Peyton Reed spoiler interview

From Ant-Man to Bring It On to his crowning achievement, Down With Love, there’s a sincere buoyancy to director Peyton Reed‘s work. His deft control of tone is currently on display in Ant-Man and the Wasp, which brings good-hearted laughs to the Marvel Cinematic Universe after Infinity War‘s downer ending. While Reed made Scott Lang’s (Paul Rudd) origin story a heist movie, the sequel is a comedy focused more on banter and character than action – though the action is bigger this time around.

Before making the latest entry in the MCU, Reed watched “the holy trinity of romantic comedies”: Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday, and It Happened One Night. “The male and female characters are so smart, and there’s this mutual respect between those characters, particularly in His Girl Friday, they respect each other in terms of what they do,” he told us. Reed, who’s also fond of those movies’ “incredible humanism,” also discussed returning to the Quantum Realm, mini Paul Rudd, the end credits tags, the influence of Elmore Leonard, and more. Read our full Peyton Reed spoiler interview below.

Again, this interview contains spoilers for Ant-Man and the Wasp.

/Film: This hasn’t been a great year for comedies, but walking out of Ant-Man and the Wasp, I thought it was just a really good comedy on a huge scale. 

Peyton Reed: Oh, awesome. No, that’s the thing, for Ant-Man and Wasp, Paul and I had this conversation that the first movie, half of the thing was he has never been an action hero before and is the audience gonna accept that. Now that they have embraced him in that role, in our movie and in Civil War, I told Paul, “I wanna make you funnier. You still gotta be the lead hero along with Evangeline, but let’s just make it more overtly comedic.” Part of that thing was the idea of the summer comedy, they were always like giant tentpole movies, but they’re comedies and the fact that this could potentially be both, that was part of our sort of reason for making the movie.

Visually, how did you want to change the style up for the sequel? 

Well, one of the big things we did at the beginning was the aspect ratio of the first one was 1:8:5 and we went 2:3:5 on this one, in part because when we talked about genre, the first one really keys up a heist movie. We wanted to stay in the crime genre here but we really started to look at stuff like Elmore Leonard crime novels. In the beginning, part of the thing was, what if Elmore Leonard wrote a science fiction novel and Marvel made a movie of it?

We knew that we wanted to have this very specific mission and we knew we wanted to create a situation where there were all these complications. Midnight Run and After Hours were two big movies that were very influential because it’s a very simple goal, but there were all these people that come out of the woodwork, you know, street level criminals and more powerful antagonists, and then random situations where the plan gets screwed up constantly. I liked the energy of that.

Stuff like What’s Up Doc? even, Bogdonavich movie, it was a big influence. We screened that at Marvel just for the comedy, the chase through San Francisco and the rapport between Ryan O’Neil and Barbra Streisand in that movie. I hired Dante Spinotti to shoot it ’cause he shot LA Confidential and all the Michael Mann stuff he did, I wanted to have this movie look amazing and do really widescreen compositions. We just sort of found ways to expand because he’s so many different sizes in this movie – Ant-Man, Giant-Man and a few sizes in between – which was another big swing we took, which I love in the movie.

You knew you wanted to go more into the Quantum Realm after the first movie, but what were some of your other early ideas for the sequel? 

We knew in the first movie we had set up a couple of things, one being the Quantum Realm, one was this sort of potential mystery of Janet when Scott Lang got out of the Quantum Realm. There was that moment in the first movie with Hank, you know, is it possible? And then obviously the Wasp, that was the thing, knowing that we wanna present her as a fully formed hero in this movie. After seeing an early cut of Civil War, that was the thing that sort of launched us into our structure. I think the Russos and Marcus and McFeely, when they brought in Ant-Man, Giant-Man into Civil War, probably didn’t give a shit about how it affected our movie.

But the weird gift that they gave us was seeing that movie, my first reaction was, “This is Hank Pymm and Hope Van Dyne’s worst nightmare. There’s gotta be ramifications for the characters in our movie for Scott Lang’s actions.” So when we hit upon the fact that they were gonna be estranged at the beginning of the movie, and that Scott was gonna be on house arrest, and Hank and Hope would have to go underground because they were in violation of the Sokovia Accords because of their technology, that seemed interesting to us. It seemed particularly interesting to me for what it did to the Scott-Hope relationship.

