In October we visited the set of Marvel's Ant-Man, the first film project to be produced at Pinewood's new Atlanta location where Marvel Studios will be working from consistently going forward. Captain America: Civil War (which brings back Paul Rudd as Ant-Man) is shooting there as I type this and in February 2016, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will be shot there as well.
On the first day of the two-day exploration of the production we observed an action sequence being shot on a stage involving a helicopter and Paul Rudd's Ant-Man while shrunk, but before he suited up we sat down to talk about the movie and how his role went from being the star of it, to also co-writing.
Our interview touches on how Paul Rudd was cast, what happened when Edgar Wright and Marvel parted ways on the project, Adam McKay's involvement, working with Michael Douglas and Peyton Reed, wearing the Ant-Man costume, and what's appealing about playing a character like Scott Lang who has flaws.
Keep in mind, the following interview took place long before Rudd's role in Captain America: Civil War was announced. He had only met the cast at San Diego Comic-Con 2014 a few months earlier before taking the stage.
This Ant-Man suit looks amazing.
PAUL RUDD: Yeah, it’s not so flashy.
[Laughs] Kevin [Feige] was telling us that the once Adam McKay came aboard, he did a bunch of writing on it as well. Tell us about that and what he brought to it script-wise?
PAUL RUDD: The bones of this story, the foundation of it was there. Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright did such a great job. We certainly added things, enhanced some storylines, changed some things, and added some scenes. It was a fairly sizable rewrite but the story is theirs. As far as the specifics, there’s obviously some... [Laughs] I’ve been instructed not to divulge, but it kind of came about organically. It was obviously never part of the plan when Edgar and Marvel parted ways, there had been a rewrite that was kind of a different take on the story. So when we were meeting directors and all sorts of stuff, Adam came in. Adam I have a pretty good relationship, and so it just came about. It was never anything that I think either one of us had been planned on, but I think it was more of an issue of this movie is going to start, and the script needs to get to a place that Marvel wants to take it, and so we just spent some time working on it together. And then Adam was just on for a little bit, and it’s a constant work in progress [laughs].
When you and Adam McKay work on a script, the obvious conclusion is it’s going to become much funnier. Is that the case?
PAUL RUDD: No, as far as the tone, some of that is always discovered in post. Adam and I both, at least from a filmmaking point of view, love to do lots of different versions of things and takes. And I think that when we worked together in the past on Anchorman, we’re doing lots of alts and jokes and things like that. I think both Adam and I, our default is to go to comedy, although Adam is way better at it and much funnier than I am. He’s the best I’ve ever seen. But the tone of it and what we were trying to write and what we were doing was not a comedy per se. I think it fit more in line with what people have come to expect from these films and Adam certainly is passionate about Marvel and comics. He grew up reading all of them and was a fan, so I think he spoke the language anyway. It will have funny parts in it, sometimes you take them out because you don’t want to diminish the drama or the action. It isn’t Anchorman. You would think it would be a silly, joke-heavy movie, and it’s really not, but there are moments of levity. We are dealing with ants here, after all.
[Laughs] You’re most well-known for a lot of comedies. This is new for you to a movie that ultimately helps launch Phase 3 of Marvel - How do you prepare yourself for that, going into it knowing that you’re going to make a Marvel movie? What was the ultimate decision for you to play Ant-Man?
PAUL RUDD: When I signed on, it was Edgar. Edgar is the one that came to me, and Edgar I’ve known for years and I’m a fan of his. There were so many things that were really interesting and appealing, but when I signed on it was through him. He’s responsible for me being here. Outside of that, I was certainly intrigued and excited about doing something that might be a little outside of the box. You wouldn’t think of me necessarily first for this kind of thing. Most people wouldn’t. But I didn’t feel that it was so different… all of these things are character-based. The characters are dealing with conflict, whatever it is. My career took a left turn after Anchorman. I had done some comedies before, but I’m not a comedian. I didn’t study sketch comedy; my background isn’t that. It just happened that I worked with those guys, loved it, and continued to work with a lot of comics after the fact. But I like to do lots of different things, so it didn’t seem so crazy to me, but as far as the other stuff I don’t really concern myself with it. It did feel different. It certainly felt like "wow this is the big leagues." I’ve never done a movie with this big of a budget. These movies are going to be seen all over the world. I was aware of all of that, but I didn’t think about it. I thought "okay, if this works, then that’ll really change some things perhaps and if it doesn’t then, I might not be working [laughs] very soon afterwards," but I didn’t let it deter me.
