There are Ant-Man plot spoilers below.
Let’s just cut to the chase: Michael Douglas isn’t signed up to appear in any more Marvel movies because when he first signed to play Hank Pym in Ant-Man his character was supposed to die at the end.
But let me back up for a second. I’ve never been present when an actor first signs on the dotted line to play a superhero for Marvel Studios. However, those contracts are notorious for how much they low-ball the actors on salary, lock them into seemingly perpetual servitude, practically screaming, “We now own you!” So, in my head I picture such contract signings taking place in a Wolfram & Hart-like office building, i.e., the ever-present law firm in Joss Whedon’s Angel. In that universe, Wolfram & Hart was actually a cabal of inter-dimensional demons merely putting up a front as a law firm on Earth. As such, supernatural craziness was usually going down behind closed doors, such as one lawyer needing a special tarantula to crawl across her keyboard to simply open a password-locked file. For some reason, it amuses me to imagine similar goings-on at Marvel Studios, like Scarlet Johansson possibly surrounded by chanting druids when she signed her first Black Widow contract for Iron Man 2, which an insider told Deadline at the time was “as bad as any deal that I’ve heard.”
Either way, we’re now all so oddly aware of Marvel’s mastery of the Hollywood contract that it’s mildly stunning when someone like Robert Downey, Jr. rakes them over the coals on re-negotiation or Michael Douglas admits he got away with signing a contract only obligating him to be in one movie instead of the more standard 6. However, that’s exactly what happened when Douglas recently told Yahoo! (via BirthMoviesDeath), “I’m not signed up to anything more. I’ve learned a whole lot and would look forward to more if it comes my way but if not I’ve enjoyed the experience.” If Pym does get to return, though, Douglas wants to be more than just Mr. Exposition, “Paul and Adam (McKay’s) re-write bought a lot more humor. I accused Paul of bringing a lot more humor to his character! Michael Pena can take care of himself. I, on the other hand, was left giving the exposition and the plot, which I was happy to do. In the next one I hope things get a little more bizarre.”
This is actually a byproduct of Ant-Man‘s well-documented production difficulties. When Peyton Reed took over as director, the script he inherited from Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish with significant re-writes from Paul Rudd and Adam McKay ended with Pym dying during the climactic battle. However, Reed told the Empire Film Magazine podcast that as a longtime fan of Ant-Man in the comics he simply couldn’t bring himself to finally give Hank Pym his introduction in the Marvel Cinematic Universe only to kill him off. Hank, after all, was a founding member of the Avengers, and created Ultron, both of which have been taken away from him in the movies. Now, they were finally going to put him into a movie just to kill him?
At this point, it’s kind of up in the air as to whether or not this will even be an issue. Douglas’ Hank Pym survives his gunshot wound in Ant-Man [insert joke about no one of consequence staying dead in the Marvel Cinematic Universe], and ends the film nicely set up to renew his search for assumed-dead wife Janet in the quantum realm. However, with Ant-Man pulling in Marvel’s weakest box office numbers since The Incredible Hulk a sequel is far from guaranteed. Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang is definitely in Captain America: Civil War, and Evangline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne will likely appear as The Wasp in Avengers: Infinity War. Will we ever see them in another Ant-Man movie, though? Marvel will have to get back to us on that one, and if we ever see Douglas as Pym again it will necessitate Marvel negotiating a new contract with him, an unfamiliar position for the comic book giant.
Michael Douglas is really good in Ant-Man. If they make a sequel, he needs to be a part of it. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments.