ANT-MAN PRESS JUNKET: SMALL THEATER, BIG MOVIE Photo Credit: © Disney. All rights reserved.
Much like the movie, the Ant-Man press junket wasted no time getting into the heavy stuff, starting with asking producer Kevin Feige why he thought Ant-Man would be a good addition to the MCU. He responded with a story about the poster of Avengers #1 that’s hanging in the Marvel offices, and how he loves “ looking at that and checking off, yep, yeah, that person’s been in a movie now, we’ve made a movie about that person, made a movie about that person.” With Ant-Man and Wasp being the only Avengers that hadn’t been addressed, it was only a matter of time until Ant-Man had a movie; “it was always clear that [Marvel was] going to assemble all the Avengers eventually.”
From there, Feige and director Peyton Reed talked about the film’s use of scale: how the 12th film in the MCU needed to be unique and different, and how poor Reed had no idea what Feige was getting at when he talked about that uniqueness, concluding that Ant-Man is “a pretty weird movie in a great way…it was allowed to be weird, and that was fantastic.”
Paul Rudd, who plays the titular character, of course got the question about what drew him to the project. Rudd talked about the challenge and how it would be an adventure, but his answer essentially boiled down to, “it’s a Marvel movie, come on.”
The moderator then opened questions to the press. The first few went to Paul Rudd, who talked about how he prepared for the role – “read the comics, tried to do a little bit of research” – and how excited and jazzed his son is about Rudd’s being Ant-Man, and how excited that makes him in turn.
Evangeline Lilly received a poignant question about her role in the film and female heroes, and her response deserves to be quoted in full:
“Amen and touché, sister. I think that there is a lot of excitement in the focus groups that we’ve seen already, with the female audiences, about this character in general, and about the fact that Marvel are really, really taking female characters very seriously and looking at their lineup you can see that they have great intentions. And as a woman who came into a predominantly male film, I had a great time working with Peyton and with the producers, on this character, because I could see a hunger in them to really, really do right by Hope, and do right by their female fans and the female audience. And you know, when I pick a role, one of the things that I aspire to is that somebody’s parent will come up to me after the film has come out and say, “My daughter idealizes that character. You’re her hero.” And that’s what we aim for, especially in this brand, right? We’re in the business of making heroes.”
Michael Pena, David Dastmalchian, and T.I. all spoke on their characters bringing a more comedic element to the film. As longtime comic fans, both Michael and David were initially terrified to be portraying Marvel characters, but quickly found their stride and had fun on set; T.I., on the other hand, was “happy and enthused to be a part of it” from the beginning, and even threw Michael under the buss, calling him “just the right amount of a-hole to where it comes out great on screen.”
That was about when the conference derailed with questions as to whether Michael Douglas had a portrait of Hank Pym hanging above his fireplace (he doesn’t) and a half-formed question about the 20th anniversary of the release date of Clueless, which had the cast in stitches, with Evangeline Lilly asking, “Who didn’t have a crush on Paul Rudd in Clueless?” and Rudd replying with, “I know, it’s crazy. I fell in love with me.”
The next question, about the Ant-Man and Yellowjacket suits, revealed that the Yellowjacket suit had initially been a practical suit, but that it just never worked, so it ended up being entirely CGI. Conversely, the Ant-Man suit was practical, and Paul Rudd loved wearing it, even though he had to work out for a good long time to make it work.
“It helped me feel the part, you know, there’s something that happens when you get in that thing, that it’s inevitable. I would stand differently, I would feel different, I’d feel like Ant-Man in that thing.
…And as far as like, you know, getting skinnier to try and fit in it, I mean, I didn’t eat anything for about a year. I worked out all the time. I took that Chris Pratt approach which is just basically eliminate anything fun for about a year, and that’s a good way to prepare to play, you know, a superhero. And again, it also helped me feel the part, which is I kind of got into that aspect as well.”
