Ant-Man and the Wasp - Paul Rudd Evangeline Lilly

When Scott Lang is three-feet tall running around the school, was that a big visual effects challenge? 

Weirdly for me, that was the single biggest effects challenge. Rudd and I were talking about that the other day that, in a movie that has a lot of visual effects and technical stuff in it, chases and Quantum Realm, shooting those few days at the elementary school with Paul being two-feet tall, then he’s big in the janitor closet, and then three-feet tall, it was the most mind-numbing technical challenge of all. You wouldn’t know it as an audience member seeing it, ’cause hopefully he kinda breezes by, but for visual effects to do the math it takes to shoot in a practical location and he’s in shots with full-size Evangeline…it was torture to shoot that stuff. It was torture.

It shouldn’t be, but it is. To get it realistic, cause it’s all these…you’re programming these shots in and they have to fit into them and he’s moving through this space at two-feet tall, it has to feel like he’s in a 3D environment. And then we had to at one point cram Paul in this miniature green screen janitor’s closet with his neck bent, and it was weirdly painful. You’d think the car chase or something like that would have been the most mind-numbing experience, but it really was the school.

Ant-Man and the Wasp Ghost 2

With the car chase, you have a few moving pieces and cross-cut with Pym in the Quantum Realm, and they both flow and build up together very well. What was it like staging that sequence, visualizing it, and cutting it together?

I think the big thing that when we started early on in the process thinking, we’d done Ant-Man and shrinking and Giant-Man had appeared in Civil War, so how are we gonna top all that and keep the audience off guard and give them something new and surprise everybody? And we came up with the idea of two big things, I think: one was you know since he hasn’t been Ant-Man and Hank has really been focusing on the Quantum tunnel technology, that maybe R&D on the Ant-Man suit has not been really a priority for Hank. So maybe the suit is not quite all there, the malfunctioning suit which gave us a chance to kind of like screw with Scott Lang’s sizes, that was gonna be fun, but also let’s apply this Pym Particle technology not just to people, but vehicles and buildings and just go nuts with that technology.

And then when we had the idea of the portable laboratory, how does someone get their hands on his tech in a way that’s new and different and hopefully funny? When we looked at stuff like What’s Up Doc?, which I saw when it first came out as a kid, the four different cases that get confused, it felt like a very Elmore Leonard-esque thing. Everyone’s after the thing and now it changes hands and this and this.

It really started to dawn on us, if we could do a thing where they’re shrinking and growing people and vehicles, and Ant-Man and Wasp and multiple people after this thing in San Francisco, and cross-cutting to Hank going in the Quantum Realm, that could just be a gonzo back half of the movie. It was insane from the beginning just storyboarding, doing pre-vis, and mapping that thing out. One of the great joys of this movie was having a lot more time to really spend time designing that stuff.

You mentioned cross cutting between a chase that takes place in broad daylight and a city we know and the Quantum Realm, and how can those two things fit together and not feel like you’re going into an animated movie and a live-action thing? It really affected a lot of the way we visualized the Quantum Realm, really trying to make it grittier and introduce grain with Stef Ceretti, our visual effects supervisor, who is an actual genius. It was the idea of wanting some kind of look where it was really striking and colorful but also hard to photograph. Like the idea of the makers of Ant-Man and Wasp designed macro cameras that they actually went down in there and seeing the limitations of the photography that it’s a little jittery and focus isn’t always great ’cause it’s so small. Building some of that stuff into the texture of Quantum Realm was something that we talked about and did a lot of R&D on. So yeah, it was a trick sort of having that be able to intercut seamlessly.

With Pym in the Quantum Realm, there’s something about Michael Douglas suiting up and driving that vehicle that’s very joyful, and seeing movie stars like himself and Michelle Pfeiffer in that environment. 

One of the promises I made Michael for the second movie was, “Let’s give Hank Pym a few more jokes and let’s let Hank Pym see some action. Let’s remind the audience that he was a big hero in the MCU in the past.” I also love the idea of seeing him suit up, and I think it’s one of the things I love about Ant-Man, it’s one of the few MCU things where there’s a mentor, there’s a sort of generational approach to being a hero.

