Ant-Man and The Wasp will see the return of a key Marvel character, says Paul Rudd
For the millennials, Paul Rudd’s most remembered role will be that of Mike Hannigan (Phoebe’s husband) in the popular sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S. But Rudd wears many hats of a comedian, a writer, an actor, and a producer too. After making an impactful debut in the TV drama Sisters, the 49-year-old actor went on to star in many films, including The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) and The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012). Rudd made his debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2015’s Ant-Man, not only playing the protagonist Scott Lang/Ant-Man, but also writing the screenplay with Adam McKay. The sequel, Ant-Man & The Wasp (directed by Peyton Reed), will see Rudd reprising his role, both as actor and writer. Excerpts from a chat with the actor...
How is this time different from a writing point of view?
From a writing point of view, it’s nice when you start writing a film where you don't have to explain anything, as certain aspects of the character are already known. And you don’t have to spend a lot of time establishing that. It was different for me this time, in that with the first one there was a script and a story that existed before I ever signed on as a writer. I was writing that by default. And on this, I started with the original story. Now that has morphed over many months with other writers as well.
Is there an “Ant-Man” tone?
Tonally this feels as if it’s dealing with similar themes and relationships. It still feels family- friendly in maybe a way some of the other Marvel films don’t. But it’s also abstract and a bit stranger, but there’s a general framework. The storyline is simple. We have to get this person, and we only have a short window of time to do it. That was really the construct, or the main thing that we’re going to think about. And then what are all of these obstacles that are going to prohibit us from doing that?
Was there anything from Captain America: Civil War that informed this story?
I suppose the challenge with working on any of these Marvel films is coming up with a specific contained story and still having it fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large. Certain events have happened since the very first Ant-Man until the second one that we're doing now, Civil War being one of them. So we had to address things that happened to my character in the interim, and then imagine what might’ve happened to other characters, like Hope and Hank, during that time as well. So we start this film dealing with the aftermath of Scott having gone to Germany and fought in Civil War and how that affected our story now. Once we dealt with those particulars, we get very much into a story that is contained and that people will understand and follow and be invested in even without having seen Civil War.
What do you like about Scott?
One of the things that I really like about playing this character is that he is thrown into these extraordinary circumstances — shrinking and flying around on ants and entering quantum realms and other life-threatening stuff. Yet, one thing that I’ve always tried to sustain is this way of dealing with everything with a little bit of a sense of humor getting into the threat but having a kind of carefree attitude about it. And that’s fun to do. It also gives an audience a little bit of a fun ride in that they see somebody like Scott Lang and think that they would take in all of this craziness the same way. So, that’s fun to play.
Do you find that it’s a grounded way to get into something?
It’s a weird thing. I would always think, even before this ever started — not that I modeled anything around it—but I always thought of Bill Murray in Stripes. Well, it’s actually Bill Murray in anything. He just has this way about him that he just seems to not take any of it seriously, and I just love that about Bill Murray, not about myself or my portrayal of the role. But I think it’s a cool quality.
What’s your approach to working with Peyton?
Ever since Peyton came on board the first time around, one of the things that we both agreed on is the type of movie we wanted to make and how important the laughs were and how important it was to create something that was original within this genre. We always wanted to make these things fun and yet still be emotional and still be wowed with some visuals, but making them funny too. I feel like we’ve always been on the same page as far as the movie we want to make. And that just allows trust for me as an actor. I trust he’s getting what he needs.
You don’t want to make the same movie again, right?
Right, and this is certainly not the same movie. We thought about what we could do that’s going to be unique, and yet not sensory overloaded, but something stranger. We’re also establishing some things that will play a part in other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that are not Ant-Man films. So, we’re taking all of these things and creating this story and still having elements of weirdness that fit our love of weirdness, like certain jokes. Peyton and I like weird jokes, by the way, as does Marvel, as does Kevin Feige and Stephen Broussard. They're all comedy lovers. It’s kind of nice to work on something where you can make a Neil Hamburger reference, and the head of the studio knows what you're talking about and nobody else does.
