'Ant-Man And The Wasp' Interview: Director Peyton Reed Tells Us About The Film's Ticking Clock Element

Last fall, I visited the Atlanta set of Marvel Studios' Ant-Man and the Wasp with a batch of other online reporters. During any set visit for a major film, having a chance to actually speak with the director is far from a guarantee: they're often just a tiny bit busy as they carry the weight of a hundred-million-dollar-plus behemoth on their backs. But Peyton Reed, the director of Ant-Man and who's behind the camera again for this sequel, devoted seventeen minutes of his time to talk to us in between takes. That may not seem like a long time, but for an on-set interview, it's an eternity.

Considering the circumstances, I expected Reed to be at least slightly frazzled, but he was easy-going, thorough, and game to answer any question we threw his way. He told us about the ticking clock aspect of his sequel, the challenges of sharing star Paul Rudd with a neighboring production, giving Hope van Dyne's character added importance this time around, and much more.

Read our full Ant-Man and the Wasp Peyton Reed interview below.

Ant-Man and the Wasp Peyton Reed Interview

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Why is this movie's working title "Cherry Blue"?

"Cherry Blue" is a nod to a Tim and Eric sketch where Dr. Steve Brule's going to buy a car. Do you know the sketch? And he wants a cherry red car and they only have cherry blue. It felt like something you'd see with the logo spray painted on the side of a van. For some reason, it felt appropriate.

Ant-Man and the Wasp Trailer Breakdown

Can you talk about the ticking clock element of the story?

Well, in terms of when we first started talking about what Ant-Man and the Wasp would look and feel like and the kind of movie we wanted to make, I definitely started talking about things like After Hours and Midnight Run and these things where there's a lot of forward momentum and there's almost a road movie quality to the movie in that way. The first movie, because it was an origin story, a lot of it took place in Hank Pym's house, and I just wanted to open the movie up and get out and take advantage of San Francisco because that felt like a different texture for the MCU, that Ant-Man sort of occupies this corner of the universe. And we wanted to really get outside and explore those elements and the urgency was really about trying to graft this idea of sort of a search and rescue movie onto that where there was this ticking clock, and for whatever scientific reasons, if they were going to go, perhaps, look for Janet van Dyne, how do you go about doing that?

And it's an impossible thing, scientifically, but also, if there's urgency and there's maybe a window of time they have to do it, it's about collecting the people, the things, everything they need to do that. We also liked the idea of having – the first movie really, the template was more of a like a heist movie, and this we wanted to be a little more of an Elmore Leonard vibe where we have villains, but we also have antagonists and we have these roadblocks to our heroes getting to where they need to be and getting what they need for this mission. So a little more chaotic comedy and action in the movie felt like a good next step for Ant-Man and the Wasp. I like when you're doing a sequel or a next movie, I always like the ones where the starting off point, the jumping off point for the characters, is different than when you left them. And again, I know that everyone who's ever made a second installment of something refers to The Empire Strikes Back as the gold standard. But as a kid, I was sixteen when that movie came out and I loved that they really leapt ahead. The heroes are somewhere else now and the audience has to kind of catch up to what's going on and what happened and they're forwarded in terms of their character, but also in terms of their circumstances and that felt like something we really wanted to do. It also felt like because of what happened with Scott Lang, in the brief time he's in Civil War, we couldn't ignore those circumstances.

And for our jumping-off point, my first questions were, 'What did Hank and Hope know about Scott going off and dealing with that situation with The Avengers? Did they know about it? How did they feel about it?' And surely, this would have caused some kind of tension at [best] and rift at [worst]  between the characters because Hank Pym's very clear in the first movie about how he feels about Stark and how he feels about The Avengers and being very protective of this technology that he has. So that seemed like a really ripe sort of place to start in terms of the character development.

How do you wind up working Infinity War into what you're doing in this film?