The other thing with any new character coming in the Marvel universe is that they will end up becoming part of the Avengers. We were talking to Kevin earlier about how in addition to the cast needing to work within a movie, they need to work within the larger Avengers group as well. Now I know obviously you were all at Comic-Con together. Have you had a chance to hang out with the other Avengers?
PAUL RUDD: Nope.
You haven’t been welcomed into that family?
PAUL RUDD: One, I don’t know what the future holds and where I would fit into all of that if I do. Hanging out with them, I haven’t. I have met a couple of them, and the only time I ever hung out with any of them, and it wasn’t even hanging out with them, I was just in the same room with them, was at Comic-Con. I was a wallflower; I was walking around with The Beatles. Hanging out with at Comic-Con with The Avengers is definitely an E-ticket. I did talk to them there for a little bit though, it was pretty cool [laughs].
Talk a little bit more specifically about the character of Scott Lang. He is a smart guy, he obviously cares a lot for his daughter, but he’s also kind of a loser. He’s a thief. Is there any degree to which he is kind of a small person before he puts on the Ant-Man suit? How would you characterize his personality?
PAUL RUDD: Maybe some of his choices that he makes with his life are questionable. Maybe the motives are honorable or maybe they’re not, some people don’t think they are, but I think that he’s somebody who cares about his daughter. I think that’s the motivating factor towards the choices that he makes. Certainly in the comics, that’s his story. I think he’s a smart guy who maybe has to re-evaluate what’s really important in his life, what kind of person he wants to be.
There was a thread through several films that you had done where you have these legendary actors who ended up playing your father, whether it is Jack Nicholson, Albert Brooks, you get to go toe to toe with these real legends in very intimate moments. Here you’ve got Michael Douglas who is an obvious precursor. How has he been? Especially listening to the Comic-Con stuff, it sounds like he has very little patience with superheroes in general. [Hank] Pym is not the warm, fuzzy, father figure. What’s it been like with him on set?
PAUL RUDD: Well, it’s just been amazing. The last time I saw him, which was a few days ago, all he did was tell me stories about The Streets of San Francisco, and what a great way to spend your day at work, it was incredible. I have worked with some incredible, incredible actors. Legends, the best that there are. I don’t know how it happened. Every day, I go "this is just incredible." Paul Newman played my grandfather in a play that I did. It was a similar kind of thing where it takes me a little bit of time to just calm down. Hopefully it’s just a few days and hopefully it happens where I can get to the point where I just feel like "alright, it’s cool, it’s normal, we’re hanging out," where I can then ask them some stories or tips, things like that. And it’s been great working with him. He’s such a good actor. He approaches things, because he’s also a producer, he approaches story and character and the making of a movie from all kinds of angles. But the gravitas that he brings to everything just feels like "this is the big leagues, I’m playing the big leagues now," that’s what it can be like. And inevitably, mid-way through a scene it happened on How Do You Know when I was working with Nicholson, we’re in the middle of shooting a scene and he’s screaming in my face and I’m in the scene with him as my character, he’s playing my dad, and all of a sudden I’m like ‘The Last Detail’. I remember things and moments. There’ll be scenes where it’s happened here. We’ll be doing a scene and I just think "Oh my god, Wonder Boys, how good is he." I mean we all know he killed as Liberace but come on, fucking Falling Down? I’ll have those moments where we’re shooting and it’s just one of those "how did I end up here?" kinds of things.