Peyton Reed talks Ant-Man: ‘It Was a Labor of Love’

As Ant-Man arrives on Blu-ray and DVD, Peyton Reed talks getting the movie right, Ant-Man and the Wasp and more.

The arrival of Ant-Man on Blu-ray and DVD this past Tuesday (December 8) brings the saga of one of Marvel’s most unusual productions to a close. In development almost since the current version of Marvel Studios came into existence nearly a decade ago, Ant-Man was being shepherded for years by director/co-writer Edgar Wright and co-writer Joe Cornish before 11th hour creative differences led to ta team’s departure literally weeks before production was slated to begin in 2014.

In stepped director Peyton Reed who, with a revised script from star Paul Rudd and Adam McKay (Anchorman), fashioned Ant-Man into one of Marvel’s funniest and most effortlessly charming films, a standalone heist thriller that still managed to cleverly connect itself to the larger Marvel Universe. And with Reed coming back to direct Ant-Man and the Wasp (due out in July 2018), the stage is set for more exploration of things like the Quantum Realm as well as, with Evangeline Lilly stepping up as the Wasp, one of Marvel’s most compelling female characters. We touched on all this and more when we met with Reed at the Marvel Studios offices just recently.

Den Of Geek: Coming into Ant-Man and making this movie, what’s it meant to you as a filmmaker to see this come to fruition, especially with the pressure you were under to do it?

Peyton Reed: Counterintuitively, I think it’s the most fun I’ve ever had making a movie, I think certainly since my first movie. I really liked the spirit of everybody involved in the movie. Obviously there was an energy that the movie had because we were so under the gun that, to me, was an asset. Everybody was incentivized to just make this thing amazing. I think that there’s a real genuine love for the character and the world, obviously on behalf of everybody at Marvel, but really like the actors and everybody, there was just an enthusiasm on the set and in post and everywhere. For me it was amazing because I had wanted to do a movie on this scale for a long time. So I think I was really primed to do it. So when I got the opportunity it was a labor of love.

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Ironically the general public probably didn’t know how much of a comic book fan you were until you really came into this.

Yeah. I grew up reading the comics. I think when we went to Comic-Con that first summer — was it 2014? I think up there on the panel I mentioned that was the 20th Comic-Con I had been to because I started going in 1994. It was true. I still go to Comic-Con. It’s weird now because I actually like going to Comic-Con and just skulking around and looking at the things. It’s a different thing now, like going down and promoting the movie and stuff. It’s great, but it’s just different. It’s changed radically. But I love it. I was always a huge obsessive Marvel Comics guy.

What was the most important aspect to you of bringing Ant-Man to the screen that you wanted to get right?

I think I wanted to get the tone right and I wanted to get the visuals right in terms of it being what would hopefully be the definitive shrinking movie of this generation. You know, something that was the defining shrinking movie of 2015 (laughs). But it really was about making that experience of shrinking different than the long history of shrinking movies that we’ve seen before and making it kinetic and really utilizing the technology that we now have to present it in a radically different way; as realistically as possible and just as immersive as possible.

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You speak in the Blu-ray bonus features about the difference between shooting in 2.40:1 and 1.85:1 aspect ratios. Can you describe that in layman’s terms?

2.40 is really a widescreen aspect ratio, like the widest except for maybe Cinerama or something. But it was really started in the ‘50s to combat television where people were staying home and watching TV instead of going to the movies, and the studios were like, “Well, let’s make it a bigger, bigger experience.” I love that aspect ratio. I’ve done two of my movies in that aspect ratio. But for me it’s always kind of the story that dictates the aspect ratio.

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1.85 is not as wide, but it’s a little taller. I think it’s generally thought of as more intimate and maybe less epic. And it was a conversation, because they had been prepping the movie in 2.40 and I wanted to change to 1.85. It’s a big conversation because it affects production design. It affects everything.

And it felt to me, as I had said before, that shrinking was a vertical act and it was going to serve the movie even more. And I had to make a case for the fact that it was still going to be epic. I looked at movies like Joss (Whedon)’s first Avengers, which was 1.85. Jurassic Park is 1.85.  E.T. is 1.85. There are plenty of 1.85 movies that are big and have scope to them.