Well, we definitely had to deal with the ramifications post-Civil War. That was crucial to Scott and crucial to Hope. I mean, it really is fundamental in the jumping-off point about what's going on between the two of them at the start of this movie. Outside of that, what I'm really happy about is we're free to tell sort of our freestanding story. Once we establish that as the leaping-off point, this thing is going on over here with huge personal stakes and huge other stakes that are really separate of what's going on with Infinity War. So that, again, is something that was really, really appealing to me. We have enough stuff to track in this movie without having to sort of keep abreast of what's going on in that.

Ant-Man and the Wasp - Evangeline Lilly and Paul Rudd

What have been the challenges of having to share Paul Rudd with the neighboring production?

Scheduling-wise, it's a challenge, but it's a challenge we knew was going to be there. It's made easier, obviously, by the fact that we're all down here on this Pinewood campus all working together, so there's behind the scenes shuffling and scheduling stuff, but so far, it hasn't impacted us. I know in October, there's some big dates coming up for Paul, but so far it's been fine. So far, I have not felt the impact of the other movie.

But it definitely is that feeling of – the first movie, we came out in the wake of Avengers: Age of Ultron which was, (excitedly) 'That was the sequel to Avengers. It's Age of Ultron!' and so we could be working in this little corner, and it feels the same way again, because now we're coming out right after Infinity War and I like that. I personally feel that's the position I want to be in. I think it's good.

Ant-Man and the Wasp Trailer Breakdown - Evangeline Lilly as The Wasp

How do you boost Hope's character as the Wasp?

Absolutely. That was something that from the get-go – particularly when we decided this movie's going to be Ant-Man and the Wasp – it's not 'Ant-Man with the Wasp.' It's 'Ant-Man and the Wasp,' and so it is important to tell those stories separately and invest in each of the characters' journeys and arcs in the movie. One of the big things about this is what's going on with Hope and the fact that she has...let me be delicate so I don't give anything away. The mission that is happening with her, entirely separate of Scott, is vital and it's her mission. It's not her dad's mission. It's her mission. Now Hank and Hope are working together, but it's really Hope leading the charge, and that was an important thing when we started talking about what was going on is the what and why of this mission, and that there may be certain points in this movie where she sees Scott as a liability. And I think that was important because there are aspects of this movie that are like a two-hander action movie and there's aspects of it that are like a two-hander romantic comedy, and for me, who's done a little bit of both, it's important to get that balance and have her be a fully fleshed-out character with motivations.

The other questions we talked about with the search and rescue aspect is, if it is trying to find Janet van Dyne, what does that mean to Hope? We kind of know what it means to Hank from the first movie. What does it mean to Hope? And if she's now finally a fully-fledged hero in her own right, and you're in a position like that, you tend to kind of look for mentors or role models and the one person that she would really turn to is not there. Hank can do something. Scott maybe might be a template of maybe what not to do all the time (laughs), but that person who really, I think she would ideally want there is not there, and that was a really important aspect of the movie.

Ant-Man and the Wasp Trailer Breakdown - Evangeline Lilly and Paul Rudd

What is the main mission of this movie?

Well, I'll answer that in two parts. The big mission is to find Janet. What that means ultimately for our characters on a personal level is one thing, and what it means for the larger world is another thing, and all the other things are really stumbling blocks on the path. There is a big bad that has a very unique relationship to our characters.

And I know you know that the character Ghost is in the movie and that we've adapted the character from the comics in a way that we feel is really unique to our movie and very much tied into this universe, so she becomes a really, really crucial part of the story in a way that I can't really reveal yet.

ant-man and the wasp tv spot

How do you continue with the notion of the legacy hero?