From there, it got into spoilery talk, followed up by questions about just how much research on ants went into making the movie. Evidently there’s a textbook written by New York Times Bestseller Edward Wilson that’s considered the definitive textbook on ants; information from that textbook on different types of ants and their capabilities went straight into the movie. In Peyton Reed’s opinion, that made the movie better:
“It’s a heist movie, you know, at its core, and instead of sort of like, here’s the guys doing this and this and this, it’s like well here are the ants that are doing this, here are the ants that are doing that, and I guarantee that’s something that you’ve never seen in a movie before. You know, and people talk about the shrinking when they talk about Ant-Man, but it’s the other power, the being able to control ants, that’s the weirder power, that I think is going to really surprise people in the movie. So one of the things I liked about doing research was all the things that we have the ants do, you know, for example, the fire ants, they’re architects, they can make little rafts and ladders, they do that in real life. You know, the kid in me was like, oh, I can go on the internet and, you know, look at these ants and it’s actually real. I think that’s a really cool aspect of the movie.”
The next few questions were fairly straightforward: If And-Man could be the Jiminy Cricket to any Avenger, he’d choose the Hulk; there is no Ant-Woman, but there is the Wasp; the one-kneed landing that all superheros seem to do once they jump off a building is a natural landing stance. The question about the father-daughter aspect has a few movie spoilers in the answer, so no details here, but parallel father-daughter relationships are definitely part of the backbone of the movie and something that hasn’t really been done in a Marvel movie before.
Evangeline Lilly got another chance to speak about her role as Janet Van Dyne:
“That was the most exciting thing for me about the role, and you know, of course while we were filming during post-production there was a lot of buzz on the internet – is Evangeline playing the Wasp, and is she a superhero, and I had a lot of questions directed my way about that. And I just couldn’t have felt more comfortable or more happy saying, actually, she is just a really capable, very powerful force to be reckoned with and she doesn’t have a superpower and she doesn’t put on a fancy suit, and look dorky in it. And my super-suit was my power suit that I would go to work in and be a high level scientist and you know, on the chair of the board of a very, very powerful corporation, and I do think that’s a fantastic example for young women. And Marvel are actually doing this incredible campaign right now where they’ve put out a competition to young women in America to create scientific gadget projects and they’re promoting the maths and sciences for young women and young girls, and they’ve put a lot of heart and love into that and they did it a couple years ago also, or last year, was it? And I was happy to be the face for that campaign. You know, playing the role of female scientist in a world where mostly scientists are men is a great role to play.”
To prepare for a movie full of growing and shrinking, Peyton Reed went back and did his research, watching all the shrinking movies from Incredible Shrinking Man to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, with the intent of learning from them and making the movie photorealistic, as the couldn’t have “a movie where…when you’re in the normal world, it’s realistic, and when you go down it feels like an animated movie.” This included everything from environments to discussions on lighting and lenses to ants to sound – or “sound realism.” They created a Dolby Atmos mix and worked with Skywalker Sound to play with sounds in order to further immerse the audience in the smaller world, even coming up with something of an ant language.
As for the movie’s lighter, more comedic tone, especially on the heels of Age of Ultron, Feige maintains that while they didn’t set out to make a comedy, they did acknowledge that the movie itself is funny, with the potential to be Ultron’s tonal foil, especially since Ultron’s final battle scale is much larger than that of Ant-Man’s final battle.
Peyton Reed and Michael Pena talked a bit more about Michael’s character, who provides the tip for the heist. Peyton talked about how the tip is integral to a heist movie, and how they liked the idea of Michael’s character going a bit off the rails and rambling while recounting the tip. Michael explained that his performance is actually based off someone he knows: “His name is Pablo, he’s a criminal, not [BSing] at all. Like the guy lives in Chicago. My best friend just flew in, you know, for the premier, and he’s in and out of jail. He’s the kind of guy, swear to god, when I’m like: “What’d you do this weekend?” He’s like: “I went to jail, Dawg.” Like who really says that for a weekend trip, you know what mean[…]”
Right in the middle of his explanation, one of the cell phones set on the front table to record audio rang. Cool as anything, Paul Rudd picked it up, explained that they were in the middle of the press conference and that the owner would have to call them back, and hung up, handing the phone back to its very embarrassed owner. It was quite the way to end the press conference.
Ant-Man, rated PG-13, comes out on Friday, July 17th, with some special early showings on Thursday the 16th. It’s a very solid ending to Marvel’s Phase 2 and a fun ride to boot. Definitely see this one if you can.