One of my favorite things about Marvel set visits is the quiet we get to have while doing them. What do I mean by this? Well, until the end of January this trip was embargoed, so that means no one even knew we were there. And now, almost 9 months later, here I am getting ready to share the details from the set. During the Ant-Man and the Wasp Set Visit where we had the pleasure of speaking with Executive Producer Stephen Broussard and Production Designer Shepherd Franke. This coming week I will also be sharing my exclusive interviews with Paul Rudd (“Scott Lang / Ant-Man”), Evangeline Lilly (“Hope van Dyne / The Wasp”), Abby Ryder Fortson (“Cassie Lang”), and Director Peyton Reed.
Ant-Man and the Wasp Set Visit
It’s always a treat spending a day on the set of a film for each experience is different. This particular day we sat in the craft service area of the set. It was lunchtime, so not only did we grab some food and drink while watching them prep for a scene they were about to shoot, but Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lily, and Abby Ryder Fortson grab lunch. Evangeline chit chatted casually about how we had missed the best mom scene, and Paul also said hello.
We watched them shoot a scene that prior to calling action they chatted about the “mommy bloggers”, football and we realized just how long it takes to shoot one short scene. After they were done Evangeline joke how Paul is “not charming at all.” Making us all laugh at her sarcasm. The two of them obviously great friends and the whole crew seemed to really enjoy working with them as well.
While on the set we also had the chance to speak with Executive Producer Stephen Broussard and Production Designer Shepard Frankel. The two of them gave some backstory as well as what to expect from the next Marvel blockbuster.
Executive Producer Stephen Broussar
Stephen Broussard figured it would be helpful as we began our day to just sort of give some context for the story and what would see and then go from there.
The film takes place kind of roughly since the last time we picked up with these characters, which would have been, Scott Lang in Civil War. The events of that film were that he kind of got swept up in this mission that Captain America’s team asked him to come on, that he didn’t quite even understand what he was getting into. And he ended up getting thrown in a high-security prison and at the end of that movie busted out by Captain America. And then we don’t know what, kind of that’s where his story left off. So this story kind of starts up with the premise that Scott is a family man, and so much of the first movie was about being a good father to his daughter, and being present for his daughter, and putting his old criminal ways behind him.
And so he kind of looks to the events of that film, like what am I doing, this is not what I want. So in between movies, he went, turned himself into the authorities that had started this thing called the Sokovia Accords, which you might remember from Civil War, which was the government agency that’s going to monitor superhero activity that rubs Captain America and some others the wrong way. And he basically said, I’ll sign what I’ve got to sign, I’ll plead down, I’ll serve time, just let me get this off my record, kind of thing. So they appreciated that.
And this film starts with him essentially under house arrest, he’s living in an apartment with Louise and has an ankle monitor. He can’t leave, serving a two-year sentence. And when that is done he’s free to go, he’s free to not be Ant-Man because he surrendered that by the terms of these accords. But will be a free man and can live his life after being trapped in this tiny apartment for two years. Our movie starts on the very tail end of that, where he’s got basically seventy-two hours if he keeps his nose clean and doesn’t do anything wrong for seventy-two hours, he’s free to go, a free man.
This is a movie, Hank and Hope come crashing into his life and say, we need you, we can’t wait. We think we can go find Mom, we think we can find Janet van Dyne who was alluded to in the first movie as being lost to a quantum realm during an early adventure with the original Ant-Man and Wasp Hank and Janet. And for reasons that Scott is a part of, he’s a central piece of the puzzle to them finding it.
Which is why they can’t wait, he’s like oh my god what are you talking about, I have three days left (of parole), I can’t do this, I can’t go be in this adventure. They essentially kidnap him out of his house arrest. And so you have a movie that takes place over roughly these three days as they’re racing to find mom before that opportunity goes away. Also racing to get Scott back in there at the moment when they’re going to come and check on him or his sentence gets extended ten years, right, like the stakes are really big for him.
So it sort of came from early days of what can the movie be. It’s on the one hand, weird sci-fi quantum realm stuff. But we also talked a lot about a genre of movies that I don’t know, maybe someone has a better name for it, but we call it One Bad Night movies, where stuff just keeps going wrong, and it gets worse and worse. You have everything from After Hours, Scorsese’s After Hours, to like Adventures in Babysitting, Quick Change, the movie, if you guys remember that with Bill Murray, just these like Go is another great example, which is a movie I really love. Where just like the night gets worse. And just when you think you’re about to get out, it all sort of keeps coming back on you a little bit, in this weird San Francisco criminal underground that they just keep crossing paths with.
