“It’s about damn time,” Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne says in the post-credits stinger of 2015’s Marvel film Ant-Man when the heroine is finally presented with her own super-suit. Now Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne is front and center alongside Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang, better known as Ant-Man, in director Peyton Reed’s sequel, Ant-Man in the Wasp, the third Marvel film of 2018 and the 20th release from the comic book hit factory. At a recent press conference in Los Angeles, the cast and crew of the super sequel discuss bringing back one of Marvel’s tiniest heroes for his biggest adventure yet.
“I try and think of the film as a whole and it’s nice to think of every character,” said Paul Rudd who returns as his third venture as Ant-Man and who is also one of the credited writers on both Ant-Man films. “But I will say this: this has been a collaborative effort more than anything I’ve ever worked on and to think that I actually wrote it would be, I think, a gross overstatement. The truth of the matter is Peyton was in the room – he has been working on this for a long time. Same with our producer, Stephen Broussard. Same with Kevin [Feige]. But in particular, two writers – Erik Sommers and Chris McKenna, who did really a lot of the heavy lifting and those guys are great.”
“Paul’s as generous a writer as he is an actor,” says director Peyton Reed of his leading man and screenwriter. “That’s a concern if someone’s writing. Paul could easily say, ‘I’m getting all the lines. You’re not going to say this or do this,’ but Paul always has the whole picture in mind when he’s writing and acting.”
Since Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place within the expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s not simply a sequel to 2015’s original film. It’s also picking up after the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.
“It is a sequel to both movies,” said Peyton Reed. “What was cool about Captain America: Civil War is we could not ignore what had happened to Scott Lang in that movie in this movie. It gave us an organic jumping off point because my first reaction was what would Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne think about Scott taking the suit and getting involved with this and fighting with the Avengers? Well, they’d be pissed off. So it really gave us this whole starting point where it’s like, well, what if they were estranged at the beginning of the movie, as a result of this? You know, there are ramifications of the Sokovia Accords and Scott being on house arrest and it really gave us a really, a natural starting point.”
Rudd was inclined to agree with how Civil War gave them a jumping off point for their incredible shrinking hero. “Well, one of the things that was kind of nice is it gave us a little bit of leeway to lean into something maybe a little harder than we would have been able to at first because now the character has been established and we’ve seen Scott in two other films. People buy the abilities. They buy me in the role. They understand the rules. So it felt as if we had a little bit more freedom. Would Scott do this? Would he say this kind of thing? Would he make this kind of choice?”
Ant-Man teased one aspect of the Marvel world previously unseen, the Quantum Realm. In this sequel, the microscopic world beyond our own is presented in bigger depth. But just because the film goes into the Quantum Realm, don’t expect Marvel mastermind Kevin Feige give anything away as to how it might factor into the future of the MCU, especially in the wake of Infinity War.
“Without giving anything away, we love these – they’re all storytelling tools; new places, new things. In the first film we got a glimpse of [the Quantum Realm] for people who like to go through frame-by-frame, there was a little silhouette of Janet as the Wasp in there, which is a big story element in this movie. There are things that you see back there that Peyton has put in there – where and how they pay off in the near term, in the long term remains to be seen,” the producer coyly stated.
Finally, Evangeline Lilly and her character of Hope Van Dyne get the chance to show off their own heroics, and the actress was more than happy to take on the mantle. “I love the kind of element of having somebody who’s completely in jeopardy, but also completely in control,” Lilly said of her character. “As a superhero, I saw that a lot like when the mallet comes down to hit her. You can see like an ‘Oh, shit’ moment, but then she’s completely in control the next second. It was just fun to finally get to see her take on the mantle, because this is something that she’s been ready and willing to do her, basically her whole life. Her parents are both superheroes and she was rearing to get in that suit for an entire film.”
As Hope Van Dyne’s parents are Michael Douglas returning as Hank Pym and Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp who went missing the Quantum Realm. Returning for the Ant-Man sequel meant that, once again, Douglas would be de-aged as some movie magic. “I looked pretty good, didn’t I?” the Hollywood legend asked with a laugh. “That was one of the nice parts. First of all, when we started this and I discovered that Michelle Pfeiffer was going to be my wife having such a tremendous fan of hers, never having had any chance to work with her, I was totally ecstatic. Then in reading the script to find out that Michelle Pfeiffer and I were going to be 30 years younger even made it all that much better.”
