In October, 2014, we had the opportunity to join a group of online publications on an adventure to Pinewood Atlanta Studios to visit the production of Ant-Man. The final film of Marvel's Phase 2 is the first film to shoot at Pinewood's entertainment studio complex and the location is quickly becoming a new home for Marvel Studios who are currently shooting Captain America: Civil War there and plan to return early next year for Guardians of the Galaxy 2.
We spent the first day on the lot, visiting various stages and chatting with some of the cast and crew, but the day began with an introduction from Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige. If you've followed development of the MCU since it began with Iron Man in 2008, Feige should be a household name.
In our chat, we discuss the lengthy development of the project; why Ant-Man is different and important for the Marvel Cinematic Universe; where it fits in between Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America 3; and everything from ants, casting, and costumes to Peyton Reed and Edgar Wright, and much more. And of course, Feige shares joy for finally being able to introduce the other two characters from the cover of Avengers #1 (1963)... Read on!
What does Ant-Man mean for Marvel, especially at the beginning?
KEVIN FEIGE: Well it’s about continuing to expand the cinematic mythology, and continuing to bring new characters, not just sequels. I think that’s what was great this year about Guardians [of the Galaxy]. That’s what excites us about this. Even though they all are within the continuity of the MCU, and then the year after this, Doctor Strange, continuing to explore avenues that people have seen before and also remind people that this is a big universe. There’s other stuff going on. And this very much has its roots grounded in the mythology of the cinematic universe and it’s connected via Hank Pym, to a period of time that relates to Howard Stark, it relates to Peggy Carter, and to the early days – well, not even the early days - but sort of the mid-days of S.H.I.E.L.D. sort of in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, which was a period we haven’t seen of S.H.I.E.L.D.. We’ve seen kind of glimpses of it in news articles and things throughout the other films.
But this movie takes place in the present day for 96% of it and that was quite important to us. And he’s an Avenger. And he and Wasp are on the cover of that first Avengers. We have - I don’t know if they’re around here, but in the offices of Disney we’ve got big blow-ups of Avengers No. 1. And I just love, you know, picking off the fact that each of those characters are finally coming to life, and two more will be hit in this movie.
When does Ant-Man take place chronologically compared to the other movies? Is this right after Avengers: Age of Ultron?
KEVIN FEIGE: We don’t exactly say. There’s an indication that it’s probably just after Ultron, just after Avengers 2. They all more or less take place within the chronology of the release of the movies. The exact months and the exact weeks are sometimes determined later.
What is it about Ant-Man that makes it right for release now versus something like Doctor Strange and did it have to do with having a script ready?
KEVIN FEIGE: Well I think it’s...a lot of it was timing. A lot of it was when the drafts were coming together. A lot of it is when we sort of solidified a plan to bring it to the screen. And also because we were getting into - after this year with Winter Soldier and Guardians – the new story on existing characters, and bringing in new characters, and falling into it. Which is what we did this year. Which is what we’re gonna do next year and the year after. So it did sort of feel like the right rhythm to bring this guy to the screen. And... yeah, it was essentially ready to go.
Ant-Man is a weird character because Hank Pym pre-dates the Marvel superhero universe. He was introduced before there were even superheroes. And then Ant-Man himself has always been one of the supporting characters - Never really been able to maintain his own title. Why have Ant-Man as a solo movie at this point and not just sort of introduce him as you did with Hawkeye or Black Widow in a team scenario? Why does Ant-Man deserve his own movie?
KEVIN FEIGE: Well I think a lot of it is based on sort of when... just what story we wanna tell. [Black] Widow fit into that version in Iron Man 2 and moving into Avengers 1. Hawkeye, I guess a little bit in Thor, but meeting him in Avengers 1. Because in Avengers 1 we wanted to meet a more populated universe of S.H.I.E.L.D. folks. Fury had just been this guy in the shadows, and we wanted to see his organization more populated and it made sense.