It wasn’t a huge, long, protracted conversation with Marvel. They really saw the value in doing it that way. But it just made sense for our movie. When you are looking at it on Blu-ray and DVD, it actually fills more of your screen. So you don’t have the black bars on the top and bottom. But it just felt right for this movie. I have no idea what the aspect ratio of the next one will be. It really kind of depends on the story and what works best.

You are coming back for Ant-Man and the Wasp.

I am.

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Scott’s in Captain America: Civil War, obviously. Do you have to sort of jump off from wherever he lands in that movie? Do you have to look at that first to see where you are going with the next one?

Yeah. The stuff with him in Civil War is terrific. It will affect our starting point, but not that much, really, because I think we’re conceiving Ant-Man and The Wasp much in the way that we conceived Ant-Man, which is as a more standalone experience, which I really liked about Ant-Man; it had to work if you’d never seen any of the other movies. It’s enhanced if you have, but we didn’t have to deal with Infinity Gems or any of that stuff in the movie. It was really a smaller tale.

I think that the idea for Ant-Man and the Wasp is to get back to dealing with the Pyms, and the Van Dynes, and Scott Lang and his guys a little bit more. It will be affected by what happens in Civil War. There’s no question about it. But I think only in a small way.

Is Adam McKay going to write this?

We’re still trying to figure out. Paul’s in and McKay right now is out promoting his movie The Big Short. It’s terrific. So he’s out and it’s really going to be a schedule issue probably. So we’re hoping.

The Wasp is getting bumped up into the title, a first for Marvel outside of Captain Marvel, which is still a few years away. Can you talk about the evolution of that character and getting her into the title of the next one?

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I think it made sense in the story in Ant-Man. Her arc of becoming a hero is as big a part as Scott’s is in the first Ant-Man. She doesn’t get the suit until the very, very end. But her arc was becoming a hero and kind of being sidelined by her father until her father can realize what she has to offer and stops being overprotective of her.

But it makes sense because in the comics they were absolutely a duo. And that was part of what was fun and compelling about Ant-Man and The Wasp in the comics — their superhero partnership, but also their personal partnership. So that’s going to be really fun to explore with Scott and Hope. And I think it’s also going to be fun to explore with Hank Pym and what may or may not have happened to Janet. So it really kind of works for both Ant-Man and Wasp.

Do you have a villain in mind?

We definitely have a definite take on the villain aspect of the movie.

That’s a good way of saying it. You spoke about using technology and being able to make the first one the ultimate shrinking movie. Are things happening now that will enable you to go even further in terms of what we can see in Ant-Man and The Wasp?

Yeah, definitely. I think that now that we’ve done what’s essentially the origin movie and we can get into a more pure adventure and advancing these characters, you are still going to have all the character dynamics, and there’s a lot to discover there. But really, just making it a little weirder and maybe a little more extreme.

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I think one of the things that all the Marvel movies try and do, and we were the 12th Marvel movie, I think, was to really give the audience an experience that they haven’t had before. We don’t want to repeat what we did in the first Ant-Man. We want to build on it and enhance it.

Are there more advanced cameras coming out and that sort of thing?

Absolutely. It’s constantly changing. There’s the Alexa 65mm, which is a large format version of what we shot Ant-Man on. Really, that’s part of the fun. So a big part of my job is keeping abreast of what creates the most vivid experience for the audience. I mean we’re still about a little less than a year away from starting prep on the movie. So, technologically, who knows? There’s a lot that changes. It changes so quickly.

You came very close to doing a Fantastic Four movie years back.

Yes.

What do you think has been the issue with getting that right? And if it ever gets back into these corridors, would you like another crack at it?

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I’d love another crack. I mean, I am a huge fan of the Fantastic Four, obviously. In the comics realm they were the first family of the Marvel Universe. If stuff worked out that way that they came back under the Marvel Cinematic Universe banner, it’d be fantastic and it’d be fun to help figure out a way to include them in that universe.

It’s a tough property to adapt because there was such an early ‘60s space race optimism about that thing. It can seem a little like a story out of time. There were versions we were talking about that were period versions of it, and there was a reason we were thinking of it that way. But that’s certainly not the only way into Fantastic Four. But we’ll see. I’m really focusing just on [laughs] Ant-Man right now.

Ant-Man is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and digital.