Michael Peña is known for his work in gritty films like End of Watch and Fury, while David Dastmalchian has been seen as utterly creepy psychos in The Dark Knight and Prisoners. But in Marvel’s Ant-Man, they play Luis and Kurt respectively, two members of Scott Lang’s (Paul Rudd) crew who start the film out as small-time thieves, but end up backing up their buddy when he becomes the superhero known as Ant-Man.
Both actors are funny in the movie (rapper T.I. is the third member of the trio) and Pena especially gets some of the biggest laughs in the film, stealing two showstopping montages in which he lays out some exposition in a most unusual way. Screen Rant spoke with both in person at the movie’s press day in Los Angeles, where they made a good team off screen, as well.
You guys look like you’re having a lot of fun in the movie. Did the set feel that way?
Michael Peña: Yeah, I certainly did. We did. I was surprised because – you always know that you’re doing a Marvel movie, but then to have fun on set doesn’t always translate into good moments onscreen or good scenes. And this one, you know, you just had to trust Peyton. You had to trust Paul because he rewrote a lot of the script. And it was a lot of fun. But we were always making a Marvel movie.
David Dastmalchian: Yeah. The tone was pretty apparent from the beginning forward, and it was on set and off, there were a lot of laughs on this film. And that made me feel really good because I was really nervous jumping into working with people who I’d admired for a very long time and all of a sudden you’re in the fire and it was a lot of fun.
Neither of you are known for doing a lot of comedies – Michael, people have been saying on Twitter after seeing this that you need to be in more –
Peña: What are they saying on Twitter?
Dastmalchian: They’re saying you’re hilarious.
Peña: Oh, the people who have seen it? Whoa.
They’re saying you should do more comedy.
Dastmalchian: I’ve been telling him that forever. I mean, really.
So do you want to do more comedies?
Peña: Well, I’m doing this movie in October, I’m starting – I was just telling him, I’m working out now and I got like 16 weeks and I’m eating grass and rocks for meals…
Dastmalchian: It’s actually really good, grass and rocks…
Peña: Yeah. But I’m doing this movie ChiPs, and I’ve got to play Ponch, and there’s quite a bit of humor in that. But it’s a little bit different from this – it’s just that Marvel has its own tone – but I’m doing a little bit of comedy. I just finished a dark comedy with John Michael McDonagh, the guy who did The Guard and Calvary.
Was there room for improvisation in this?
Peña: I’m going to say most of the stuff was improvised. But it’s funny because there’s improvisation and there’s improvising in the context of the scene, where it might not be like super funny on the day, but you’re doing it in the context. So it’s like, it doesn’t feel like you’re veering off into other subjects.
Dastmalchian: I felt like, yeah, Peyton and Paul, they knew what each scene – they knew what needed to happen and where our characters needed to go, so that the improv that happened within that was always servicing that, you know? And it’s exciting to be part of something that’s this funny and has so much heart to it and is such a family-oriented project. As I’ve said before, my mom is, with bated breath, waiting to see this because she’s yet to see me be someone likable on screen. So hopefully I am!
Peña (off creaking sound): Somebody just sat down here, I didn’t fart.
Dastmalchian: That’s what we say, somebody just sat there.
Peña: Or somebody stepped on a – I promise, it wasn’t me.
We have it recorded. (to Dastmalchian) Did I read you’re a comic book fan?
Dastmalchian: Yeah, huge. In third grade I started collecting. My first book was an Avengers and Stan (Lee) signed it for me to my son, which was one of the great achievements of my life (laughs).
Peña: How did you do that?
Dastmalchian: You weren’t there that day when we were doing his – anyway, I met him briefly.
Everyone knows Stan’s in the movie.
Dastmalchian: Oh they do? Is that out there?
Peña: Stan’s in every Marvel movie, bro.
Dastmalchian: But anyway, West Coast Avengers was my passion in third grade because they were this weird split-off group from the Avengers that had Hank Pym and Wonder-Man and Tigra and all these weird, wonderful characters. But I – longtime fan of the Marvel heroes, and a fan of this, so it’s just, it’s amazing, man. It’s so cool.
And you guys each get your own heroic moment in the movie. You each step up.
Dastmalchian (gesturing to Pena): Yeah, he’s got some good hooks, man.
Peña: I’ve been boxing since I was a kid, but movie punching, they usually want you to have it nice and short, but they want you to swing out and do this (waves arm and yells), you know, have that intensity.
Dastmalchian: And it’s great that my character is so wonderful with computers because I am not, so again, this is another thing that I get to do that I would never do in real life.
Ant-Man is out in theaters July 17.