Ant-Man the franchise is essentially kind of like one part crime movie like the first movie was a heist movie. And so we sort of deal in these criminal elements. They’ve got to go to some shady places and deal with some shady characters throughout the movie. But it’s also like a movie about family way more than a lot of the other Marvel movies are.
Which I really love leaning into. And it’s a movie about fathers and daughters and parents and children, and there are all these parallel relationships. You’ve got Scott and his daughter Cassie, you’ve got Hank and Hope and Hope missing her own mother, Janet. And she hasn’t been in her life for thirty years nearly, and what does that mean, what does that do to someone when they grow up, what does that reunion look like. Like the reunion can almost be as traumatic in a lot of ways as the separation.
And I think just- I love kind of delving into that because it feels like a unique corner of that universe. Because they’re kind of regular people, you know, they’re not billionaires. They haven’t been bombarded by gamma rays or bit by spiders, so they just sort of feel like Scott’s a regular guy. Up until very recently, Hope had a regular job. So it’s cool to sort of explore those dual pathways. That’s kind of the premise, that’s kind of like where we find ourselves today.
How do we see the characters evolving?
Sure, Scott’s been through this kind of like this adventure where he kind of decided whether or not he wanted to be Ant-Man or not at the beginning. And we kind of pick him up at the beginning of this movie, and he’s not sure like it’s once again crash into his life in a way that is counter to him being present for his daughter. So when we sort of to meet him, he’s basically saying I can’t do this anymore, I need to step away with this. And conversely, we’re meeting Hope who’s finally allowed by her overprotective father after these years, to step into the role of hero.
And so she’s sort of off the leash, off the chain, going crazy, kicking ass. Like we meet her in a really heightened amazing heroic place. And they’re not the happiest with each other, or I should say Hope’s not the happiest with him. Because in going off and getting himself arrested, he turned the same government agents that are trying to keep him under wraps on to them. So they’re like, “Oh, where did you get this equipment, what are these suits, or is this Hank Pym technology, oh we’ll go see about that.”
They go knock on Hope and her father’s door, and they’re like, you need to sign this, and there’s a whole new thing, we’re monitoring all this, and they’re like yeah thanks but no thanks. Because as well established in the first movie, they don’t take very well to authority, they never have. So they kind of go on the run, and they’re on the run while they’re trying to find mom. So they’re doing this incredibly complicated task of locating where Janet is in the quantum realm and how to get there while the government is on them.
And they blame Scott for that. If you hadn’t run off, if you hadn’t gone to help the Avengers without consulting us, maybe we wouldn’t have to do this out the back of a van.
Returning to the theme of family, so much of what this film is about, it’s called Ant-Man and the Wasp, right, it’s not called Ant-Man two. It is about these teams, them coming together as partners, right. And kind of learning that a partnership, if you can find the right person, can make you both better, right. That you both can support each others’ shortcomings and maximize your best attributes and that that in itself can be an act of bravery.
Sort of surrendering yourself and having the courage to let someone into your life as mirrored by Hank and Janet’s partnership when they were younger, when they were the original Ant-Man and Wasp, and what that did to Hank. Like when he lost his wife kind of how that affected him. How he became not as nice of a person and wasn’t there for his daughter growing up, and it drove this wedge between them. And it’s so much about the coming together that kind of thing. And like never surrendering yourself and your own identity obviously. But learning where that line is, where that how that balance can work, I think to make a better partnership.
Are we going to see a lot of comedy?
Totally no yeah it’s really funny like, you know, and try to double down and run towards all the things, like Michael Pena who’s so amazingly funny. But new cast Randall Park, if you know who that is, he’s an actor on ABC’s sitcom Fresh Off the Boat, hilarious. Sokovia Accords is hilarious. And these people are really quick on their feet, like Paul and all the cast is. So it’s a lot of riffing, a lot of improv, yeah.
I’ve made a lot of movies at Marvel, I’ve been there for a while, and I wanted to do this because like I want to make a film that’s as funny as can be.
Will we see any Avengers come to help him?
