Peyton Reed had a nearly impossible job on Ant-Man. Not only did he have to make a hit movie out of a very unfamiliar Marvel superhero, he had to make it after a universally beloved filmmaker left the project amidst controversy. Edgar Wright had been developing Ant-Man for over half a decade before he left the project just before the start of filming, and Peyton Reed had to complete the project with very little time to develop the script and make it his own.
The result is a film that’s pretty danged entertaining, so it was with some enthusiasm that we sat down with Reed at Walt Disney Studios to talk about his daunting task, and some of the BIGGEST SPOILERS in the film. The following interview includes Reed’s insights and behind the scenes stories about Ant-Man‘s connections to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the fate of a popular character, the plot of the potential sequel and a major Easter Egg you should search for during the movie’s trippy climax. It also features Reed’s description of the Fantastic Four movie he almost got to direct in the mid-2000’s, before he ultimately backed out and was replaced by Tim Story.
Yeah, the irony isn’t lost on Peyton Reed either. Ant-Man is now playing in theaters worldwide.
Crave: I’m actually a big fan of yours. I loved Down With Love.
Peyton Reed: Oh, thanks man. Thank you for saying that.
I tried to get everyone to see that movie. Unfortunately I failed.
Thank you. Steve Scott, who’s the colorist on our movie, he’s done all our movies since Down With Love, we were just color-timing Ant-Man and he was saying “We’ve got to get Down With Love out on Blu-ray!” It’s not on Blu-ray now.
It would look gorgeous on Blu-ray.
So was Down With Love the film that got you Ant-Man? Did you show Marvel Down With Love and they went, “You’re perfect?”
Well, I had known Kevin Feige for some time. As I was doing Down With Love I went and pitched on Fantastic Four at Fox, and got the movie. I actually actively developed it for the better part of a year until, at that time, it sort of became apparent that I was not going to be able to make the movie I wanted to make with Fantastic Four.
So I also came in, whatever it was, three or four years ago, and pitched on Guardians of the Galaxy. So I’ve been on Kevin’s radar for a while. So when this came up he called and I came in and read the drafts and we talked about it and I was psyched. I mean, I’ve been a Marvel fan since I was a kid. I voraciously read all the Marvel comics so I could talk specifically about Hank Pym and Scott Lang and all that.
It’s interesting that you ended up not making the film you wanted to make, and now here you have to come in after this project’s been through so much development.
It’s incredibly ironic. And it’s interesting, Fantastic Four being at Fox at that time was a very different environment. So much has changed. The landscape has changed in terms of superhero movies, [between] 2003 and 2015. So making Ant-Man here at Marvel, there’s a confidence level that they clearly understand the material and they know how to make these movies, and they’re also very hungry to kind of mix it up and try different, weird things. Let’s face it, Ant-Man is a deeply weird superhero character.
He absolutely is. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I remember hearing that your version of Fantastic Four was going to open with an A Hard Day’s Night homage. Was that true?
I worked with several different writers. At one time I was working with a writer, Doug Petrie, who had written on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and our conceit was to make it contemporary but to structure it like… at the time, and Avengers has since done this in grand fashion, but the idea of Fantastic Four [was] they didn’t have secret identities. They were what we were calling “daytime superheroes.” They were very much a part of the fabric of Manhattan.
So opening the movie in a way like, it’s whatever it is, a Tuesday morning, and people are on their way to work and they’re at Starbucks and somebody runs into Starbucks and goes, “Oh my god! The Fantastic Four, they’re fighting around the corner! Come check it out!” And people ran down the street and you ran around the corner and bang, you enter this big splash page where Human Torch and The Thing are all fighting, you know?
We loved the idea of just… it was an origin story, but coming into the movie in that way, where they’re fully formed and then backtracking from there.
That would have been cool. And here we have Ant-Man which is, forgive me, a “smaller scale” film. A lot of it takes place in Hank Pym’s house.
How does that affect the production? Were you looking at it like, “This is all in a house! Can we leave?”
Yeah, it was very much a thing while we were working on the movie, like, “Wow, there’s a LOT in Pym’s house!” And if we’re going to spend that much time in the house it had better be interesting. We definitely wanted to open up the movie but I love that he lives in this old Victorian house, and if you have a keen eye and look around there’s small-scale items all throughout the house that connote this whole past of experimentation with shrinking technology.
Can you give me an example of something we might not see on our first viewing?
