10 Directors Who Should Direct 'Ant-Man' Now That Edgar Wright Is Out

Last week, Edgar Wright suddenly departed from Marvel Studio's big screen adaptation of Ant-Man, with an official statement citing "differences in their vision of the film" as reasons for the "amicable" split. Marvel Studios says they still plan to have Ant-Man in theaters for the announced July 17th 2015 release date, and Marvel has already begun a search for a new director. The movie will have to begin filming this Summer to make that date, so an announcement will likely come soon. So who should replace Edgar Wright to direct Ant-Man? I explore this question in the article below.

Anatomy of a Marvel Studios Director

It would be easy to list off ten of our favorite filmmakers for a list like this, but Marvel Studios seems to have a criteria when choosing their filmmakers which is much more specific. We wanted to include realistic suggestions, not a dream wish-list. So in order to make a reasonable list, lets dissect what it takes to be hired to direct a Marvel Studios movie:

Captain America: Winter Soldier behind the scenes

A. Affordable

Marvel Studios is notoriously cost-conscious. They don't need a huge big name director — the name brand of the character and the Marvel brand is enough to sell the movie. I wouldn't expect to ever see an big name director hired for a Marvel film, even though it does happen. They often go after talented filmmakers with something to prove.

Television is experiencing a renaissance, and there are many great creative talents working on the small screen. Marvel has already mined filmmaking talent from the television world. Before The AvengersJoss Whedon was best known for Buffy and Firefly. Thor: The Dark World's Alan Taylor was a director on Game of Thrones, Mad Men and The Sopranos. Captain America: Winter Soldier's Joe and Anthony Russo had feature experience but they were best known for their episodes of Arrested Development and Community. Marvel head Kevin Feige called them in to pitch notably because of a Community episode.

Kenneth Branagh Thor

B. Interesting Choices

Marvel Studios loves to hire interesting and sometimes unexpected risky choices. This is true not only in filmmakers but also in the casting.

While Kenneth Branagh was an established director, most of his films were smaller-budget Shakespeare adaptations, which made him an interesting choice for Marvel's Shakespearean fantasy sci-fi superhero film. One common thread is picking a filmmaker who is best known for directing one genre of films to help apply that sensibility to the big budget superhero film.

The Russo Brothers always wanted to direct action films but found themselves stuck in the comedy genre for a decade. James Gunn comes from a horror and comedy background, and is probably not the person many people would have imagined for a big-budget space opera.

Jon Favreau Iron Man

C. Something To Prove

Marvel Studios often hires filmmakers and actors with something to prove. (And because of this, finds people who fit point A). Casting Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man seems like an obvious choice now, but at the time it was a big gamble (see B) and Downey was in "actor's jail" (stuck mostly within the indie world).  

Iron Man director Jon Favreau had made some good indies (Made) a crowd pleasing comedy (Elf) and was set on a career trajectory towards fun big-budget action films. He directed the special effects-filled family action adventure film Zathura: A Space Adventure in 2005, which was his least-liked movie thus far. Favreau didn't need a big paycheck (see A), was an interesting not-so-obvious choice (see B) and yes, had something to prove. 

Joe Johnston started his career at ILM creating Boba Fett and many of the Star Wars effects, his critically acclaimed efforts (October Sky) earned him a spot directing Jurassic Park III, which was met with a poor reception. He has recently became a director for hire (The Wolfman) and Captain America was his chance to prove himself again with a period-set military story (like October Sky and The Rocketeer). 

Joss Whedon was acclaimed by critics and fanboys but his recent television efforts failed to stay on the air (Firefly, Dollhouse). While Whedon's love/knowledge of Marvel and his gift of crafting ensemble sci-fi character dramas made him a perfect choice, Avengers was his big chance to break away from the small screen. 

Slither proved that James Gunn  has a great visual eye and a unique sense of tone and humor, but his two feature directorial efforts (Slither and Super) failed to make money at the box office. Like Whedon, Gunn's imagination is constrained by the budgets he is able to work in and Guardians of the Galaxy is his chance to prove himself with a much bigger opportunity.