We deal with it really head-on in the movie, because I think the thing that we deal with more in this movie is maybe the disappointment of the mentor. The first movie is all about, 'I have this technology and what happens to it? I'm too old to deal with this now, and to whom do I bequeath this?' And in the first movie, the answer is right in front of his face the whole time. It's Hope. He chooses for his own particular reasons to go outside the box, but now, that is all about accepting the responsibility of this incredibly powerful technology. But after the events of Civil War, Scott has proved to be somewhat unreliable in that regard, so that's a big character thrust in this movie – a mentor who maybe is questioning his decision in a big, big way.

Ant-Man and the Wasp Trailer Breakdown - Quantum Realm

What inspired the design of the Quantum Realm and how did you want that to come across?

Well, when we started talking about the Quantum Realm, it's problematic in terms of the fact that it's essentially infinite. It can be whatever you want it to be, and so we needed to decide sort of what the Quantum Realm wants to be for our story and then what it is in the larger sense of things. I knew one thing: there had to be a device with which they enter the Quantum Realm. In the first movie, Scott goes down, he adjusts the regulator and goes down just freefall. Here, it needed to be bigger, it needed to be something that was not a game time decision and not accidental, but something very, very constructed and purposeful. One of the things that I went back and looked at as inspiration was Irwin Allen's The Time Tunnel. I was really little, I'm sure I saw it in reruns and my older brother saw it, but there was a design for that thing which was literally a tunnel and I liked the idea of amidst all this stuff that there was a physical thing that you could look at. Something that physically, without any action happening, you could look at and say, 'Okay, I get a sense of what that thing does.' So Shepherd forwarded the design and refined it in a way that's fantastic and I think that's another thing that I'm really psyched about with this movie.

A lot of times with these movies in the digital age, it's actors acting against a green screen and I was insistent – because I still feel from the first movie and even more so in this movie – that there's a really tactile quality to the Ant-Man and Wasp universe. That you want to feel that stuff, so the set that you'll go on, I think is really the biggest set that's ever been constructed for a Marvel movie in terms of just being a tactile set...already for me, it pays big dividends when you have the actors in there and they can react to something physical. The first time we brought Paul, Evangeline, and Michael onto the set, we hadn't showed them anything and we brought them on with the thing finished and to see their reactions and see the joy of like, 'Here's a set that we can really move around in.' We've designed it, obviously, to shoot, but you're still limited by physical space and the camera can do certain things and they have to move around things, and it lends this whole air of reality to it.

I'm a big believer in – these movies just by their nature have a lot of visual effects, but the more you could have tactile stuff [the better]. Part of the set you'll see is the Quantum vehicle, the pod that they go down in. And that was another thing that felt like, if I'm a kid, I want to play with this thing. It's got to be functional. You look at this thing, but you really see that this is designed by Shepherd and constructed with Dan Sudick, our special effects guy, but it really feels like, 'Oh, okay, I could get in that thing and head down there.' So the tactile thing was really important.

ant-man and the wasp

Is the Bill Foster character a friend or foe?

Bill's a former colleague who really was involved early on with Pym in a thing called Project Goliath and their lives have taken these kind of divergent paths, and when we find Bill Foster in this movie, he is teaching quantum physics at Berkeley. I also liked the idea of grounding – because the movie takes place in San Francisco and it's not just for stunts and scenery. Berkeley, that's an important thing in the movie is that they were both involved with S.H.I.E.L.D. at one point, and one guy's sort of stepped away and taken a more academic approach. I liked the idea from the beginning – especially having Michael and Laurence Fishburne – of these guys who are sort of scientific rivals. That's really the rivalry, and we always talked about sort of a Steve Jobs/Bill Gates kind of thing. Two scientists who are both geniuses in quantum physics and quantum mechanics, but maybe have a Mac/PC rivalry about what the approach to delving into the quantum realm might be. I also like the idea of with those two actors, especially with Fishburne, someone who's gonna actually go toe to toe with Michael in terms of, 'Who's the smartest guy in the room?' That struck me as something really fun, to give Hank Pym a foil in this movie in that way.


Ant-Man and the Wasp arrives in theaters on July 6, 2018.