While the movie is not a romantic comedy, there’s a weird thing that struck me at some point I can’t remember in the story, but I started thinking about Philadelphia Story and the fact that Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn are divorced because of his drinking and she’s now gonna get married to someone else. The whole arc of that movie is, what’s gonna happen between these two? The audience wants them to be together, and that it’s sort of predicated on Katharine Hepburn finding forgiveness for Cary Grant.

Though this is not that arc, there’s some similarities just in the fact that Scott screwed up again and essentially betrayed Hank and Hope and meanwhile she’s gone on to be a fully in charge, fully formed hero who really doesn’t need a partner and now through circumstances, they’re forced to work together again. It just felt like it really helped the spine of our story, the Scott-Hope arc.

Ant-Man and the Wasp TV Spot

What made you want to do another one of Luis’ story time sequences? Are they more complicated to shoot than they look?

We talked a lot about, are we gonna do another one of those things? We loved them in the first movie, but we don’t want it to feel like, “Hey, you all loved it from the first movie, let’s do it again.” We didn’t want it to be self-congratulatory and weird, and we only wanted to do it if we could figure out a different take on it. At some point early on, I believe it was with Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari, two of the writers on the movie, we were talking about him giving a tip if it’s crucial to the plot and they’ve gotta get some information.

One of them introduced the idea of truth serum, and I can’t remember who it was, but when it came up, that was like, “That’s it.” If he’s gotta be rambling and telling the story and maybe misconstrues the question and goes on a rambling tangent and he has to tell the truth, and in telling the truth he’s gonna get not only Scott but Hope and Hank in trouble, that seemed dramatically cool and then allowed us to go nuts with the comedy. It also allowed us to very quickly, and in a really fun way, get a little bit of backstory about, “What went on between Scott and Hope between the first movie and this movie?”

It was also to do something different where it’s not gonna be random people in Luis’ life, but some of our main characters doing the lip syncing. So on those days we shot Peña doing it and paced him up, there must have been some amphetamines in the truth serum and I would go and do what I called a radio cut, take all of my preferred takes and string it together and then when it came time to shoot everybody’s version, say if it’s Evangeline’s version, play the one line over and over and over so she can get the rhythm and cadence and just shoot the shot until we got performance and sync to where it really started to sing.

And it was really fun for them, but really frustrating, ’cause Michael’s talking so fast and he’s going “whatever whatever” and he’s got that specific accent, so it was really hard at times, but I think they really enjoyed it.

Before he’s injected with truth serum, there’s one delivery of Louis’ I really like where he responds very seriously to Walton Goggins’ character, like, “I don’t know anything about that.” It’s a cool crime movie moment where you’re reminded he is a criminal, not just a goofball. 

I’m glad that you noticed that. One of the big conversations that we had about Luis was, the first movie was all about those guys being ex-cons and trying to resist the urge to go back to a life of crime, and in this one, I really wanted the starting point to be, “Oh, they’re small business owners now. They’re trying to make a go of this business.” There’s that part of Luis, that you remember that he’s a tough guy in addition to being a little goofy. He does feel a real sense of ownership of this company and a responsibility to the guys to make this company work. I like that we were able to create a movie where the success or failure of this ex-con company with Scott and Luis and the guys is as important to Scott as this mission into the Quantum Realm. It’s fun to explore the dilemma being work life balance in one of these movies.

Those human stakes can feel as big as the stakes in an Avengers movie, too. 

Yeah, it’s obviously a much lighter movie in tone than Infinity War and there’s not, I suppose, world shattering stakes, but to me, I like our stakes. I think our stakes are real human stakes. At the end of the movie when it’s resolved and they finally land this client, not in the way they’d hoped to but in a different way, it should be every bit as triumphant as rescuing Janet from the Quantum Realm. I like that about the Ant-Man and Wasp tone.

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