Yeah, when he was suiting up and down there, I loved it and I think he loved it. It reminded me of his dad, Kirk Douglas, maybe in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or something. There was something that really was striking about it. I knew Michael was enjoying it and having fun; he’s not just sort of standing around in a lab coat talking about science. So that was exciting, and again, Michelle who had always been my dream casting even as far back as the first movie for Janet. The fact that she said yes, I mean I had no backup plan whatsoever. I was also surprised and thrilled to find that they had never done a movie together, I just assumed they had, but they hadn’t.

So that was really fun shooting that stuff in the Quantum Realm. One, because it really is the emotional spine of the movie, the reunion between Hank and Janet and obviously Hope and Janet, so that was really thrilling. In terms of the Evangeline-Michelle Pfieffer thing, Evangeline just worships Michelle, and I think that you kind of see that in the performance a little bit when they’re reunited. We’re blessed with really amazing actors, but I wanted to make sure that I had the camera moves down, so that the first take we could get a really spontaneous reaction between them.

When Pym and Janet return from the Quantum Realm, there’s that great colorful shot of Ant-Man reaching out for Hope, and all the action bursting in the frame is like a huge comic book panel. How did that shot come about? 

One of the things way early on, pre-script, pre-story, was me just going back into those old Avengers and Ant-Man and Wasp comics where Hank was Giant-Man and she was Wasp, and you get a little in that janitor closet with a giant head next to a smaller head, but there had to be this give and take, this back and forth between Scott and Hope. Scott screws up and everybody’s coming down on him and Hank and Hope get arrested and they’ve kinda given up on Scott, he shows up and rescues them from the FBI, then he becomes Giant-Man, and then she rescues him in the water and then he rescues her in the end – this back and forth.

It felt like at that point with the Quantum tunnel and coming out, reality was meeting this sort of theoretical quantum thing, and it wanted to be this big, the most colorful comic book moment in the movie. It was a really surprisingly tough shot to do, not only to get everything to time out properly, but we sort of fracture time and slow down. It is the most overtly comic panel and it wanted to feel in 2:3:5 like a big splash page.

ant-man and the wasp villain

For the end credits tag, the first reaction I heard afterwards was “I hope Cassie’s okay.” Is she okay?

Well, we don’t directly address that in the movie. There are answers to that, but I would get a Wasp tranquilizer dart in my neck if I revealed things. It’s something that we all discussed ad nauseam, not only the writers and everyone involved in Ant-Man and the Wasp but also the Russos and Markus and McFeely because it’s in the larger universe. There are things that are set in motion. So there are answers to that question and I can’t reveal any of them.

How involved were the Russo Brothers in that sequence?

Well, I obviously directed that sequence. It was very interesting because we always knew we were coming out after Infinity War, and we knew we were gonna be a standalone movie, and we knew we were gonna be more directly dealing with fallout from Civil War. Throughout the writing process we were talking about, “At what point in our story do we really reveal where in the timeline are we with Infinity War?”

There were versions where it was maybe toward the end of the movie you’re gonna see a TV in the background where this is happening. That just seemed lame to us, we’ve seen that before, that’s not so interesting. Then at a certain point we landed on the structure which you saw, which felt like the very specific Ant-Man and Wasp way to deal with the events of Infinity War. I think it was probably Markus and McFeely, the writers, who came up with the general concept of what could and what was going to happen. But it was really up to us to figure out how it was gonna happen and to whom it was gonna happen, and so those guys were involved really in that thing, ’cause you know they’re events that feed into the other movie, obviously.

But that was really fun because if we were gonna introduce Infinity War any earlier in our movie, it’s such a massive event that happens at the end of that movie that it would threaten to just overtake our movie, which you just couldn’t do dramatically, it didn’t make sense. I think where we landed feels right in keeping in the tone of the movie, and we liked the arc of what it was gonna do to the audience. Also, you couldn’t do something like the end of Infinity War again in our movie tonally, it would just be a repeat, so I feel like what we did was different and I think striking.

It’s bleak for a comedy, but that last tag does end things on a laugh. 

Exactly, it’s a dark laugh, but it’s a laugh.

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Ant-Man and the Wasp is in theaters now.

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