By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Marvel Studios gets its first headlining female superhero in “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” with the latter character being played by Evangeline Lilly, previously part of TV’s “Lost” cast and the “Hobbit” films. The native Canadian, introduced in 2015’s “Ant-Man,” is front and center of this highly anticipated sequel, in which her backstory—and that of her scientist parents—is told.
As Hope Van Dyne, she is the daughter of physicist and former Ant-Man Hank Pym (a returning Michael Douglas), who is building a machine to reach his long-lost wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) who vanished into the Quantum Realm decades earlier while the two were trying to save the planet by defusing a destructive missile. Her selfless act of going sub-atomic to destroy the device has left her stranded in the realm. Pym and his daughter need new Ant-Man Scott Lang (returning Paul Rudd), to retrieve a message from his brain that Janet has implanted when he entered the realm in the first “Ant-Man.” But he is under house arrest and prohibited from contacting Pym after stealing his super-powered suit and using it in the superhero showdown featured in “Captain America: Civil War.” Just days away from getting his ankle-monitor removed, Scott doesn’t want to risk further jail time by leaving home. Pym and his daughter find a way to get Scott out of the house without alerting the authorities. Only problem is there are others interested in stealing Pym’s technology for their own purposes. One is a mysterious entity known as Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), and the other is a shady criminal named Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), who thinks he can sell the technology for a lot of money. Pym seeks out the assistance of a former colleague Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) to put the finishing touches on his invention.
At a press conference, Lilly, alongside co-stars Rudd, Fishburne, Douglas and John-Kamen are joined by director Peyton Reed and producer Kevin Feige to discuss the action-filled comedy sequel.
Q: Evangeline, what’s it like to be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe and being the first titular female lead?
Lilly: Originally, Wasp was going to be introduced in “Captain America: Civil War.” I never expressed it at the time, because of course, how can you? But secretly I was like “Hmm. She’s not going to get an origins film. Oh, well, it’s okay. I’m just stoked to be here, dude. I’m just happy that I get to put on a suit.” And then when I got a call saying “we’ve decided not to put you in ‘Civil War,’” and there was this moment of “don’t be offended,” I was like, “No. No. No. Are they going to say what I think they’re going to say?” And then they said what I thought they were going to say, which is “because we really want to dedicate a film to introducing this female superhero and we don’t want her just to be a side note in this larger story.” That was so exciting for me. I still didn’t know that there was going to be double-billing (with Ant-Man). That didn’t come until later. That was presented to me as a surprise, by email, with a screen cap of the title. That was pretty cool.
Q: Paul, so you don’t mind sharing the spotlight with Evangeline in this film?
Rudd: One of the things that I like about (the film) is it is a duo, a team and we learn to work together. And we work together pretty well.
Q: Peyton, what in this movie was the most daunting sequence to shoot? And which part made you the happiest to have finished when you filmed it?
Reed: There were a lot of daunting sequences, because we really wanted to set out and go nuts with the Pym particle technology in this movie. It occurred to us at some point that maybe it’s not just Ant-Man and Wasp who can shrink and maybe grow. What if it were vehicles, buildings and other things and we really wanted to go nuts with it. What that did was create some real technical challenges. We did a whole car chase that took us through the city of San Francisco and we wanted to do a chase that you just simply wouldn’t see in any other movie because of all the size changes. That was probably the biggest challenge.
Q: How challenging was it shooting on location?
Reed: We wanted to do all these very specific things and make San Francisco a character in the movie, but utilize the city and make this chase specific to that city, so we used landmarks like Lombard Street. Thankfully, the city of San Francisco was so cooperative and we really had free reign to do some of the craziest things imaginable.
Q: Kevin, what is the future of the Quantum Realm? Are we going to see it in future films?
Feige: Without giving anything away, they’re all storytelling tools. In the first (“Ant-Man”), we got a glimpse of it. For people who like to go through frame-by-frame, there was a little silhouette of Janet as the Wasp in there, which is a big story element in this movie. There are things that you see that Peyton has put in there. Where and how they pay off in the near-term and in the long-term remains to be seen.
Q: What was Paul Rudd’s contribution as a writer on the film?
Reed: Paul’s as generous a writer as he is an actor. Paul could easily say, “I’m getting all the lines. You’re not going to say this or do this,” but Paul always has the whole picture in mind when he’s writing and acting.
Rudd: I try and think of the film as a whole and I think of every character. This has been a collaborative effort—more than anything I’ve ever worked on and to think that I actually wrote it would be a gross overstatement. The truth of the matter is Peyton has been working on this for a long time. Same with our producer, Stephen Broussard. Same with Kevin. But in particular, two writers, Erik Sommers and Chris McKenna, did a lot of the heavy lifting. I tip my cap to them.
Q: Evangeline, what was your favorite part of the fight sequence with Sonny’s goons and with Hannah John-Kamen’s Ghost?
Lilly: I loved getting to be a “blade runner.” That was pretty cool. The knife gag in the restaurant scene is very cool. I love the kind of element of having somebody who’s completely in jeopardy, but also completely in control. Like when the mallet comes down to hit her, it’s a (scary) moment, but she’s completely in control the next second. It was just fun to finally get to see her take on the mantle, because this is something that she’s been ready and willing to do her whole life. Her parents are both superheroes and she was raring to get in that suit for an entire film. To actually see her fighting in that moment was wonderful.
Q: Is anyone here more knowledgable than the others in explaining quantum theory in the Quantum Realm?
Douglas: (quips) Peyton cast me for this role because he found out I had a degree in quantum mechanics.
