For me, there were two things that seemingly would not go away during the premiere of Agent Carter on ABC: 1) The incessant ads reminding us to stick around to see the exclusive premiere of the Ant-Man teaser at some point during the broadcast; 2) The constant scroll at the bottom of the screen informing me that my local ABC was going to be dropped by Cox Communications at midnight as part of some dispute over fees. That last part was clearly exclusive to my local market, at least I assume it was, but many of us definitely stuck around for that Ant-Man teaser. Some liked what they saw, some didn’t, and others took the liberty of re-cutting it in a more tongue-in-cheek Guardians of the Galaxy way. Here’s one such fan edit:
Well, after the real teaser debuted at the end of Agent Carter the ABC voice-over guy directed us all to EW.com for more exclusive content, which was mostly just pictures and a short version of the cover page story set to debut later in the week. Well, it’s later in the week now, and the new issue of Entertainment Weekly is out, big Ant-Man cover story and everything. Here’s what I learned [Be warned – lots of potential spoilers, or at least there are if you don’t want to know the basic plot and a little extra]:
1. Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish first pitched Ant-Man to Kevin Feige in 2004
Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish first developed an Ant-Man screenplay for a different company in 2001. By 2006, the Ant-Man film rights had reverted back to Marvel where Marvel Studios had just become its own independent film company, announcing an initial development slate of Iron Man, Ant-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Nick Fury, Captain America, and Thor. That means in literally the same press releases celebrating Jon Favreau’s hiring as the director of Iron Man they were also praising Edgwar Wright as the man to write and direct Ant-Man because those hirings officially happened at the same time. Incidentally, Marvel also announced the screenwriters for Iron Man, Hulk, Nick Fury, Captain America, and Thor. Not surprisingly with how these things tend to go, only three of those initial writers – Iron Man’s Arthur Marcum and Matt Holloway, Hulk’s Zack Penn – ended up with anything more than a “story by” credit on the finished film, although Zack Penn was basically thrown off of Hulk when Edward Norton unofficially re-wrote the whole script. Poor Andrew Marlowe’s Nick Fury film obviously never even got made.
I knew all of that already, and EW didn’t actually go into nearly as much detail about any of that. However, it did reveal that Wright and Cornish actually first successfully pitched Ant-Man to current Marvel Studios president, but then-mere-head-of-production Kevin Feige in 2004. That technically means by the time Ant-Man arrives this summer it will have taken 11 years to reach film screens.
2. Evangeline Lily had never even heard of Ant-Man before they approached her to be in the film:
3. Kevin Feige officially denies the rumors that Edgar Wright left the project because Marvel had changed the script without telling him
Oh, were there ever some juicy rumors about what exactly went down between Marvel and Edgar Wright. Kevin Feige’s heard them all, and he’s not having any of this nonsense about Marvel apparently commissioning a new Ant-Man script without telling Edgar Wright, “It is true that there were disagreements about the direction the script should take, but everything was aboveboard. Everything was done with everybody else’s knowledge. There was a sense of ‘We’re going in this direction, you’re staying in this direction-maybe it’s best that we end this as friends.’”
4. Evangeline Lily had not actually signed her contract to be in the film when Wright left, and did not do so until she saw the new script
Remember how Evangeline Lily admitted at this summer’s San Diego Comic-Con that she hadn’t even seen the script yet even though they were due set to start filming in less than a month? Well, it turns out there was a good reason for that. Unlike Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas, she hadn’t actually signed her contract yet when the drama with Wright went down, and she was going to walk if the new script sucked. As a result, she says, “I got held off for months. Marvel knew that first revised screenplay wasn’t good. They just knew it was in the direction they wanted.” It sounds like Paul Rudd didn’t have nearly as much freedom, being very diplomatic when EW asked him if he thought about leaving the project, “Well, I mean, there are lots of things that go through your mind. There are certain things I can and can’t do, and then there also certain things I will and won’t say. But I was devastated, you know.”
5. Going from the lead actor to also being one of the screenwriters came about organically for Paul Rudd
Much was made in some circles about the fact that the teaser trailer lists Paul Rudd and Adam McKay as Ant-Man’s screenwriters while simply giving story by credits to Edgwar Wright and Joe Cornish. It was seen as yet another confirmation that this film is going to be very different from the version Wright would have made. Here’s how Paul Rudd, who previously wrote Role Models and one episode of Party Down, tells it:
When Edgar left, they were talking about directors and I knew [Anchorman’s] Adam [McKay] and Adam’s brilliant. So he came in to meet with them. He and I had some ideas and so we spent some time rewriting it and wound up doing a rewrite on the whole thing. All of a sudden, this took on a whole new life and was much more intensive that I had maybe anticipated. I’ve actually found myself in these kinds of situations before—maybe not quite on this level, but not far off—where all of a sudden you’re writing scenes and taking on writing responsibilities. And that’s okay. But it’s a little strange writing something that’s really, truly out of my comfort zone. I wouldn’t know how to begin to write [something like this], but sometimes you just hit the ground running, I guess. Thankfully Adam was there.
Rudd still thinks the main story goes back to Wright and Cornish, “The idea, the trajectory, the goal, and the blueprint of it all, is really Edgar and Joe. It’s their story. We changed some scenes, we added new sequences, we changed some characters, we added new characters. If you took the two scripts and held them up together they’d be very different—but the idea is all theirs.”