Where do we find Scott in this film?
When we start the film, Scott is under house arrest because the events of Civil War have now put him serving time at home. So when we pick up the movie, he’s only got a little bit of time left and is looking forward to getting out of the house and playing with his daughter and being able to go to her school events and being a normal parent. At the same time, Hope and Hank are on the run, and are not in contact with Scott. They’re furious with him because when he was caught with their tech in “Civil War,” it alerted the authorities to them. Now they can't live their lives and do what they want to do without having a microscope on them. So, they’re angry with him, but Scott wants nothing to do with Ant-Man anyway. But with just a few days left, just when he thinks he’s out, they pull him right back in.
What is the family dynamic now?
Life has gotten a little trickier just because Scott can’t leave his house. However, Scott gets along with Paxton and Maggie very well. They bring Cassie to play at Scott’s house and have a routine worked out. They are a very high-functioning family within all of this dysfunction. So everything is good, but it’s going be great in just a couple of days when Scott’s house arrest is done.
What about Scott’s guys?
One of the things that everybody knows is that it’s very hard for felons to get a job and go straight. But Scott and his guys are making a go of it. Luis and Scott and the two other guys, Dave and Kurt, formed a company called X-Con Security. It’s a new company, providing security to businesses and homes. They have a big account that they need to land, and that comes back later on in the story. But this is where they have found themselves; they’re on the straight and narrow and giving it a good go with it.
What is Hank and Janet’s relationship with Bill Foster?
Laurence Fishburne is playing Bill Foster, and Bill Foster and Hank Pym have an adversarial relationship. They once worked together with Bill working as a scientist under Hank. There was a growing animosity between them. We start the film where an accident happens, and indirectly Hank and Janet, but particularly Hank, might be considered responsible. Bill Foster goes in to try and clean up Hank’s mess, according to Bill. As a result, they have been estranged for many years. They’ve only seen each other since the accident for the first time in this film. They don’t get along. Then what that accident was and what their relationship is unfolds.
What was it like to work with them?
It’s pretty great. It doesn’t matter how many films you do, but sometimes you find yourself on a set in a scene and you think, oh, wow, there’s Laurence Fishburne, and there’s Michael Douglas, and there’s Michelle Pfeiffer. And they're all talking to each other. And whoa! How did I get here? And it’s pretty cool.
What happens that they need Ant-Man’s help?
Over the years while Scott’s been under house arrest, Hank and Hope have been working on a tunnel or a portal that can direct a pod, this thing you ride in, into the quantum realm. At the end of the first Ant-Man, Scott shrinks down so small that he hits a quantum scale. And we know that Janet has been lost down there for 30 years. It was always believed that if you went that small you weren't going to survive. But because Scott came back in the first Ant-Man, Hank and Hope have now become obsessed with this idea of finding Janet and bringing her back, so they have been working on this tunnel. The very first time they flip it on, Scott has this dream, a vision, and they realize that something’s been planted in Scott’s head from when he went down the first time, so they need to get him involved.
Talk about the importance of the lab.
Hank’s lab is a bit of a hot potato. This lab, which shrinks and grows and is a mobile lab, is housing the tunnel, which is the way that you possibly get into the quantum universe. And it's the way to Janet. Now, there’s another character called Ghost, who also wants to find Janet for other reasons, and she wants the lab. Then there’s another third party, named Burch who’s played by Walton Goggins, and he wants the lab because he’s a tech black-market wheeler and dealer. So, there are all of these people that want this bit of technology.
What kind of ride are people in for with this film?
The movie checks a lot of boxes. People can expect to be emotionally invested, with not just Scott’s relationship with his daughter, but with his relationship with Hope and Hank as well. Every character in the film has a connection with one another, and hopefully, people will relate to that. The visuals are as always stunning, as is the case with Marvel films. But this movie is bananas. There are action sequences that you’ve never seen before, and it’s really funny in a way that might be surprising.