Nobody is more excited that Paul Rudd is in the Ant-Man costume than Paul Rudd. I mean, we’re all excited - all the journalists waiting in an empty room at the brand-new Pinewood Atlanta set of Ant-Man perk up and buzz as Rudd walks in the door, covered head-to-toe in his costume - but none of us have a smile that equals the enormous grin on Rudd’s face. After he takes off the helmet, that is.
“You can’t help but feel kind of cool,” Rudd laughs while showing off the suit’s finer details, including powered lights that run up and down his body and the buttons on his gloves that control Ant-Man's growing and shrinking. “It's a super hero suit, and it's a really good one too. You stand differently. It feels like a suit, and because of that, working [as an actor] from the outside in, everything starts to change.”
He smiles again.
“Yeah, it's pretty cool.”
There was a minute where nobody knew if this would ever happen. After years of development, original Ant-Man director Edgar Wright (and his co-scripter Joe Cornish) and Marvel parted in May of 2014, only a few months before I visited the set of the film. Marvel quickly started reaching out to new directors, and as they did that Paul Rudd, who had already signed on to play Scott Lang in the film, sat down with Adam McKay - director of films like Anchorman and Step Brothers - to work on a new version of the script that Wright and Cornish had created.
“The bones of this story and the foundation of it was there,” says Rudd. The final credits on the movie have the story by Wright and Cornish, with an additional screenplay credit to them as well. “I mean, Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright did such a great job. So we certainly added things, enhanced some story lines, changed some things, added some scenes. And it was a pretty fairly sizable rewrite, but the story is there.
“It was obviously never part of a plan, you know, when Edgar and Marvel parted ways. There had been a rewrite that was kind of a different take, but there wasn’t a different take on the [basic] story. Obviously Adam and I have a pretty good relationship. And so it just came about [that they started working together on another draft], it was never anything that I think either one of us had planned on. But it was really more of just an issue of ‘This movie is going to start and the script needs to get to a place that Marvel wants to take it,’ and so we just spent some time working on it together.”
At the time fans wondered if McKay and Rudd working on the script meant that Ant-Man - already a silly concept on its face - would turn into a straight up comedy.
“It isn’t Anchorman,” Rudd says reassuringly. “I think both Adam and I, our default is to go to comedy, though Adam is way better at it and much funnier than I am - he's the best I've ever seen. But the tone of it was not a comedy per se. I mean, I think it fit more in line with what people have come to expect from these films.”
Or what a Marvel nerd like Adam McKay might expect from these films. “Adam certainly is passionate about Marvel and comics,” says Rudd. “I mean, he grew up reading all of them. He’s a fan, so I think he spoke the language anyway.”
For Rudd the movie is still about honoring what Wright wanted while also finding common ground with new director Peyton Reed. “Well when I signed on it, it was Edgar and Edgar is the one that came to me. And Edgar, I've known for years and have been a fan of his, he's responsible for me being here. So I was understandably upset when Edgar left… but I was also excited when Peyton came onboard and the experience of working with Peyton has been great. I met Peyton several years ago - he was trying to get a movie made that I don't think ever got made - but I met with him on that, and was really iimpressed by the guy, really liked him, he's very personable. He’s smart. Over the years I got to know him a little bit because we have some mutual friends. He's also somebody that knows and loves the source material and understands the world. He is open to new ideas and I think that we are approaching the material and scenes from the same point of view… which is always reassuring.”
That reassurance is certainly helpful when Rudd is doing the FX heavy work, especially against Corey Stoll’s villainous Yellowjacket. The scenes we saw being filmed had Ant-Man and Yellowjacket tussling in a helicopter, which was set against a green screen. Oh, and Yellowjacket’s entire costume is digitally generated, so Rudd - in full practical costume! - was acting opposite a guy in tights with dots on them.
“It's a very specific kind of feeling stupid,” Rudd laughs. “Acting in general you just feel kind of stupid doing it anyway. But when you're pretending to be, you know, rolling around and dodging a foot or riding an ant or something, and you're having to REALLY do it seriously and there's nothing there. You’ve got to put faith in the process. I mean, the greatest, the best most talented people are working on this thing to make it look like it won’t be silly.
“At its core it's just believing the situation and throwing yourself into it wholeheartedly and trying not to be self-conscious or judge what it is that you're doing. That's always a challenge. But it's also fun, you know? This is really fun stuff. Later on today I'm going to be hanging out of a helicopter and I'm going to be pretending like I'm flapping around and then ants are holding onto a seatbelt and… you know, taken out of context, that's just ridiculous. But it's also the kind of thing that we all did when we were five years old and were playing in our living room! Like I used to play Starsky and Hutch with my sister and I’d be like hanging on the back of a van. We all believe it when we're kids, it's just holding onto that, I guess.”