6. Paul Rudd and Adam McKay aren’t the only screenwriters
Back in July, Latino Review reported that Marvel had hired up-and-coming screenwriting team Gabriel Ferrari and Andrew Barrer to be production writers meaning they were going to stick around the Atlanta set to perform any re-writes that became necessary during filming. EW doesn’t actually go into that much detail about it, but does confirm that Marvel hired Ferrari and Barrer to perform multiple re-writes. That’s good for Ferrari and Barrer, neither of whom have an official writing credit for a produced project yet, but they may not actually receive any kind of credit for the Ant-Man script. That’s up to the Writer’s Guild arbitration process to decide, and clearly right now Marvel regards the pair’s work on the film as mere script doctoring.
7. Scott Lang starts off in prison
At the start of the film, Rudd’s Scott Lang will have fallen on hard times for trying to be a modern age Robin Hood, stealing from the CEO of a company which was already stealing from its own employees. There will in fact be a prison fight scene involving Lang, but once he gets out he’ll try to reconnect with his young daughter.
8. Scott does steal the Ant-Man suit
In the comics, Scott Lang stole the Ant-Man suit from Hank Pym because he needed it to rescue the only doctor who could save his dying daughter. In the film, Scott Lang will steal the suit but possibly as some kind of set-up, director Peyton Reed telling EW, “There might be stuff going on that Scott doesn’t know about that’s a lot bigger than him.”
9. Hank Pym and Scott Lang will be have a screwed up mentor-pupil relationship
Impressed by his theft, Hank Pym will recruit Scott Lang for a job, as we’ve already seen in the teaser. According to Michael Douglas, “It’s not just a mentor-pupil relationship. It’s screwed-up mentor and screwed-up pupil. They have to learn from each other.”
10. The villain, Yellowjacket, is Hank Pym’s former protégé
They’re changing things up from the comics, where Darren Cross is simply a businessman with super strength and Yellowjacket is just another one of Ant-Man’s alter-egos (or personalities) he adopted after suffering a psychotic break. In the film, Corey Stoll will play a version of Darren Cross who was a child prodigy mentored by Hank Pym before things went south, Stoll telling EW, “He started to become aware of this fabled technology that can shrink people to half an inch. Now he’s discovered his own version of that technology, Yellowjacket, which has psychotic effects on people if they use it too much.” That job Pym recruits Lang for will be to steal the Yellowjacket technology from Cross.
11. Evangeline Lily is playing Janet Van Dyne’s daughter
When Michael Douglas and Paul Rudd were announced as Hank Pym and Scott Lang respectively it begged the question of what the film was going to do for a love interest. There are pretty much two things Ant-Man is most known for, and those are creating Ultron and having a very rocky, at one point spousal abuse heavy marriage with Janet Van Dyne, a.k.a. Wasp. However, both of those are unique to the Hank Pym version, and with the film version aging him into retirement era and focusing more on Scott Lang it did anger those who were hoping to see Wasp show up in one of these Marvel films at some point. So, when Evangline Lily was cast as Hope Van Dyne, not Janet Van Dyne, it was perhaps a bit confusing. Hope Van Dyne is a minor villain in an alternate reality universe in the comics. Surely, they’re just going to ignore that and basically make their version of Hope Van Dyne the Wasp, right? Well, if so they’re not giving that away, but we now know that she will in some way assist her father and Scott Lang’s attempts to steal the Yellowjacket technology although she will not be on the best terms with her dad, Lily saying, “She’s not been in her father’s life for a long time. So her arc in the movie-as Scott’s with his daughter-is trying to find a relationship.” Oh, btw, if you’re wondering if maybe we’ll see Hope’s mom Janet in flashbacks or as an older woman in the present keep wondering because there’s nothing in the EW story to indicate that one way or another.
12. Scott Lang will be assisted by a trio of ex-cons
For the longest time, those in the know – okay, basically Devin Faraci at BadAssDigest -had been saying the Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man was going to be a techno-heist movie, but it sounds like the version they ended up making is more about surrogate fathers and surrogate sons and fathers and daughters. However, the plot still involves a group of people trying to pull off a heist, and in addition to Hank, Scott, and Hope that team will consist of three ex-cons Scott knows from prison. Played by David Dastmalchian, Michael Pena, and the rapper T.I., these three characters have been created exclusively for the film.
13. Don’t worry – it’s not going to look like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
In other word, they didn’t simply build inventive sets and props to make it appear as if our normal-sized actors are teensy tiny. Instead, they’re using lots of CGI and replicating a filming technique normally only used in bug documentaries. According to Peyton Reed, “There are cameras and lenses that make small areas look like the most epic landscapes.” Motion-capture footage with Paul Rudd and others will then be inserted into those landscapes.
14. And, no, they’re not using any real ants
They studied and shots footage of real ants for reference purposes, but pretty much all the ants in the actual film will be computer-generated, with the type of ant including fire ants, winged carpenter ants, and bullet ants.
Does any of that make you more or less excited for this movie than you already were after seeing the teaser? It’s a little alarming that they hid the script from Evangeline Lily for so long, but clearly she liked it enough to eventually sign her contract. It’s also alarming to hear Paul Rudd admit that he’s not the right guy to write this kind of movie just as its not entirely re-assuring that the script doctors they brought in are promising newbies with no official writing credit to this point. However, my main takeaway is that the story they’re ultimately trying to tell is a family drama about a surrogate son (Yellowjacket) who turned on the father (Hank Pym), and a reformed criminal (Scott Lang) attempting to re-connect with his daughter while his mentor (Hank Pym) attempts to do the same with his (Hope Van Dyne). I know these Marvel films have dealt with family drama before, most specifically in Thor, but I think where Ant-Man is going with it is a slightly newer direction. That part of it still intrigues me, just as it did after I saw the teaser. How well that will play alongside an Oceans 11-esque heist story remains to be seen.
Ant-Man is due out July 17, 2015.