While a big name filmmaker is probably out of the question (due to A), there are some name directors in other genres who might take a pay-cut to prove they can do something different, a big superhero movie.

Joss Whedon Avengers

D. Acclaimed Writers Turned Directors

Marvel has been known to have tight creative control (their meddling with Iron Man II is notorious), but they also SOMETIMES relinquish some of this control to hire acclaimed writer/directors — hoping their involvement will help elevate their superhero stories to a higher level.

This is definitely true of Joss Whedon, and also of Shane Black, who was one of the highest-paid screenwriters in the '90s. His scripts sold for millions of dollars (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, Last Action Hero). The critical success of his 2005 directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang brought him back from the shadows. Downey Jr's  performance in that Bang Bang was what put him in the mix for Iron Man.  Black became an uncredited advisor on Iron Man, and when Favreau left the series after Iron Man II, Shane got his chance.

James Gunn his career as a writer for Troma Entertainment (you know, the guys who made Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke Em High?), earned screenwriting credits for the Scooby Doo movies and Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead before directing Slither and SuperEdgar Wright would have also fit into this category if he had directed Ant-Man.

Shane Black Iron Man 3

E. Creative Filmmakers Who Are Willing To Work Within The Marvel System

As mentioned previously, Marvel has been known to be very controlling of their brand and while the company seeks creative filmmakers, they often seem to look for people who are willing to work within their strict creative boundaries. Not only are television directors affordable (see A) but they also are great at getting the job done on time and under budget while staying between the lines presented to them.

Marvel sometimes give up more control when working with writer/directors (see D above). Whatever the truth behind the Ant-man rumors might be — When it came to Edgar Wright and Marvel/Disney, the official announcement even stated that the split was "due to differences in their vision of the film."

And of course, some people I probably would've included on this list like Jonathan Levine, Colin Trevorrow, Wes Ball, Dean DeBlois or Dan Trachtenberg are busy and are unavailable for a summer shoot. There are other filmmakers I wanted to include on this list like Ruben Fleischer, Noam Murro and Craig Gillespie that didn't make the cut. Its also possible that Marvel count hire internally and have Louis D'Esposito, who directed the One-Shot short films, direct Ant-Man.

So with all that in mind, lets take a look at ten directors who we would want to direct Ant-Man now that Edgar Wright has exited the project.

Earth to Echo

#10. Dave Green

I've been hearing good advance buzz about Dave Green's Earth to Echo, which is a small-budget ($5 million) found-footage ET-style action adventure film. It is set to open the Los Angeles Film Festival next month. The film is supposedly a good mix of visual effects, heart and humor, which seems like a good resume for an Ant-Man hopeful. Echo was actually developed and produced by Disney but the mouse house didn't feel like the low budget film fit their release strategy and sold the worldwide distribution of the film to Relativity.

Not only does Green have connections to Disney but also to Marvel: Dave started as producer Grant Curtis' assistant on Marvel and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2 and 3. Green's funny short films (some of which we covered on the site) landed him the gig on Echo. Green places #10 on the list because he's my wildcard choice, having not yet seen Echo myself.

Dave is currently developing a big screen adaptation of Lore for star Dwayne Johnson and Warner Bros, based on the IDW comic book about a young man who must defend the world from legendary beasts from folklore. In August 2013, Green replaced Barry Sonnenfeld who left over budget disagreements. The MIB-esque film has been in the works for a few years now. But it looks like the project is still undergoing script revisions, and is not likely to go ahead soon.

Michelle MacLaren

 #9. Michelle MacLaren

Canadian television director Michelle MacLaren is best known for her work on The X-Files, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and HBO's Game of Thrones. MacLaren got Emmy nominations for the Season 3 episode of Breaking Bad titled "One Minute" (in which [spoiler invisotext, highlight to reveal]  Hank receives an anonymous call telling him he has one minute before someone is to attack him) and the season 5 mid-season finale episode titled "Gliding Over All" (which featured [spoiler invisotext, highlight to reveal] the awesome Goodfellas-like montage of Walt taking out Mike's nine associates and lawyer, Walt quitting the business for his family only to end with Hank's bathroom reading revelation).

