Peyton Reed came into what could have been a no-win, Kobayashi Mara situation on Ant-Man: he joined the film mere weeks before production was first slated to begin and replaced a director, Edgar Wright, who was beloved in fan circles and who had been developing Ant-Man with co-writer Joe Cornish for eight years. On top of that, it was a wildly different film for the director of The Break-Up and Yes Man, employing visual effects and action which had not necessarily been his forte until now.
But Reed met the challenge head-on and has delivered another successful addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, crafting a funny, tight and even intimate story involving Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), a suit that shrinks its wearer down to the size of an insect and a plot to steal the suit’s technology from a ruthless villain. We asked Reed about his experience in making Ant-Man during our recent sitdown with him.
This is a bit of a different movie for you. Talk about getting involved with this and what your personal mission statement was for the film.
Yeah, obviously Ant-Man is a bigger movie for me, with a lot of visual effects and a lot of technical considerations. But it’s the kind of movie I’ve wanted to make for a long time, and I grew up reading Marvel comics and was a huge Avengers fan and Ant-Man fan. So I had my own sort of weird personal relationship with these characters. So I came to it really with sort of a knowledge of Hank Pym and Scott Lang and what I as a fan wanted to see in the movie -- and also about the tone of the movie: I wanted it to be a really tight, fun, kinetic movie that was, you know, like a heist film. There are a lot of moving parts, but they all have to fit together and just sing.
Was it daunting in any way to come into it after another team had developed it for so long?
I think coming in on any movie is daunting, but I think what I loved about working with Marvel is, you know, we came in, I read all the existing scripts. I knew what I loved about it. You know, Edgar and Joe’s original drafts, it was their concept to make it a heist movie structure. It was also their idea to key off Marvel Premiere #47 or #49, that introduced Scott Lang. The title of that comic story, you know, is “To Steal An Ant-Man,” so the title of that comic story, it feels like a heist movie. So that was their idea and it was brilliant, it was great. But we wanted to build on that stuff and there was definitely, you know -- I wanted to make it even more with the visual language of a heist movie. So we added, you know, I wanted to add all these “tip montages” that Michael Pena does -- that was something we brought to the movie.
I also wanted to sort of deepen and strengthen the Hank Pym character and the relationship with Hope. We added some stuff, you know. The notion of Paul and Adam McKay working on the script…the quantum realm or the subatomic world was something that was in the comics that didn’t exist in the current Ant-Man drafts, and I said, “I want to see that. I want to get to the third act and we’ve seen all the shrinking -- I want to go even further. Let’s embrace that sort of psychedelic aspect of that Silver Age of Marvel comics.” And Marvel was really keen to do that. Also in terms of sort of, you know, some of the other characters and particularly Evangeline’s character, Hope, she was someone I really wanted to strengthen and sort of - it’s an origin movie of sorts for her as well.
What do you feel you learned about yourself as a director, working with all these visual effects and taking on a new genre?
Well, I had not done a movie with this many visual effects before, but I’m a kind of nerd who reads American Cinematographer and Cinefex magazine, so intellectually I knew a lot about it. But to be able to sort of play in this giant sandbox and work with people like Jake Morrison, our visual effects supervisor, it was great. I mean, there was an onus on the movie: it’s the shrinking movie of 2015, you know, and there’s a whole long history of those movies, but we had to, like, up the ante. So using a combination of motion picture macrophotography, still macrophotography, motion capture, we were able to create these really photorealistic environments, but also to move the camera around them in ways that were really liberating. So that was exciting for me.
Ant-Man is out in theaters July 17.