Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania Writer Defends MODOK & Reveals Deleted Scenes [Exclusive Interview]

"Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania" may not be a critical darling, but writer Jeff Loveness is riding a wave of ecstasy after writing the Marvel Studios sequel that really let him take the Marvel Cinematic Universe into some of the strangest sci-fi territory the multi-billion dollar franchise has ever seen. With roots that began at "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and eventually took him to the writing staff of "Rick and Morty," Loveness is a comedy writer at heart, but he relished the opportunity to write a classic and tragic character like Kang the Conqueror, with actor Jonathan Majors taking the out-of-time villain's dialogue to the next level. 

Following the release of "Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania," /Film got the chance to speak with Jeff Loveness about writing the sequel that kicks off Phase 5 of the MCU. Funnily enough, Loveness says he wasn't concerned with setting up the future of the MCU, but focused more on creating a "fun family adventure comedy with a great villain." We talk about this iteration of Kang the Conqueror, the creation of MODOK, a couple deleted scenes (and why they ended up on the cutting room floor), and how /Film actually helped kickstart Loveness' career all the way back in 2010.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

'I could care less about what phase we're in'

So where do you even begin tackling a project that's supposed to both continue the journey of Scott Lang and all his cohorts and also kick off the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Are there certain mandates from Marvel that you knew needed to be included? Or did you have relatively free rein when writing the script?

You know, I just tried to focus on writing this movie, and then you can kind of fish-food a couple of things to go forward. I could care less about what phase we're in. It's more about just making this fun family adventure comedy with a great villain. I think, at the end of the day, that's what people want to watch, and if you do your job right, it gets people excited going forward.

Certainly, you want to lay down a few planks or railroad tracks for where you want to go, but it was more important for me to close out the Scott Lang story, leave a door open, but then also launch Kang the Conqueror, and don't really worry about all the multiverse stuff. Just really get to know this guy as a character and hopefully people want to stick around to see where he goes.

Yeah, the Kang stuff is great. Jonathan Majors' performance is incredible, and you give him such great dialogue to work with. I loved that clip Marvel played back during D23 when he says, "Have I killed you before?" That's just a great line. I hope you patted yourself on the back after you wrote that.

Oh, thank you, man. That was the first scene we ever rehearsed, and that was the first time I saw Jonathan perform it. I was so nervous, because I'm a comedy guy. I came from a comedy writing background, and I just didn't know. I'm like, "Oh man, did I accidentally write really hacky? Is this going to come off like a bad 'Stargate' episode or something?" And man, he shows up, and you believe him when he says it. That is a testament to Jonathan. Once I saw that, I realized, "Oh, I think I can go all-in on this guy. I can write him almost like biblical, like slash-fiction. [laughs]

I just love classical super villains. I love Chris Claremont's Magneto, or I love Heathcliff from "Wuthering Heights." I love Hector in "The Iliad," and he's not a villain, he's on the wrong side, and you know it's like a train wreck coming, and you can feel that he knows he has to die, and he kind of gets it. So I just wanted to give some of that sad weariness to Kang and to really differentiate him from Thanos, who's like a big purple CGI alien. I'm just so glad that [director of photography] Bill Pope, who shot "The Matrix" and "Spider-Man" and "Clueless" — he's such a great DP. He just stays right on his face, and we just see so much of his expression. And Jonathan, you can't say enough about the guy, he's incredible.

'Let me just say, the people who are divided, they're wrong. I will go to the mat for MODOK'

Let's talk about MODOK, because he seems to be the most divisive part of the movie so far. Personally, I think that it's a really creative way of bringing such a weird Marvel Comics character into the MCU. Was that purely your idea, or is that something that was kicking around Marvel Studios? Because there was a rumor that Paul Rudd wrote an early script for the sequel that included MODOK and AIM.

Oh, right. I don't know anything about that. I never read anything like that. I don't know. It could maybe, but it was never in my time over there. I believe it was Peyton Reed's idea to make Darren Cross into MODOK, but I immediately jumped on that and pitched real hard on it. I think we kind of built that character together.

Let me just say, the people who are divided, they're wrong. I will go to the mat for MODOK. I am so happy. And it was such a fight. And it was such a labor of love and passion and all that, just to get the comedy balance of this guy. And hey, I'm a big comics guy, I'm sure you are, too. We're on the internet. People got opinions. Those motherf***ers are wrong. I'm sorry, you want to do a serious take on MODOK? I played that "Avengers" game on PS5, good luck. Yeah, yeah, yeah, come back later.

I'll take all the punches that they want, critiques, whatever, but MODOK? No, no, no, no. I'm very happy with what we did.

