On day two of our visit to the production of Marvel's Ant-Man last October, we traveled to State Archives building in Downtown Atlanta. The location was doubling as Pym Tech, the company created by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) that's now under the leadership of Pym's ex-protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll).
It is here where we see Pym confront Cross and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) during a special event Cross is hosting but not all is as it seems. Ant-Man is a heist movie after all...
We had the opportunity to chat with Evangeline Lilly between takes to learn about this sequence, and her larger role in the film. As it turns out, when Lilly came aboard to play Hope Van Dyne, it was a small part, but with writer changes and her helpful input, her part became much bigger and could get even larger in future Marvel movies...
It sounds like Hope has a negative history with Hank.
That's true. That is true. Hope and her father don't get along very well, and haven't for many, many years - kind of for most of her life. They've been sort of thrust together because of circumstances right now, but it doesn't mean that they like it. It doesn't mean that she likes it.
Peyton Reed (Director) told us this is as much Hope's movie as Scott's movie. Can you elaborate on what that means?
I'm only in three pages of the script, so I don't really know what he's talking about. [laughter] I'm lucky enough to have gotten involved with the film when they were still rewriting it from the original Edgar Wright draft. I met with Paul Rudd in New York City before they really came out with the official new draft. I got a chance to sort of say, "Hey, why don't you beef up my character and give her a really full arc?" I think one of the things that is easy to have happened in a superhero story is that the female character, whether she be a heroine or not, can often be the wart on the man. She's just his accompaniment, she's just there when he's there, and there's no real arc or story for her.
There is such an appetite in the comic world from fans to see fully realized, full developed female characters, and Marvel are very supportive in that. All the suggestions that I put forward and the things that I would ask for, like, "What about this?" or "We can do this with her," they were very amenable to it and they were very open to it. And then they would take it even farther. They would go away, and they could come back to me and say, "Oh, we've really done something incredible with Hope."
I kind of got lucky. I started out thinking I was walking into a film playing a supporting character. It's now become a trifecta with myself and Michael Douglas and Paul Rudd. I'm not going to turn my nose up at that.
Hope seems like she's stuck between her father and the man that he mentored. Is that dynamic difficult to manage?
Yeah it is actually. It's a very astute question, because I just finished talking to Corey about that very thing. This is sort of a new section of filming, us being at Pym Tech. I've spent a lot of time up until now filming primarily the dynamic between Hank, Scott and Hope. Now having it be Hank, Hope and Darren and playing this dynamic, I'm still kind of trying to find my feet. It is a bit complicated and a bit confusing on so many levels. They're very complicated relationships, as most father/daughter relationships are. There's no easy answers.
Do you work for Pym Tech? Where do you start off in the story?
You're under embargo, so I'm just going so answer the question. I don't know what I'm allowed to say. I do work for Pym Tech, and am a fairly senior level scientist at the company. I have a lot of power in the company; I'm one of the board members, I'm also the daughter of the man who created the company, which helps. In her own right, she's become a very capable, very intelligent young woman, so she very much stands on her own feet in the company. I mean, Hank hasn't been around in a long time.
How does Hope feel about the idea of Scott Lang coming into their eyes, and the Ant-Man suit being passed to someone else?
She hates it. [laughs] It's actually become a difficult question to address in the script. Why isn't Hope Ant-Man? In a day and age when Ant-Man was first invented, it would have made sense. Why would he hand it off to his daughter? That wouldn't make any sense at all. But in 2014, why wouldn't he hand it off to his daughter, especially a daughter as intelligent and capable as Hope? Of course we answer all those questions, but I can't tell you how or why.
What relationship do you have with your mother?
When we begin the film, Janet Van Dyne is not alive. She's lost her mother. That marks the character in a way that affects everything she does. Her mother has become a figure in her mind more than a human being, and I think that she has always suffered from that loss and not having that presence, that female figure in her life.
Does Hope share Hank's animosity toward superhero?
No. In fact, I think she doesn't understand her father's animosity towards superheroes in that way, and I think for the most part that's because she really doesn't understand any of what really happened in her life. A lot of stuff has been kept from her, so she's in the dark. I think that results in a lot of bitterness and confusion about her father's behavior.
Hope took her mother's name but works at her father's company. Is this her way of taking her mother's legacy and using it to correct her father's in her mind?
It is so multi-layered. When you finish watching this movie, you could dissect that question 20 times over and have 20 different answers for it, and I love that. I love the multi-dimensions of Hope Van Dyne because what motivates her to do all of the things she does in the film - and even in the backstory that you realize as you're walking into the film - there's no clear-cut answer. She's angry and hurting and has made a lot of decisions based out of that anger.
What has it been like working with Michael?
I distinctly remember the day, the scene, I was working when it hit me I was working with Michael Douglas. Up until that point I hadn't given it any thought. I was like, yeah, OK, great cast, looks good, let's do the movie. I started working without really thinking about it. Then I had to do a fairly intense actor scene. Superhero movies don't often have a lot of actors' scenes. He had to bring it and I had to bring it, and somewhere in the middle of that scene the penny dropped, and I went, 'Holy f***, I'm working with Michael Douglas!'
From the minute he steps on set, he brings an energy into the world that puts you in your place. I don't mean that in a negative way; I mean that in the most incredible way, like you are immediately transported into the world that you're supposed to be performing in instead of this world, because he goes there, and he goes there 100 percent. I think at this point in his career it would be very easy for a man like Michael Douglas to dial it in on a film like this and just go, "Eh, it's a paycheck. Just come get my job over and done with and get out." But when they roll those cameras - even when they're not rolling, and they just call for us to rehearse - he really brings it. He opens his mouth and you go, "Oh that's how it's done. That's what we're supposed to be doing."
Do you get to do any physical stuff?
She gets some physical stuff. She didn't originally. That was one of the additions that came through me making suggestions and Marvel coming back and saying, "Wait till you see what we did." [laughs] They've made her a pretty physically capable character. As much as Hope Van Dyne at some point in this movie would probably like to have a shot at Yellowjacket, she doesn't get it.
What are her thoughts on Darren, if she's not crazy about Hank and she's not crazy about Scott?
[laughs] She's not crazy about anybody, is she? She's just a bitch. She's kind of horrible. I'm not exaggerating, there was a point when we were filming that I turned to Peyton and I was like, "Peyton, do I ever get to play a color other than dour? I would really like to smile for once." [laughter] She is sort of an island unto herself in this film, and what I love about that is you're never completely sure where her alliances are because she doesn't seem to like anybody. It makes for a wonderful ambiguity in the character that I have a great time playing, and I love the idea that you might walk away from this film and still, at the end of the film, go, "Wait, is she good or is she bad? I'm not totally clear."
That's what the sequel's for.