MacLaren is known for directing dark, dramatic, sometimes tension-filled, yet funny episodes. That might not be the perfect fit for Ant-Man, but she is an interesting choice for sure. She knows how to play and raise the tension of a scene and has some experience with action, which could work for Ant-Man's reported heist-storyline. She has one feature directing credit, a dramatic horror mystery film titled Population 436 which played some film festivals and went direct to DVD in 2006.

Jeffrey Blitz

#8. Jeffrey Blitz

Jeffrey Blitz helmed one of my favorite documentaries, Spellbound, and also directed the feature film Rocket Science, which won him the Sundance Film Festival Directing Award in 2007. Both films are solid, with Rocket Science being a must watch (Anna Kendrick provides an amazing performance).

I wasn't as big of a fan as Blitz' second documentary Lucky, but his television work has been critically acclaimed. He helmed 11 episodes of The Office, he won an Emmy for the episode titled "Stress Relief". Hes since helmed a trio of pilots and a whole season of Review on Comedy Central, and was (is he still?) attached to Table 19. That's a script by Jay and Mark Duplass (who were originally set to direct) about a group of strangers who meet at the "losers" table at a wedding. Blitz does some great character work, and is able to handle comedy and heart.

Jack Bender

#7.  Jack Bender

Jack Bender is a veteran director who has been directing television since 1980. He has directed over 150 episodes of television, which include Felicity, Carnivàle, AliasThe SopranosBoston PublicAlcatraz and Under The Dome. He has a couple of old feature film credits which include Child's Play 3, but he has really come into his own in recent years, most notably his 38-episode run on Lost. He directed my favorite episode of the series the season 4 episode titled "The Constant" (which followed  [spoiler invisotext, highlight to reveal]Desmond's struggle with his consciousness traveling through time).

He also directed the fantastic season 3 finale "Through the Looking Glass" (which  [spoiler invisotext, highlight to reveal] was the surprise first flash forward).

Marvel has a history of hiring television directors and Jack Bender is one of the most notable sci-fi television directors working today. He knows how to bring emotion and tension to a scene and is able to work under tight production constraints. Marvel needs someone who can come in and direct their movie, a veteran television director would be the obvious solution. So if Marvel is going to hire a television director, why not hire THE television director?

Bender isn't happy with his small screen success, he has been trying to make the play for a big screen breakout. He's been developing a thriller film called Devolution for Legendary Pictures and World War Z writer Max Brooks for the past few years (plot details are still under wraps) and was working on a Bad Robot mystery/thriller titled 7 Minutes in Heaven about two teens who play 7 Minutes in Heaven at a party, but when they return to their friends, they find them all dead. (That project is likely also dead at this point.)

Jorma Taccone

#6. Jorma Taccone

Jorma Taccone is one third of the sketch comedy troupe The Lonely Island, alongside friends Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer. They're best known for making Saturday Night Live's Digital Shorts, "Lazy Sunday" being one of the first big viral short film breakouts. He made his feature film directing debut with a big screen adaptation of the SNL skit MacGruber. While that film was not a financial success, it has since developed a large cult following.  Even director Christopher Nolan loves and quotes the film (according to Anne Hathaway, who revealed this tidbit to Jimmy Fallon while promoting TDKR).

Taccone has an impeccable sense of humor which would serve him well for Ant-Man, but I'm not sure how he would function in a family-friendly franchise film.

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

#5. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

What can't Phil Lord and Christopher Miller make awesome? It seems like this directing duo has made a career of deliberately choosing projects that for almost every reason shouldn't be good or interesting, and somehow they subvert the exceptions and eventually "everything is awesome." The duo made their debut on MTV's short lived animated television series Clone High, which has developed a following post-cancelation. They wrote and directed the animated adaptation of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs which was critical and financial success. They were somehow able to make awesome movies out of a 21 Jump Street movie and a film based on plastic toy bricks (The Lego Movie).

