In October 2014 we had the opportunity to spend two days on the set of Marvel’s Ant-Man in Atlanta. After watching a segment from one of the third act action sequences in pre-vis to start the trip – featuring Yellowjacket attempting to blast away a miniature Ant-Man inside of a flying helicopter – we were able to check out the actual helicopter set. It was comprised of only the main cabin and cockpit of the chopper, with the rotors and tail to be added with special visual effects.
We watched Corey Stoll work while wearing a motion capture costume in the helicopter. His costume, like the background and missing helicopter parts, is entirely CGI, rendered in post-production and is known as the “Yellowjacket” suit. It’s a spin on the comics where Yellowjacket is actually another name original Ant-Man Hank Pym takes when he switches costume. In the film, the Yellowjacket a militarized exoskeleton that Stoll’s character, Darren Cross, has developed to sell.
We then spoke with director Peyton Reed in between takes, beginning the discussion with talking about this set piece and the reveal of the Yellowjacket costume to Scott Lang (Paul Rudd).
Is this the first time that the audience has seen Yellowjacket, is it also the first time that [Paul] Rudd has seen Yellowjacket?
PEYTON REED: What we’re shooting right now, yes. It’s the first time that they’ve seen the actual full-scale Yellowjacket in use. So, yeah, it’s a big moment. Did you guys watch it, is it on the monitors?
Yes, we got to see it.
PEYTON REED: Yeah, that’s sort of the big first reveal of the Yellowjacket.
In previous MCU movies we’ve seen these high-tech companies including A.I.M. and Stark Industries, does Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) have his own company or is he like an inventor on his own? And Darren Cross, he has Cross Tech Enterprises in Marvel Comics, does that factor in here as well?
PEYTON REED: Well, right now he’s sort of –Pym Tech still exists, but Hank is not as much as part of Pym Tech as he would like so he’s a little on the outside. And as far as CTE, as far a Cross Tech, our movie does deal with that.
Are there any mentions of the other tech companies that we have seen in the MCU?
PEYTON REED: Yeah, there are definitely mentions of Stark, we obviously don’t get to Oscorp or anything like that, but it’s really just that other one, it’s really just Stark.
With Adam Mckay coming on to do writing, Paul Rudd doing writing, with your background in comedy, it seems that on the surface this means we should expect funny. What is the tone of Ant-Man, how funny is the movie intended to be?
PEYTON REED: Well the thing about McKay is that you know him from SNL and the movies and stuff and as the comedy guy, but he is actually a huge Marvel guy, which I did not know until we started this process. He gets that universe. So to me the plus of McKay was not only the comedy but structural stuff and conceptual stuff that he added, that he brought that was fantastic. For me that was a huge bonus. And I think in terms of the quotient of comedy and action, I mean, it is a Marvel movie, no question, in all the sort moments of really grounding it and finding humor in it. That’s always been important – finding the truth in the moment and the humor in the moment, but whether you would define it as a comedy? I personally would not call it an action/comedy, it’s a Marvel movie, but there are a lot of laughs in it but we’re not joking it up in a way that it’s like jokes, it’s situations.
It’s not spoofing.
PEYTON REED: No.
When we were talking to Kevin Feige earlier he said that you guys have a relationship that goes back many, many years. What was your sell on this film and on the job?
PEYTON REED: It’s obviously very well documented, the drama that precedes the movie, but I went in and I hadn’t seen any materials, I hadn’t read a script or anything and I went in to meet with the guys and read the different drafts of the thing and then saw some of the early visualizations of what it was gonna be, and they blew me away, just the stuff that had been done on the movie. When I read the different drafts I definitely had a strong point of view on what I felt worked really, really well and what I felt didn’t work so well, and then I also kind of brought to it my own personal relationship with the comics, my relationship reading the comic all those years, and how I felt about Hank Pym, how I felt about Scott Lang and I wanted to bring those to the movie.
So we had a lot of conversations sort of about tone and about structure, and at that point I just felt it happened very suddenly so I just had this feeling of, ‘Listen, this is the version of these things that I wanna do and if you’re not interested, you’re not interested. It’s no skin off anybody’s back, but I think we were very much in sync on how we wanted to treat that character. Obviously there was a lot of fantastic conceptual stuff that was there and character stuff that was there, but for me a lot of it just needed to be moved in a different direction, a lot of it just needed to bring it into sync with what’s currently going on in the Marvel cinematic universe. But also like just tonally I had some things I wanted to do.
How much of what Edgar Wright did is in this film?
PEYTON REED: First of all, script-wise the stuff that Edgar and Joe [Cornish] did, that’s the spine of the movie, it’s a heist movie and it is sort of the passing of the torch from Hank to Scott, and this just kind of bent mentor/pupil story; but the treatment of it tonally, I think is one of the things that changed. In terms of the visualization, there are obviously months and months of stuff done in terms of costume design and stuff, but there’s a real openness, as far as I felt coming in, to change stuff, like in the costume we made tweaks and stuff with just the triggers and that sort of stuff.
One of my biggest concerns coming in on such short notice was, ‘How much am I gonna be able to sort of put myself in the movie?’ and I’ve been really pleased with the process, I’ve never felt as supported on a movie. It’s amazing. And the system is amazing because you can float an idea on a Monday and by that afternoon sit with the storyboard artist and sketch it out, and then all talk about it and revise it. It’s insane to me how quickly that can happen, that you can try something to see if the concept works; you can try an idea to see if it works in two dimensions and even three dimensions, and there’s a real liberty to that.
One of the things I find really exciting about his picture is that you’re trying things that we really have not seen in a movie before, and to see the macro scenes, how you guys are shooting it, they’re not visually animated in a way that anybody would expect. So for you to get to invent new action language seems like a real opportunity as a filmmaker, how do you go about that?
PEYTON REED: That was one of the things that when I first met I was really sort of adamant about, what you don’t want to do is a movie that’s sort of in the –the exciting thing about the movie is it’s the real world and you’re experiencing it from radically different perspectives, and the bad version of that movie is you’re in the real world and when you shrink you’re kind of in a more sort of Pixar CG animated thing. Yeah, I was really adamant about like, “Yeah it’s gotta be typed out, it’s gotta be real, and we gotta figure out ways to sort of move around those environments.” The macro photography is crucial, because we’re using these Frazier lenses and these small skater-cam things that you’re able to get in these places, then we’re doing all this digital tiling of real surfaces.
So the lighting, there were a lot of discussions about how when you’re shrunk what’s the light play like? Like, “This light above me is lighting this area, if I’m this small it’s like a giant.” All these discussions of how light and sound and movement change, and it was really important to kind of discuss that endlessly, and we still discuss it endlessly on every shot we setup in terms of scale. Because you can sit with a storyboard artist and board something that’s over Scott [Lang] to a normal-size person and then put an actual lens on it and it just doesn’t work. The scale has to be figured out for every single shot made, and that’s fun but it’s an insane amount of calculation.
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