When Marvel announced that they would be making ANT-MAN part of their Cinematic Universe, the public had a mixed reaction of both puzzlement and excitement. After all, Ant-Man is hardly a household name as far as comic book characters go, despite ultimately becoming an Avenger and, well, a little storyline that has to do with a certain villainous robot AI by the name of Ultron. But when SHAUN OF THE DEAD and SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD director Edgar Wright came on board the project, things started to get interesting.
After bringing on Anthony and Joe Russo for CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER and, recently, James Gunn for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, it seemed that Marvel was intent on continuing its streak of bringing unexpected but talented directors to helm their blockbuster films. Soon, the cast of characters started to form, with Paul Rudd signing on to play the titular character (whose real name is Scott Lang), Michael Douglas as Ant-Man creator Hank Pym, and THE HOBBIT star Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne.
However, in May 2014 Wright announced that he was leaving the project, citing creative differences with Marvel. Some began to wonder whether this spelled out doom for the film, or worse: that this meant the usually collaborative Marvel was turning into a bully and stifling creativity in the name of money. There wasn’t much else known about the parting of ways, and it seemed some were even reluctant to question the juggernaut Marvel directly about the break-up.
Thankfully, Evangeline Lilly had a few things to say about the issue, and in an interview with BuzzFeed, the LOST actress revealed what brought her to sign onto ANT-MAN, what she liked about the Edgar Wright script, and her insistence that Marvel justify why Wright was no longer part of the project before she would sign her contract. Lilly had this to say about what attracted her to Wright’s take on the story:
I thought Edgar’s idea to blend the [Hank Pym and Scott Lang] stories was brilliant. You’re going to have fans up there who insist that you tell the story of Hank Pym, and fans up there who will be more on the Scott Lang side of it. … I think we are going to come close to pleasing them all. And what’s cool is that, you know, Janet Van Dyne is my mom. Hank Pym is my father. I was raised by two superheroes. I’m no schlump. I’m a pretty smart, competent, capable, kick-ass female. She’s very cool.
Then, Wright left the project in May and Lilly soon found herself questioning whether she would take on the role, having not yet signed the contract with Marvel. Her reaction to the news of Wright’s departure seemed to echo much of what the public felt during the announcement:
[I was] shocked. And mortified, at first. Actually, I wouldn’t say mortified. You know, a creative project is a moving target. You never end up where you start. But we all, I think, signed on very enthusiastically with Edgar. We were excited to work with Edgar. We were fans of Edgar. So when the split happened, I was in the fortunate position where I had not signed my contract yet. So I had the choice to walk away, and I almost did. Because I thought, “Well, if it’s because Marvel are big bullies, and they just want a puppet and not someone with a vision, I’m not interested in being in this movie.” Which is what I was afraid of.”
Lilly refused to sign her Marvel contract before she was given the new script. The actress wanted to understand whether there was a big discrepancy between the material by Wright that she signed on for initially and the new one with more of Marvel’s vision for the film. As it turns out, Lilly ultimately understood what Marvel was going for, citing that the direction Marvel wanted to go with for ANT-MAN was more in line with the existing cinematic universe that was already in place. It seems that the reason behind Wright’s departure had less to do with Marvel strongarming a popular albeit eccentric director and more to do with an intent on preserving the cohesion that has become a characteristic (and some might say one of the reasons behind the studio’s success over competitors such as Warner Bros.) of their films.
I saw with my own eyes that Marvel had just pulled the script into their world. I mean, they’ve established a universe, and everyone has come to expect a certain aesthetic [and] a certain feel for Marvel films. And what Edgar was creating was much more in the Edgar Wright camp of films. They were very different. And I feel like, if [Marvel] had created Edgar’s incredible vision — which would have been, like, classic comic book — it would have been such a riot to film [and] it would have been so much fun to watch. [But] it wouldn’t have fit in the Marvel Universe. It would have stuck out like a sore thumb, no matter how good it was. It just would have taken you away from this cohesive universe they’re trying to create. And therefore it ruins the suspended disbelief that they’ve built.
(After a successful meeting with Wright’s replacement, Peyton Reed) I signed on and I never looked back.
It’s certainly understandable why Marvel, who has spent a lot of time and effort in cementing their carefully crafted cinematic universe, wanted to make sure that ANT-MAN stayed true to the rest of their vision and their brand instead of being an auteur’s pet project. While Wright surely had the right kind of enthusiasm and passion for the material, it could have also very easily isolated itself from the rest of the Marvel universe in tone, something that might not have been too big of a deal given the success of the much lighthearted fare that was GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.
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