New to the world of Ant-Man and the Wasp is Hannah John-Kamen, who stars as one of the film’s villains Ghost. However, don’t expect the actress to see her character as a villain. “I definitely approach the character not as a villain at all,” said John-Kamen “Definitely a threat to the characters and the heroes of the movie, but I guess when you play a villain, you have to play it like you’re the good guy and everyone else is bad. Everyone else is the bad guy and you’re the good guy.”
She continued, “I think with the villains – I mean what the Marvel Universe does so well is it’s not black and white. It’s very gray and I think the villains are very redeemable and because they’re fun and you want to see them again.”
Evangeline Lilly found Hannah John-Kamen’s comment on Marvel’s villains an interesting point, and added her own thoughts to the perspectives at play in the superhero battles between good and evil.
“I have a seven-year-old son and he loves violent movies. He likes to taunt me by telling me, ‘Mom, I love violence,’ because he knows I hate it,” Lilly said. “When he talks about good guys and bad guys in movies, I always feel a responsibility to clarify for him – ‘Honey, you know that there really is no such thing as a bad guy, right? They’re only just good guys, who have made so many bad choices, they’ve forgotten how to make good choices. And a true hero’s job is to remind them of their goodness. Not to annihilate them, to kill them. You know, it’s to help them redeem themselves.’ I think that’s applicable to life. Superhero stories are fun and they’re a totally different world, but what I think is cool and is that to have redeemable villains, you’re teaching children that if you encounter somebody that might have a different opinion than you, that doesn’t mean they’re a villain. If they have a different objective than you, it doesn’t mean you should attack them. Maybe you want to try to understand them first.”
Joining the MCU for the first time is the great Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Bill Foster, better known as Black Goliath. “Although I was a Marvel reader and a D.C. reader – but mostly Marvel – I did not know about Bill Foster. I knew about Hank Pym, because I think, and you’ll tell me if I’m right or wrong, but Ant-Man and Wasp became Avengers at some point,” Fishburne said of his casting process while looking at Peyton Reed to fact check his Marvel history.
Fishburne continued, “So that’s why I knew about Hank Pym and I knew about the Pym article and all of that, but I never got to Foster because I was never an Ant-Man reader. So Peyton sat me down, it was like, ‘Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.’ And I was like, ‘No, really?’ And so they were kind enough to allow me to join the family and I’m just a kid in a candy store, man. Just having a good time.”
What makes the two Ant-Man films different than the typical Marvel fare is the film’s extensive focus on family, whether it’s Scott Lang and his daughter Cassie or the fraught relationship between Hank Pym and his daughter Hope Van Dyne.
“It’s true, this theme of parents and children run throughout the film – fathers and daughters. It’s something that’s relatable because whether or not we have children of our own, many people do, we all have parents,” said Paul Rudd of the film’s themes of family.
Rudd continued, “The idea that I’m playing somebody that doesn’t have innate super abilities is a way in. I want it to be relatable. I can relate to the character that way. Certainly when I’m thinking about it and we’re talking about story and script and everything; that’s the approach. I have a daughter roughly the age of Cassie in the film; she’s a little bit younger. While I know for a fact she’s going to want me to build a slide after she sees the film; which is really hard to do in a New York apartment. I know what it’s like to spend the evening playing with Barbie dolls and I know that’s the glue. That’s the soul of it.”
As keeps getting mentioned at recent Marvel press conferences, Evangeline Lilly is onboard for any potential spinoff that sees all of Marvel’s female heroes uniting as a team. “I am personally going to continue to keep the rumor and gossip about an all-female Avengers film going until it happens,” Lilly said with a laugh.
“All coming together,” Kevin Feige said with a wide grin.
As to whether or not Peyton Reed returns for a third film in the Ant-Man series, the director isn’t sure. “Well, we never know if there’s going to be a next one. It’s always a mystery. We can be hopeful. I know there are other stories that I would love to tell with these characters,” Reed said.
If Peyton Reed were to return for a third Ant-Man, would he cut his friend and host of The Best Show Tom Scharpling from that film as well (Scharpling had been cut from Ant-Man and this new sequel)? “As per the Scharpling dilemma, I certainly look forward to working with Scharpling in the future and hopefully cutting him out again,” the director jokingly replied.