In this one it goes back to the first pitch we got from Edgar [Wright] and Joe [Cornish] in two thousand whatever it was, which as this history of him, independent of The Avengers, independent of a lot of his comic back story, and having a mentor and a mentee relationship. And it was unique then. It was a cool idea. It’s even more unique now because we’ve made ten movies. And none of them feature that kind of a relationship. None of them have the passing of the mantle, which is much of what this movie is about.
And now, ten movies in, there is the history from what we saw in the Captain America films, what we saw of Tony Stark’s father, his past in some of the Iron Man films. So, Hank can fit into that in an even more sort of logical way. And I think it’s unique action that we haven’t seen before in this kind of movie. And again, ten movies in, this will be eleven movies in. Having the opportunity to go to a place that we haven’t done before and do a type of action and a type of specs we haven’t done before.
It isn’t just about getting bigger, but it’s about getting clever and getting more unique. This movie gives that opportunity.
Cap 2 obviously has a spy thriller type feel, Thor was a little Shakespearean and Guardians is a new space opera of sorts - Going through this process so far with Peyton Reed and Paul Rudd, do we have a strong comedic tone with this?
KEVIN FEIGE: Well, you’ve heard us say before, the genre that this is being incorporated with is a heist. [LAUGHTER] I was just gonna say, you saw Corey [Stoll’s] line. I heard you guys were here, I was like, “that’s the first line that...” [LAUGHTER] So, the fun - and when you guys walk around and see some things today - the fun of playing into the tropes of a heist film is cool.
In the same way that playing into ‘70s thrillers was fun in The Winter Soldier. So that very much is sort of the backbone of what’s making this tonally unique. And again, I wouldn’t say it’s more comedy than our other films. You know, the first picture we released of Paul, and I think some of what you’ll see today from Paul, is a much more serious version. That’s why he was interested in doing the movie. That’s why we were interested in showcasing him in a different way. And that’s why Peyton is interested in this movie because he’s always wanted to do a big superhero movie, and came close a few times.
So it’s not like, “oh, it’s the comedy guys. Let’s bring ‘em in.” But certainly there will be humorous elements as there are in all of our films.
You talked about how this story is about the passing of the. How different is it to provide an origin story for a superhero where there’s already all this built-in mythology inside the universe for him as opposed to someone like Iron Man or Captain America where it’s really starting that mythology from point A?
KEVIN FEIGE: Well it’s been fun because... I mean there’s a lot of back story to get across in this movie and what Hank did in his past. And we see some of it. We hear about a lot of it but it’s not about the trial and error of inventing the Pym Particle. The Pym Particle is invented. He has been on adventures as Ant-Man, as we’ll see in this movie beforehand. This is more about – frankly, we can focus more on the character stuff instead of the science stuff. To focus on this criminal. This smart guy. This good guy, Scott Lang, who’s fallen into a life of crime because he’s good at it and because it comes easy to him. And to see that journey and hopefully root for him to get his act together, to get back together with his daughters. He’s the first Marvel hero to have a family, to have a kid, which is also unique and also fun. But I think it’s fun to liberate us from the trial and error of creating a technology and more focus on the trial and error of a character’s willingness to take on the mantle or ability to take on the mantle.
It’s interesting because one of the things that really stood out in the Comic-Con footage was in Douglas’ dialogue. He seems to have a real disdain for the idea of superheroes in general...
KEVIN FEIGE: Totally.
...which I assume is earned from what we see of him in the past.
KEVIN FEIGE: Yes. Yeah, he does not have a great experience with the people that he thinks are sort of running things today. And Howard [Stark] in particular, he had a not great encounter with in the past and that’s why he hung it up. That’s why he put it in a secured vault for decades and decades. And it’s not until this movie that he has a reason to take it out again. And he needs to use it, not because he wants there to be another superhero named Ant-Man, but because he needs to pull off the heist. He needs to stop his villainous ex protégé from perpetuating this technology in nefarious ways.