best in the world at what they do, you can approach that with confidence even though you’re in pajamas with pink polka dots all over them.
Right before Ant-Man opens, season 2 of The Strain kicks off. What can you say about that? You did some good stuff last year.
Yeah, it’s more ambitious in scope than the first season. There are a lot of flashbacks, so the scope of the story now spans thousands of years and all over the globe. Of course we’re mostly just in New York, in the present day, but there’s definitely a sense of – in the first season, there was this outbreak that was sort of sneaking around New York and you only knew about it if you were paying attention. Now there’s no denying it – New York is a battleground.
Ant-Man is out in theaters July 17.