Avengers: Infinity War was traumatizing, to say the least, which head of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige acknowledged when I sat down to talk with him at the Los Angeles press junket for Ant-Man and the Wasp. It may be the 20th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it's the first since audiences were stunned by the universe-changing events of Infinity War. And if Infinity War was the darkest film of the MCU thus far, Ant-Man and the Wasp might just be the antidote audiences need to recover from the trauma.
The below interview contains minor spoilers for Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Wearing an Ex-Cons hat (the name of Scott Lang's new business venture in the film), Feige spoke with SYFY FANGRRLS about releasing Ant-Man and the Wasp post-Infinity War, making the character of Ghost female, and casting Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet Pym.
How much were you thinking about the fact that audience members would be coming off of Infinity War when deciding to have this be the next movie?
When we schedule our films together, we do think about that. And it was quite nice, [because] the first Ant-Man film came after [Avengers: Age of] Ultron, and it felt like that was a fun thing to continue the notion of this very big event and certainly with Infinity War, knowing what we were doing in that film and that audiences might, you know, be somewhat emotionally scarred, leaving that movie, that our next offering should be something fun and warm-hearted and funny and endearing and clever and relatively self-contained. So that was always the idea.
Even though the events of Ant-Man and the Wasp take place before Infinity War.
All of the MCU films recently have their own distinct tones. How are you able to make sure that they still each work together in the universe as a whole when they're so wildly different?
I think we have instincts that carry over from film to film, so that I think that might be the shared element. And it's important to us. Ant-Man and the Wasp is our 20th in 10 years — the 20th film in the interconnected MCU — and we learned early on, even after the first Iron Man film, that we didn't want to be a studio that just made one kind of movie. We didn't want to be a studio that just made the same movie over and over again. Because if that were the case, it wouldn't have lasted two or three films.
Which is why we had Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk and then Iron Man 2 and then Thor, which people couldn't believe we were making into a movie. Or a full World War Captain America film or even Avengers, which now everybody takes for granted. People didn't understand that. And people would say to me, "Oh, is that the British... you're doing that British show The Avengers," which now nobody remembers. But at the time, that's what people thought when I said Avengers. And that's why we want to do Guardians and wanted to do Doctor Strange, wanted to do the first Ant-Man, was to continue to surprise and evolve and change the tone.
And I'm very happy. You look at even our last six films: Guardians Vol. 2, giant cosmic sci-fi space opera. Spiderman: Homecoming, right? Cool, Marvel, John Hughes movie. [Thor] Ragnarok: full Taika Waititi crazy, crazy, sci-fi. [Black] Panther, right to the Coogler opus about identity and about culture and about geopolitics. Infinity War, certainly the biggest sort of epic that we've done, and now Ant-Man and the Wasp, a fun, self-contained, takes place over 48 hours or so, race film dealing with fathers, daughters, and families. I love that. How unique. That's what I would think audiences want, 'cause they want to be surprised every time. And that's what we want, because we want to continue to make different of movies each time. And Captain Marvel, a '90s, space, action film next, is fun.
The villain in Ant-Man and the Wasp, Ghost, originally was a male character in the comics. When and how did the decision come to make the character female in this film?
Right away when our producer Stephen Broussard and [director] Peyton [Reed] and our writers Eric Summers and Chris McKenna were developing the storyline, the thought was always, how do we do a unique villain? How do we do a villain that isn't conquering the world [or] robbing them again? How do you do something that can visually be quite different from what we've seen before? And the notion of Ghost and the notion of connecting the origin of Ghost to the Quantum Realm and what they'd be dealing with to try to see if Janet were still alive came up early on.
And the notion of a female villain, which, at the time, we were doing Hela, but [Ragnarok] hadn't come out yet, and we were wanting to have more female characters and have more of female characters at the forefront. And connecting into the story of fathers and daughters, which really Ghost and the Bill Foster character are sort of, this adopted father-daughter relationship that connects to the Cassie/Scott father-daughter relationship and the Hope/Hank father-daughter relationship. I think that's where it started. And then we found Hannah [John-Kamen].
Speaking of casting, at the press conference Laurence Fishburne talked about getting his role in the film — essentially he came to you to be part of the MCU. Does that happen a lot, and how do you make sure to utilize those iconic actors in the right types of roles?
It's happened occasionally over the years. Sometimes it happens the way it did with Michelle Pfeiffer, where we had always dreamed that she would be the perfect casting for [Janet] and you reach out and she's open and meets with Peyton and here's the story and is excited to do it. And sometimes actors come in and say, "You know, it'd be fun to do something."
What Laurence said was exactly right. We had run into him on the lot walking back and forth across the Disney lot where he was shooting Black-ish and he's a huge fan and he came to the Doctor Strange premiere. And we were like, "Well, he's great. Do we have anything for him?" And very soon after, I think it was only a couple of weeks, the Bill Foster idea came up and we asked him, [and] he said, "Yes." It happened. It doesn't always happen that quickly.
One of the neatest parts of the film is the portable lab. So if you could shrink anything in your real life, make it small, and take it with you everywhere, what would you choose?
Great question. I don't know. I mean, the notion of the car in your pocket so you don't leave with the valet outside, just put in your pocket, is pretty cool. I wouldn't carry around a whole building — it's too much. Look what happens. That's too much responsibility. It's too easy to lose it.
I thought that was really cool that they threw around the building... like it's just whatever.
Yes. Well, if you listen again, you will hear a line in the background of the lab: "gyroscopic stabilizers activated."
I did wonder about that.
It's there. About midway through, we were like, "Wait a minute, how come when they run back into it, how come it's not all falling over and a big mess?" Stabilizers.
Ant-Man and the Wasp hits theaters July 6.