Lord and Miller are the comedy duo of the moment, courted by all the major studios. They just turned down the chance to direct Ghostbusters 3, showing they are being selective in the projects they are choosing. But would they turn down the chance to work within the Marvel universe? I feel like Ant-Man is one of the few characters in the Marvel universe that fit the directing team's history of picking properties to under-promise/over-deliver.

With a Summer 2014 start date needed to hit the announced release date next year, there isn't a whole  lot of prep time to develop Ant-Man further. Lord and Miller would likely want to be more creatively involved in the development of whichever project they tackle next.

IMG_2757.CR2

#4. Rian Johnson

Whenever there is a list of directors who should direct something awesome, Rian Johnson is one of the first names that always comes up. I don't think I know anyone who isn't a fan of Johnson's films. The writer/director has only made 3 films in the last decade (Brick, The Brothers Bloom and Looper), each of which have gotten progressively bigger, but he has also directed for television, with episodes of Breaking Bad and Terriers on his resume. Johnson would definitely fit into the category of a writer/director who could help elevate the comic book source material to something greater, but as stated above in the Lord/Miller section: there isn't much time for further creative development.

Michel Gondry

#3. Michel Gondry

I think Michel Gondry is probably the most interesting choice you could come up with for Ant-Man. The music video-turned-feature film director is probably best known for his American films Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Be Kind Rewind, both of which show a very unique sense of tone and creative world building. Marvel tries to create a consistent universe seen across their entire line of big screen franchises, and I'm not sure Gondry's handcrafted practical sensibilities would even fit in the Marvel sandbox — but boy would I like to see what it would look like.

Gondry has already dipped his toes in the big budget superhero waters with 2011's critically slammed The Green Hornet, starring and produced by Seth Rogen. But was that a bad experience? Around the film's release, Gondry admitted that working on a big budget studio film meant making compromises. He said "I felt, 'Well, it's not really my movie'. I accepted that. But I realized there was still tons I could infiltrate or infuse my personality through discussion all the time." So maybe he would still be interested in playing in the bigger sandbox again?

Joe Cornish

#2. Joe Cornish

Its hard to think of anyone who could replace Edgar Wright, but if the closest possible filmmaker has to be Edgar's collaborator Joe Cornish. Much like Edgar, Joe started out directing British television (a pop culture sketch show titled The Adam and Joe Show and No Heroics). He co-wrote The Adventures of Tintin with Edgar for Steven Spielberg before directing his first feature, the highly acclaimed Attack the Block (also produced by Edgar). Attack was the perfect mix of comedy, action and special effects accomplished on a budget. And of course, Cornish wrote Ant-Man with Edgar Wright. So who is better to replace Edgar on the project than Joe Cornish?

Problem is Joe Cornish will likely never be involved in Ant-Man again after the public divorce between Wright and the company last week. Rumor has it that Wright and Cornish clashed with Disney over the "core morality" of the screenplay and spent two drafts trying to address Disney's notes. As the story goes, they refused to compromise their vision, and Marvel hired two low credit writers to write a new draft which is said to be "Poorer, homogenized, and not Edgar's vision." This all led to Edgar Wright's departure from the project. So if that story is true, it would be very unlikely that Cornish would involve himself in the project further.

That said, imagine for a second an Ant-Man movie by the guy who directed Attack The Block...

This is why he is #2 on my list. Cornish's career has been booming since the release of Attack. He was up to direct Star Trek 3 but turned down the helm of the Enterprise. Cornish has been having meeting all over Hollywood, every studio wants him. Universal recently hired to develop and direct Section 6, a Black List screenplay about the formation of British intelligence agency MI6 set to star Brit up-and-comer Jack O'Connell.

Ant-Man back

#1. Nobody

Lets be honest, Edgar Wright seemed like the perfect fit for Ant-Man. I'm not saying I don't want to see an Ant-Man movie but if Edgar Wright isn't directing it I'm not sure there is an available perfect choice to replace him on the project. Joe Cornish is the only other filmmaker that strikes me as having the right mix of sensibilities for this comic book adaptation, but as discussed above — its very very VERY unlikely he would direct. So fuck it, I'm not going to name a choice for the #1 slot, because in my mind there isn't one.