Marvel's Ant-Man Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal © Marvel 2015

Ant-Man director Peyton Reed is a lifelong Marvel Comics fan. He knows the Marvel Universe as well as or better than most fans. Unlike most fans, however, Reed is a filmmaker and found himself in a unique position to weigh what fans like him wanted or expected against the needs of the movie he was making.

With Marvel’s Ant-Man now available on Blu-ray and digital HD, I sat down with Reed to ask him about finding that balance and what the spirit of Marvel means to him. We also talked about him having to share Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) with Captain America: Civil War directors Joe and Anthony Russo, what excites him most about the forthcoming sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp, and a key scene that established Lang’s credibility as a master thief in Reed’s heist movie.

Sean Gerber: As a lifelong comic book fan and a filmmaker, how did you balance the desires of the fan with the needs of the filmmaker while adapting Ant-Man from page to screen?

Peyton Reed: “I think it really comes down to, it has to work in the movie. And even if you change something really fundamental from the comics that there might be a concern that you’re betraying the fans or something, if the cinematic version works on its own merits, then you’ll be forgiven for it.

And I’m trying to think of the biggest examples. I guess it would be organic web-shooters would probably be the biggest example of something like ‘WHAT?! What are you doing?'”

Or the Mandarin in Iron Man 3.

“Yeah or Mandarin. Exactly. But they’re just choices that you sort of make and you want to be true to the spirit and the tone of what the comics were after if you depart from some major plot point or character point. So I think it’s just you take it all on an individual basis and whatever works best for the movie that doesn’t feel like a total betrayal.

“Ant-Man, he has a mask that covers his whole face in the comic books there’s this *points to portion of the face that’s visible in comics.* There was all that sort of design discussion. You get into creating the costumes in three dimensions and then you start to talk about the functionality. It was like, ‘Why is there a helmet and what does this do?’ I think the full helmet, one of the big discussions was when [Scott Lang] shrinks down really small, how does he breathe oxygen molecules? Like all this sort of pseudoscience of it all. And then there’s, at the end of the day, what looks cool? What really looks great and distinguishes itself from the other stuff?”

And what is that spirit of Marvel comics to you?

“I really started reading comics, Marvel Comics in the 1970s and then inherited my older brother’s friend had an amazing collection of 60s era Marvel stuff. At some point in his young life, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and suddenly he was not allowed to read any of his comic books so I was like, ‘Oh, well can I have your comic books since they’re too secular now?’ I got all of his 60s era stuff so that was the stuff I grew up reading and the one common denominator of all that stuff was, unlike DC at the time, was very much ‘These are larger than life heroes, but guess what? They have real world problems.’

“Peter Parker can’t pay his rent and in Fantastic Four there was all this in-fighting.”

That was one of my favorite parts of Ant-Man was when you see Scott doing the math of how long until he can see his daughter. Nobody else in the MCU really has to deal with money. Tony’s rich and Captain America is essentially sponsored.

“Yeah! And [Scott’s] a guy just out of prison and just wants to be a part of his daughter’s life. And they’re sort of more relatable, real world problems. That was what Marvel started. That was the Marvel revelation in the 60s and 70s of what those comics did that no one else was doing at the time. That to me is the Stan Lee and probably Jack Kirby of it all. Of creating these characters that you could see walking down the street on your way to work in Manhattan. You got a sense that they were part of the pop culture fabric.”

Making a movie like Ant-Man has to give you some sense of ownership over at least the MCU version of the character. How does that work now that you see him going off into other people’s movies before coming back to you?

“Oh yeah! When it was determined that he was gonna be part of [Captain America:] Civil War, that day I found out about it I think I got really prickly. I felt like ‘Wait a second! Those guys can’t take… Paul [Rudd]’s gonna be with the Russos? What are they gonna be doing without me?’ You get really, which is, I think good, you have a little ownership of those characters. And the way it works at Marvel is the Russos and [Christopher] Markus and [Stephen] McFeely, who are writing the movie, they came in and we showed stuff from Ant-Man and so they got an idea of the tone of our movie and then the tone of the character Scott Lang and how Paul’s playing that character to inform what they were gonna be doing in Civil War.

“And I like that cross-pollination because again it echoes what they did in the comics, you know, that different characters could appear in the other characters’ comic magazine or now movie. I love that about it. But yeah, you do get this weird sense of jealousy and Paul was so psyched I think to be doing Civil War where he’s doing scenes with these established heroes and he’s like ‘Now I really feel like a Marvel hero!’ I was like, ‘Wait, you didn’t before?’ But yeah, I like that about it.”

Do you have any partnership with the Russos and Markus and McFeely to make sure Scott is still where you would need him to be when he comes back to you?

We definitely had conversations about what his attitude would be in a particular situation he might be faced with in that movie. Like what felt consistent with the character we’d set up or whatever and then also kind of, I think in watching the footage, of how Scott Lang might be influenced by Hank Pym’s opinions about stuff. That stuff was really important. And yeah I think what ends up happening with Scott in that movie will affect us, but I think the goal with Ant-Man and the Wasp is to still do what feels more like a standalone movie. But there will definitely be things that happen to Scott that will reflect in our movie.

What new challenge excites you most about Ant-Man and the Wasp?

I think all of it. Just like, technically, upping the visuals even more and going to some weirder places than we went in the first one. Being loosened up from not having to do all this setup that we took care of in the first movie and so it can be more of just a straight up adventure. And then really the fun of creating the Hope Van Dyne Wasp and what that partnership is gonna look like and feel like. That’s really, really exciting to us. It’s gonna be fun.

All of the heist movie tropes in Ant-Man worked great. One of those is the need to establish the skill level and credibility of your thief and you do that in one of my favorite bits with Hank Pym’s vault. Can you talk about the development of that scene?

“That was something that when [Adam] McKay and Paul were working on the script that we felt was really important because there was a lot of talk about setting up Scott Lang in the first act and it was really important to give concrete reasons why Hank Pym would target him. Clearly he sees some value in the skills that Scott has in addition to kind of knowing that he’s got a real good heart at the bottom of it. He’s not a guy who’s a career criminal. He’s just a guy who screwed up.

“But it was important in that scene to show him, to give him some kind of MacGyver-like skills. So we, Paul and Adam and I, met with this guy who’s a friend of Adam McKay’s who is a securities expert. He’s a guy who, I don’t know who he’s worked for, but he’s one of these guys who’s like a securities guy and you could take what this guy taught you and use it for good or for bad. We sat it down and said, ‘Okay, if you’re gonna break into a house…’ We had conversations about casing the place. There’s a deleted scene on the Blu-ray that shows Scott disguised as a cable guy going to Pym’s house and that was part of the original thing about like ‘Well you would case the place and you would set up these hidden cameras before you went back and did it.’ But even in the way that you’d break into the safe and how you could use stuff, our time spent with this expert was really valuable.

“For me it was fun because that’s what movies do, man, just showing that process and we get to create a really kinetic sequence and, you know, it goes by so quickly and he’s so confident in doing it and it all makes enough sense that it could work and it was a largely visual effects-free sequence. It was really just shots and kinetics and Paul. But it was something really important in that first act to set up Scott so he’s not just a bumbling buffoon and it’s like ‘Oh okay. He knows what he’s doing.'”

And in the rhythm of the movie it really felt like the first chorus to me.

“Yeah!”

Ant-Man is now available on Blu-ray and digital HD.