If you just look around, like in Pym’s living room as they’re making their way through the house, there’s miniature cannons and a miniature chair and just small-scale items. We don’t mention them at all, but…
Well, one of them pays off…
One of them pays off in a big way. No pun intended. But also there’s a sort of sadness to that house, that maybe it used to be a happier place and it’s a little bit stuck in time, as Hank Pym is.
The way that this film ends up connecting to the Marvel Universe – a little bit at the beginning, but more towards the end – includes a cameo with Falcon.
Was that always going to be Falcon or could it have been literally whoever you could have got?
Well in the original drafts of the script it simply didn’t exist, and when Adam McKay came on to write with Paul Rudd – he came on about the same time I came on to direct and I’ve known McKay for some time and he’s a big comic book nerd, which people may or may not know about him – but we were making a heist movie, and one of the tropes in a heist movie is we’ve got all the plans together for the big heist but there’s that one element that we need that we have to get. How do we get it?
Adam had the idea, like what if Hank sends Scott to get a particular item or piece of technology he designed, and he hasn’t done all quite his research and Scott ends up in a place he might not be equipped to deal with, and he comes into contact with another Marvel character. Adam pitched Falcon. I not only loved the idea but I loved specifically the idea of Sam [Wilson], of Falcon.
Why specifically him?
I was a huge fan of Falcon in the comic books, and in Winter Soldier I love that character. I love Anthony Mackie, I love how he plays the character. And it felt like the right level superhero for Scott to come up against. Also I like the idea of what Ant-Man’s powers are and what Falcon’s powers are. It was very fun to imagine the different scenarios, like a kid when you think about “Oh, what are this guy’s powers and this guy’s? Who would win that battle?”
It just made sense. It felt like it tied [Ant-Man] into the universe but it absolutely served our story because it’s a trial by fire for Scott.
I must say Yellowjacket is an amazing shot, to shoot Antony out from under Ant-Man.
Yeah, sharpshooter. That’s accurate shooting!
That is VERY accurate shooting.
You know how in westerns where they talk about “he can shoot the wings off a fly?” That’s Yellowjacket’s version. [Laughs.] That’s Darren Cross’s version.
We’re not going to come back and find out Antony’s like a cyborg or anything? Antony’s gone?
I’m afraid Antony’s gone.
I liked Anthony. He was nice.
Tell me about the Microverse. It’s very surreal and I know Kevin Feige has talked about how the Microverse might be our way to other venues in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What did you talk about in terms of what we see in the Microverse, and what’s there, and what it looks like?
That was something, again, that didn’t exist in the previous drafts of the script, and then Adam McKay and I were both fans of the comic and it’s like, we’re going to see a lot of shrinking in this movie… what if we got to a third act where we just take it even further? And also creating a moment of self-sacrifice, potential self-sacrifice, for Scott. We talked a lot about, this has got to tap into that psychedelic era of Marvel Comics. It’s got to feel like Steve Ditko or Jack Kirby or [Jim] Steranko, and just be out there.
And also it seemed organic to bring Janet into the picture. What happened to her? Is there a possibility that she might still exist? Scott doesn’t see it but as he’s making his way down into the subatomic world there’s a brief glimpse of something. You have to have a keen eye but when you see it, and I’m sure when it’s on DVD and Blu-ray people might be freeze-framing it…
Yeah, because I was looking and I was like, “There’s no way they’re throwing all this stuff at us without sticking something in there.”
Did you see it?
I’m not sure I saw it. Does it have to do with Janet Van Dyne or something else?
It may have to do with Janet.
Fair enough. I will keep an eye out.
So you did your Ant-Man movie. Are you superhero’ed out or do you want to do another one of these from scratch, and make it all your own next time?
I’m sort of exhilarated. We literally put the finishing touches on the movie three or four days ago, so it’s still super fresh. But I really grew attached to the characters and by the time you get to the end of Ant-Man there are clear ways that these characters can go. I mean, Scott has really just become Ant-Man. What’s going to happen with him?
And really, Hope… at the beginning Hope could have taken care of business on her own if only Hank had allowed it. By the time we get to the end of the movie she’s about to become a fully-formed hero, and it’s going to be fun to see what happens with her. So if we’re fortunate enough to be able to do another one I’d love to do it.
So you would do Ant-Man 2?
I’d love to.
Well, I hope you get to.
Thanks very much!