Kind of like the Falcon in the first movie? Not in this film. Kind of by design but for the reasons we wanted it to feel sort of more contained. So there’s no huge cameos waiting or anything like that. But we’ve opened it up by inviting all these other new characters in like the Randall’s and the Walton’s, Laurence Fishburne, Hannah John-Kamen, you know, like a lot of new faces. So it’ll definitely feel surprising.
Production Designer Shepherd Frankel
Chatting with Production Designer Shepherd Frankel gave us an idea of what to expect from this film versus that last.
Well, the first Ant-Man was such a fun movie to work on, and I’ve had the privilege of participating in a lot of Marvel projects. When I was asked to do the first Ant-Man, I thought to myself; I would not want to have been offered any other property. Like, this is the perfect fit for me and what I loved so much about the first film was that it takes place in real kind of world environments. With a real variety of people, problems, and challenges. Like an ordinary guy trying to get his life together to be the best dad he can for his daughter. Hank Pym is just trying to find his wife, and he’s got to go to any lengths to kind of figure out where she is and also Hank Pym choosing to make sure the science he’s created is used for good and not for bad.
All those things taking place in real life and real-world environments and the kind of what I like to call the alternate universes of Ant-Man is the macro universe and going into that world, so that is the inter-planetary travel of the first Ant-Man. Going into the macro universe, into the quantum realm, but also into these small environments where we set up a whole kind of production timeline to shoot and film with a bunch of innovative camera techniques and lenses and approaches to shoot.
There was not one oversized prop in that film and we shot all these environments in camera because the camera behaved certain ways and there wanted to be a sense of reality, where walls were and how a camera can move and tell a story in these small environments, so that was a really cool technical element of the first Ant-Man that we are doubling down on this one.
Hank Pym, what has he been up to?
You know, he had to be gone. Like, he had to be on the run and not visible because of things that happened in the first film. So Hank Pym is underground continuing his effort which is, “Where’s Janet? Where is Janet? There’s a ticking clock here. I got to find her,” so it’s about the family with Scott. It’s family with Hank and Hope and finding Janet.
And it’s family with Louis, Dave, and Kirk in that they’re a family of friends. We have a business now. I’ve fulfilled the dream of, you know, I’m living the American dream. I’ve got a small business, we’re doing well, and we’re trying to grow. You get a real sense of family there. It’s about all these people working together. So in this film, we are playing with scale a lot.
So, you can see that in some of the environments. We, so we are doubling down on the whole idea that this place takes place in real-world environments because Hank’s on the run, the whole movie’s a little bit of a chase movie. We are really reinforcing the idea of our characters being in the in-between spaces of San Francisco. The places where you can hide out, but still see the city where you’re rubbing up against very tactile environments and textures.
And that was all part of the DNA of the original Ant-Man movie, and in the macro photography, in Louis’ apartment, in the all the textures of the small world, of the macro world. So we’re doubling down on textures and turning that into the environments our characters take place in. They are in the periphery of the city, the in-between spaces. Underneath the bridges, in the alleyways looking out and then, we are also playing with scale like I was saying.
And you can see that in the environments wherein the macro world where you and I would kind of walk through this table and see these huge bottles and glasses and phones and pens. Which we saw in the first film, in this one, we wanted to create environments where we, as full-size people, would walk into and question our scale. Like, did we shrink down? I suddenly see things in a way I’ve never seen them before. So if anyone’s been to the Museum of Natural History in New York City, you go underneath the whale and suddenly, you’re kind of, it’s a spiritual moment.
You’re kind of like, whoa, I’m so small. Like, what’s going on? And this is what a whale is like in real life. You, we wanted the audience to have that sense of vertigo and feeling when they walk into some of these environments.
Can you talk about the lab and how it is made of found objects? What should we keep an eye out for?
It is an exciting environment built from found pieces and everyday kind of, like, erector sets and Lego pieces. We’ve set up a series of, yes, Easter eggs, that I almost don’t want to kind of spill because I want you guys to find them. The set is being taken apart, but in the film, you will see them, and we’ve built them oversized, so it’s unlike the first movie where we didn’t create one oversized prop.
We built oversize set pieces to be integrated as if Hank Pym is building a lab on his table. Then because he knows how to grow and shrink things, he would grow it. He’d work on it, inhabit it and function in there. And then it would shrink again. So there are things to find. And next time I see you, we could talk about how many things you found after you’ve seen the film.
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (7/6/18)
* I was invited by Disney to attend this Marvel secret set visit to share with my readers. All opinions are my own.