Ant-Man and the Wasp is a Big Deal for Director Peyton Reed

The director of both Ant-Man movies on making self-contained sci-fi comedies work in the MCU.

The world’s smallest superheroes are back in Ant-Man and the Wasp, and so is director Peyton Reed, who took over the first Ant-Man movie in 2014 after the departure of original director Edgar Wright (remember those days?) and effectively made it his own. Reed brought his own sense of humor to the project, aided by star/co-writer Paul Rudd and co-writer Adam McKay (who built upon the original script by Wright and Joe Cornish), and delivered a fun, highly entertaining and quirky sci-fi comedy that once again proved Marvel could bring just about any character — no matter how outlandish — to the screen.

Now Reed — who was once in the running to direct Fantastic Four for Fox years ago — and the gang head out on a new adventure, as Scott Lang (Rudd), serving out the last days of his house arrest following the events of Captain America: Civil War, is recruited by Hope Van Dyne/The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) and her dad, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), to help search the Quantum Realm for Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), their long-vanished mother and wife respectively. But their plans are threatened by the mysterious enemy Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who can phase-shift through matter.

There is a lot more playing around with size and scale in Ant-Man and the Wasp, as well as a deeper look into the depths of the Quantum Realm, and while the movie has some serious implications, it’s still a perfectly light and breezy palate cleanser after the somber events of Avengers: Infinity War.

We spoke with Reed about developing the sequel, working with the Wasp (both of them!) and more, including his thoughts on the possible Disney-Fox merger that could bring the Fantastic Four to the MCU. We also got into some spoilers with Reed about the film’s ending, but you’ll have to wait until the end of the week — when it opens — to read all about those.

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Den of Geek: How did the story and premise for this one sort of evolve over the course of development and pre-production and going into production?

Peyton Reed: Well, I think there were definitely, certainly things we set up in the first movie, even though at that point we had no guarantee we were ever gonna be able to do another one. There were things we wanted to set in motion, in case we did. Chief among those really was, we knew we wanted to explore this idea of seeing more of the Quantum Realm and now that Scott Lang had made it out of the Quantum Realm, now that that was possible, is there a chance that Janet van Dyne might be still be alive down there? If so, can they find her? And then we laid the groundwork for Hope van Dyne and really told her origin story in the first movie, and now it was time to have her coming out as a hero.

So that stuff was really in motion since the first movie. But once we actually got the green light and knew we were making this movie, we saw an early cut of Captain America: Civil War. Of course, Scott Lang goes and takes his suit and gets involved in this in-fighting with the Avengers. He gets caught, thrown into a prison and the suit’s confiscated. And my first reaction when I saw that early cut of Civil War went to the ramifications to our characters. This is Hank Pym’s worst nightmare, and it would be perceived as an absolute betrayal by Hope van Dyne.

So, that movie kinda gave us this gift, this sort of automatic jumping-off point that felt really strong, dramatically and comedically. Which was, now there’s a rift, and we start the movie with Scott and Hope estranged from each other. And also as a result, Scott’s on house arrest and Hank and Hope have had to go underground, because he has put them on the radar for the Sokovia Accords. So that felt like a really strong jumping-off point, and from that point on, we sat down to devise all the specifics of this movie.

Was the idea also to keep it very self-contained, like the first movie, with very little crossover? I actually read the other day that Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) was once supposed to show up in Ant-Man.

I think there was a maybe two-day period, early on in the first movie, where we talked about…In the prologue scene of the first movie, where Hank Pym comes into S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters and confronts Howard Stark and Peggy Carter’s there, at one point we talked about whether there was a version of Zola there in that scene. He really would not have had any major plot function but maybe would have hinted what was going on behind the scenes at S.H.I.E.L.D. That was like a two or three day period, I think there’s some pre-production artwork we did that was like, “Hmm, could this work? Could this be weird?” Then it just felt too off-point for that movie.

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But when it came time for this movie, we really always conceived it as more of a standalone movie, that takes place in our corner in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in San Francisco. We knew we had a lot of story to tell with the characters we had already set up, and the characters that we wanted to introduce into our universe. You know, everybody from Bill Foster and Jimmy Woo, and of course, Janet van Dyne.

But what we also knew is that we were going to be coming out after Infinity War, and we knew how Infinity War was gonna end. What we didn’t quite know was how we were gonna account for that in our movie. We knew where we were in the timeline, and that we were really dealing with ramifications of Civil War more than Infinity War, but it was midway through the process that we finally landed on the structure that we did, in terms of how our movie was gonna deal with Infinity War.

