Marvel’s latest film, Ant-Man, had everything going against it. A literal and culturally tiny character, a very public behind-the-scenes controversy, and the task of coming between two films starring The Avengers. Director Peyton Reed and producer Kevin Feige told us how they made the impossible happen.
In addition to connecting up to the other Marvel movies, this film has to do a lot of heavy lifting to establish its world. “[Ant-Man] is an origin story, but its structure is a heist movie,” Reed tells io9. “Most heist movies, however, don’t have their own onus of setting up all this internal logic. Introducing characters that have strong backstories and then also sort of explaining this technology—and then breaking down different types of ants. There’s a lot of information that has to be conveyed.”
Yes, Ant-Man has a lot to do. First and foremost, it has to set up the world of Ant-Man and making that story satisfying. Then, because of the film’s place between Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War, Ant-Man also has to clearly connect to the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And it has to do all that without sacrificing the story.
“The cynical [people] in the world think we always come [at things] from the view of ‘Setting up setting up, it’s about the next movie.’ It’s quite the opposite,” said Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. “All of that stuff is usually added as we go.”
“Marvel’s also painfully aware these other elements can’t run away with the movie,” Reed added. “They always have to serve the story. I think that’s something they’ve learned along the way that’s evolved, and it’s really important to them.”
Those added connections to the other Marvel films are one of the rumored reasons why co-writer Edgar Wright left the project as director. Reed, however, said many of the ideas Wright and co-writer Joe Cornish came up with are what got him so excited for the film in the first place.
“Edgar and Joe’s whole idea of keying off that Marvel Premiere [issue], to steal Ant-Man with Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) as the mentor and Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), I thought it was great!” said Reed. “A movie that drove toward a third act where the giant battle was in a little girl’s bedroom, these were all amazing, conceptual things. And the scripts were full of them. But I also felt like we could strengthen it. Deepen a lot of aspects of the movie. I felt that the movie being a heist movie needed to have even more heist movie tropes.”
As the film was written, shot and edited, it changed numerous times. It got to a point where star Corey Stoll admitted that his character, villain Darren Cross who becomes the Yellowjacket, had different motivations and levels of plot knowledge in various versions of the film.
“Even in the different edits, [the motivations] changed around,” said Stoll. “Marvel’s really known for getting a lot of coverage and doing a lot of takes. Sometimes when you’re shooting it, you’re like ‘We got this scene. What are we doing?’ And then you realize they’re going back and they’re really making the movie in post.”
Some of the most important scenes - the signature Marvel moments that take place in the end credits - were discovered in post too. We won’t spoil them yet but there are two. One that’s currently in the middle of the credits was originally supposed to happen in the movie and got moved back. Then the final scene at the very end was lifted from the still-in-production Civil War, the next place we’ll see Ant-Man. But that second one happened very late in the process and was not the original plan.
“There was a version that once Scott got the suit and had his first sort of shrinking experience he decided, ‘Okay: I’m going to start using this suit in kind of fucked up ways,’” Reed said. “There’s scenes where Michael Pena and David Dastmalchian and T.I. are at a casino, gambling and Scott’s in there sort of helping them win money. So we were going to do another tag scene that was in the vein of that. They were all sort of non sequitur tags. They were just going to be, literally, comedic.”
The cast, however, was mostly left in the dark for these decisions. Stoll said while he was curious about a lot of the teases and links between Ant-Man and other movies, Marvel producers kept their secrets.
“I speculated about it,” said Stoll. “It was always a funny thing when you’re behind the monitor with Peyton or Brad Winderbaum, our producer. I don’t know how much they know but I definitely was trying to press them for whatever information they had. Brad is the one who knew the most and he kept it very close to the vest.”
All will be revealed this weekend though when Ant-Man finally hits theaters. And from there, it just doesn’t stop. Marvel Studios is ending Phase Two and going straight into a massive Phase Three.
“I mean, first off I’m excited about Civil War,” Stoll said. “It almost seems like Age of Ultron’s just leading up to that, which is going to be even bigger. Then, I guess I don’t know if it’s Phase 4 but the Inhumans sounds crazy. It just seems like it’s a step even crazier than Guardians of the Galaxy in terms of weirdness and that’s exciting. Captain Marvel is also really exciting to me. I think it’s great to have finally a female superhero.”