Lilly: I really love quantum physics and always did before this happened. That’s one of the reasons I was excited about this was I really dig quantum physics. At one point, we thought the atom was the be all and end all; that everything ended at the atom level, that it was the smallest nucleus in the world. But, actually, we discovered that the atom is kinetic and that atoms exist in multiple places at the same time. That was scientifically proven. Once you discover that, then you know that matter is kinetic and matter is displacing all the time and if it can be displaced, it can be warped. So, if you can warp it then you can warp size and you can warp matter. So, can you warp time? Can you warp reality? Can you warp universes?
Q: This is the third time Paul is playing Ant-Man. Peyton, how did you and Paul approach not only the characters as the sequel to “Ant-Man” but also the sequel to “Captain America?”
Reed: It’s a sequel to both movies. What was cool about “Captain America: Civil War” is we could not ignore what had happened to Scott Lang in that movie in this movie. It gave us an organic jumping off point, because my first reaction was “what would Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne think about Scott taking the suit and getting involved with this and fighting with the Avengers?” They’d be (angry). So, it really gave us this starting point where it’s like they are estranged at the beginning of the movie as a result of this. There are ramifications of Scott being on house arrest and it really gave us a natural starting point.
Rudd: One of the things that was kind of nice is it gave us a little bit of leeway to lean into something maybe a little harder than we would have been able to because the character has been established and we’ve seen Scott in two other films. People buy the abilities. They buy me in the role. They understand the rules. You don’t play into the humor. Would Scott do this? Would he make this? Would he say this kind of thing? Would he make this kind of choice? The first time around we were still modulating so that was one of the really fun parts about this. We kind of went into it with a “let’s try it” (approach). People know who this guy is already.
Q: Michael, how did you like getting digitally reverse-aged?
Douglas: That was one of the nice parts. When we started this and I discovered that Michelle Pfeiffer was going to be my wife—I’ve been a tremendous fan of hers (although) I never have had any chance to work with her—I was totally ecstatic. Then, in reading the script, to find out that Michelle Pfeiffer and I were going to be 30 years younger made it all that much better. So, it was a treat. It remains to be seen where all of this can go.
Q: Paul, how was it channeling Michelle Pfeiffer in that scene in Hank’s lab?
Rudd: (quips) I feel like I’ve been doing that for years. Every time we would refer to that, we kept calling it the “All of Me Sequence.” We had many conversations about it earlier on, because it seems like a fairly big swing. It was surreal, to say the least. There are those moments as an actor where you have to buy into this scenario and you’re playing the truth of the moment. At the same time, as me being me and Michael being Michael, when I had my hand tenderly to his and I’m staring into the eyes, we giggled a couple of times.
Q: Was Michelle on set that day?
Rudd: No, I would never have been able to do that with her there.
Q: Hannah, did you see yourself as the villain?
John-Kamen: Absolutely not. I definitely approach the character not as a villain at all. Definitely a threat to the characters and the heroes of the movie. But when you play a villain, you have to play it like you’re the good guy and everyone else is bad. The stakes are so high and she has such a clear objective in the movie. It’s every man and woman for himself or herself. What the Marvel Universe does so well is (the lines between hero and villain are) not black and white. It’s very gray, and the villains are very redeemable. They’re fun and you want to see them again.
Lilly: Superhero stories are fun and they’re a totally different world, but what I think is cool and is that to have redeemable villains, you’re teaching children that if you encounter somebody that might have a different opinion than you, that doesn’t mean they’re a villain. If they have a different objective than you, it doesn’t mean you should attack them. Maybe you want to try to understand them first.
Q: Laurence, was this the first Marvel role that came your way?
Fishburne: It is not the first Marvel role to come my way. Years ago, I ran into a guy named Tim Story who directed the movie “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” and I said to him, “I am Norrin Radd,” and he said, “Who?” and I said, “I am Norrin Radd and Norrin Radd is the guy who becomes the Silver Surfer and works for Galactus.” So, I voiced the Silver Surfer in “Rise of the Silver Surfer.” I’ve been a reader since I was eight and a (Marvel) fan my whole life. I really enjoyed the movies and everything that they’ve done with MCU. I realized that I was on the, the lot with Marvel, working on “Blackish” at ABC/Disney and remembered that I had worked with (producer) Louis D’Esposito a hundred years ago. I thought, I should go talk to them. They were kind enough to say, “We’ll think about that, Fish.” A couple weeks later they were like, “Ah, you know about this (Bill Foster)?” But, oddly enough, it was a guy I didn’t know about. I knew about Hank Pym, because I knew Ant-Man and Wasp became Avengers at some point. Did they not?
Reed: Oh, yeah. They were right on the cover of “Avengers Number One.”
Fishburne: So, that’s why I knew about Hank Pym and I knew about the Pym particle and all of that, but I never got to (read about) Foster because I was never an “Ant-Man” reader. Peyton sat me down, and I was like, “No, really?” They were kind enough to allow me to join the family. I’m like a kid in a candy store, man. I’m just having a good time.
Q: Evangeline, is there anybody who you think Wasp would be a lot of fun to see interact with in a sequel?
Lilly: I used to say it would be fun to see the Wasp with the Hulk together because she’d be so teeny and he’s so giant, but then we did (Rudd’s character as) Giant Man, so that’s out. I just personally have an enormous crush on (“Black Panther” character) Okoye and would love a chance to hang out with Danai Gurira (who plays the Wakandan warrior) as much as possible, so let’s just say that. I am personally going to continue to keep the rumor and gossip about an all-female “Avengers” film going until it happens.
Q: Hannah, how did they do the quantum phasing effect while you were filming?
John-Kamen: The finished project is neat. When I watched it, I was like, “Oh, that looks really cool.” There were no limitations for me actually filming. It was very freeing because it was like, do the scene and do the stunts. It wouldn’t be stop/start, stop/start for any effects. The visual effects came later. But it looks really good (and) I’m so happy.