Bringing Wasp in must have been just tremendously exciting to do at this point.

Yeah, it’s really, really exciting for me. Because that was always the plan if we were gonna get to make another movie, was really featuring Wasp from the get-go. I sort of perceived it more from a Marvel Comics fan point of view, because I was really introduced as a kid to Ant-Man and Wasp together, as a partnership. So I always perceived them as a partnership. And when I came onto the first Ant-Man, there really was no Janet in those original versions of the script. It was something that (Adam) McKay and Rudd and I wanted to at least allude to in the first movie.

So, in this movie, I certainly have the great, good fortune of dealing with both Wasps, Janet and Hope van Dyne. But yeah, I mean for me it’s great, because in the first movie, Hope is clearly the person more qualified to help Hank Pym with his mess. But he obviously can’t see it and won’t allow it, because of what happened to her mom. But she trained Scott in the first movie, so we knew she was going to be a very powerful, decisive hero.

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It was fun to spend time and I really valued having Evangeline involved in the creation of this character, from the very, very beginning, just talking about how we wanted to create and dimensonalize Hope van Dyne as a hero. Not only sort of how she moves and how she fights, but Evangeline had very specific sayings, like “I don’t wanna appear too glam. I hate it in movies when a female hero is involved in a brutal fight scene and her hair and nails aren’t messed up.” She was like, “I wanna sweat, and have my hair in a very practical ponytail, because that’s the only way that helmet will come on and off.”

She had very specific ideas about sort of the pragmatic side of Hope van Dyne, in addition to the fact that she’s a brilliant scientist. And that was really rewarding for me, to work with Evangeline and create these little details about that character. Because I think that’s something that she feels real ownership over, and so do I.

When you see Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer on your set playing Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne, these iconic, fantastic actors, what does that tell you about how far Marvel has come, and how far the genre was come?

Well, it’s insane to me. It’s great. People have very short memories, and it’s something not talked a lot during this process, but I was talking recently about Captain America: The First Avenger and how it’s not that long ago that Captain America, in a movie context, was maybe one of the more ridiculous things you could think of.

And now, the way that the MCU has presented Captain America and evolved him throughout the series, is incredible. I think people can barely remember a time when that wasn’t the case. Which is a big testament to what Marvel does. But, with Michael and Michelle, it is a testament to what Marvel’s done, that it attracts this caliber of actor.

But also, I think in the past with people like Jeff Bridges and Robert Redford and people like that, they’ve traditionally kind of played more of the villain roles in these movies. So for me, it’s such a thrill to have in the Ant-Man movies, this generational hero story going on where obviously you have Scott and Hope, but you have this other generation of Ant-Man and Wasp. That, particularly for me, is rewarding.

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This movie takes place roughly parallel to the events of Infinity War. Did you go through a lot of ideas about how to deal with that?

It was something that we talked about a lot. And it really makes sense that they have this very specific mission at hand. They could be unaware of the current news cycle, in a way. That really helped us, in a way, because we knew also that audiences were gonna come into this movie at the beginning, looking for clues, like how does it tie into Infinity War and the timeline? And when we don’t give them any clues for a very long time in our movie, they just submit to our story and get caught up in our story.

(Several questions here were edited out and will be featured later this week.)

You play around with size so much in this film. Any gags that didn’t make the finished film?

Yeah, there were tons of different gags that we talked about earlier on, like way early on. There was some daddy-daughter date stuff with Scott and Cassie, where at one point he was gonna be an absolute irresponsible dad who did shrink her down. We decided that just simply didn’t work for the story. There’s definitely some other stuff that we developed along the way, regarding how the chase played out. And even a few things, I think, in the Quantum Realm.

The Disney-Fox merger is looking like it could happen. Which means the Fantastic Four might come into the MCU. Are you planting your little flags around the Marvel offices about getting first dibs? And has Laurence Fishburne pitched you on voicing Galactus? Because he wants to.

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No, he did not pitch me on that one. I mean listen, who knows? That merger’s been on and off, but who knows? I think it’s been in the back of everybody’s mind, like “Oh, what would happen if those Marvel heroes could kind of come into the MCU fold?” As a fan, that would be awesome to me, I mean again for all the reasons we’ve talked about. Just, seeing all of these various heroes and villains together. I think it would be great. As for the Fantastic Four, listen, you know I’m a huge Fantastic Four fan. It’s just too early to tell if it’s even gonna happen, and sort of what the plans are, but as a fan, I know that I would absolutely love to see the Fantastic Four join the MCU, it’d be great.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is out in theaters this Friday (July 6).