I love it. Yeah, I'm glad to hear you double down.

Yeah, yeah, that death scene, I will triple down. I think that death scene is my favorite that I've ever written. I love it so much.

'I was going to have this psychological trippy sequence with the Werner Herzog ant ushering him in...'

Earlier this week, there was a photo making the rounds of a child actor who shot scenes with Evangeline Lilly and was intended to be her son. What's that scene about and what in the story changed that resulted in that getting on the cutting room floor?

Oh, yeah. I mean, you've interviewed and done all this stuff, and there are always plot lines or things that just don't really work its way into the flow of the movie. I don't know how much I can directly say, because I might pick some of this up later, but that was part of the multiversal engine core, that probability storm part. Scott's was obviously more of the Schrödinger's cat thing. Hope's originally had a bit more of a psychological element, like you were hitting the fumes of the multiverse and getting glimpses of stuff. She was in the upper strata of the storm, and then Scott was kind of down below.

But ultimately it was a little confusing. Like, why are two vastly different things happening to them? So it's my fault as a writer by not being clear enough. And [Evangeline Lilly] did incredible work. There's a lot of good Hope stuff that I think I'll try to explore later on. But Evangeline, she's a really expressive actor and put a lot of emotion in there. It was great stuff, but it's kind of my fault. I'll take the hit for that. It was better to streamline it to more of that fun sequence, which made its way in.

Speaking of which, this definitely veers into some of the weirdest sci-fi and comic book territory that the MCU has seen. Was there anything that was just too weird for Marvel?

Yeah, what comes to mind ... I'm just thrilled I got MODOK and a guy with holes, and I got all that stuff in there. I had a character — [laughs to himself] — in that probability storm, there was going to be like this Cronenberg-style, Stan Winston animatronic, Ninja Turtle guy in a suit that was going to be a man-sized ant that was giving Scott a vision, almost like the goat in "The Witch" or something. I really wanted it to be voiced by Werner Herzog. I got a lot of s*** for my [Alejandro] Jodorowsky comparisons, but I wanted it to be almost like "Holy Mountain," like, "Where the hell am I?" I was going to have this psychological trippy sequence with the Werner Herzog ant ushering him in, and clearly, that did not make it to the movie.

That would've been awesome.

And because Scott Lang is from San Francisco, he was going to see [former NFL quarterback] Joe Montana in there. Clearly this is why I need to be stopped. Like, I get it.

'It took away some of the mystique and the professionalism, and it was so cool to see him do that'

So one last thing, and this is off-topic, but I saw you had a bit part on "The Office" one time, and you weren't even writing or producing on the show. How did that come about and do you have any fun stories from working with Steve Carell and Ed Helms and Ellie Kemper?

Yes, I do. Oh, man. I do a little bit of acting here and there. I was on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" as a writer for a long time, and I would always jump in and do little sketches. I pissed myself in front of Liam Neeson, which apparently has 80 million views now on YouTube, and I would do sketches with Harrison Ford and stuff. But "The Office" was cool, and that was just from an audition. I had made a YouTube video with my friends called "Wes Anderson Spider-Man," and /Film was one of the very first to ever put that up, and it changed my life, so thank you.

Oh, that's awesome.

I made that with my friends, you guys posted it, and Jimmy Kimmel saw it. I got a job there. All that is to say, I did a little bit of auditioning, and I got that role on "The Office," and I have never forgotten this story. So I used to make those little short films with my friends. There's always a moment where you crumple up your script that you wrote by hand and you put in your pocket, or you'll see the script on a desk in the background of the scene. It's always lo-fi stuff like that.

I remember being so nervous, because I'm a kid on the bus, and Steve Carell's there, who's like the funniest man in the world in his prime, and I saw him do exactly what I did when I made my little YouTube videos. He has his little script, he brings it out, and he looks at it, and he mouths the words, and he crinkles up his script again and puts it in his pocket. And that made it seem like it was all possible. That actually did kind of break the mystique for me. I'm like, "Oh, he's doing exactly what me and my friends did. Even he needs to run his lines before he does the scene." It took away some of the mystique and the professionalism, and it was so cool to see him do that. And he was super nice. Ellie Kemper was so kind, too. I was only there for like a week, but that was my first acting job, and I'm thrilled about it. I had three lines. Not a big thing, but it was fun.

That's great.

Oh, I almost got — another deleted scene — I got killed by MODOK.

Whoa, what?!

I know! I got cut. That was another scene that was probably too weird. I was talking back to MODOK and kind of s***ing on him, and he blew me up with his head laser.

Oh man, that would have been amazing to see.

I know. In the Loveness Cut, we'll do it.

"Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania" is in theaters now.