When teased with the prospect of becoming Marvel Studios’ high-flying Wasp at the end of director Peyton Reed’s 2015 “Ant-Man,” Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne shared a sentiment felt by comic book fans the world over: “It’s about damn time.”
Three years later, that time is now. This Friday, the former “Lost” star becomes Marvel Studios’ first female super hero to have her name in the title with the arrival of “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” In celebration of the film’s arrival, Lilly joined co-stars Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Laurence Fishburne and Hannah John-Kamen, as well as Reed and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, to explore what makes Marvel’s latest something truly astonishing.
“Originally, Wasp was going to be introduced in ‘Captain America: Civil War,’” Lilly reveals. “That was the original plan. I never expressed it at the time — because of course, how can you? — But, secretly, I was [disappointed]. She’s not going to get an origin film. Oh well. It’s okay. I’m just stoked to be here, dude. I’m just happy that I get to put on a suit. Then I got a call saying, ‘We’ve decided not to put you in ‘Civil War.’ I could tell the feeling in the room was, ‘I’m sorry. Don’t be offended.’ Then they said what I thought they were going to say, which is, ‘We really want to dedicate a film to introducing this female super hero and we don’t want her just to be a side note in this larger story!’ That was so exciting for me. I still didn’t know that there was going to be double billing. That didn’t come until later and that was presented to me as a surprise, by email with a screen cap of the title.”
“The first ‘Ant-Man’ film essentially is all about how qualified Hope is and about her estrangement from her father, who’s preventing her from doing these things,” Feige says. “We always knew that the next one was going to be ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ and that it would finally be time to see her suit up and be the hero.”
“What was cool about ‘Captain America: Civil War’ is that we could not ignore what had happened to Scott Lang in that movie in this movie,” Reed says. “It gave us an organic jumping off point, because my first reaction was, What would Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne think about Scott taking the suit and getting involved with this and fighting with the Avengers? Well, they’d be pissed off. There are ramifications of the Sokovia Accords and Scott being on house arrest. It really gave us a natural starting point.”
Lilly isn’t the only Wasp in the story, either, as the sequel introduces Michelle Pfieffer as Janet van Dyne, Hope’s mother and the first person to wear the Wasp costume. Similar to in the first “Ant-Man,” state-of-the-art visual effects were employed to flash back to a younger Hank and Janet.
“That was one of the nice parts,” Douglas says, smiling. “First of all, when we started this and I discovered that Michelle Pfeiffer was going to be my wife. [I am] such a tremendous fan of hers and have never had the chance to work with her. I was totally ecstatic. Then, in reading the script, to find out that Michelle Pfeiffer and I were going to be 30 years younger? That made it all that much better.”
Pfieffer is well-known to fans of the Distinguished Competition, having memorably played Catwoman in Tim Burton’s 1992 comic book sequel, “Batman Returns.” There’s a different addition to the “Ant-Man and the Wasp” cast, however, who seems to have mastered the entire comic book movie multiverse. Fishburne makes his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut as Dr. Bill Foster, an old colleague of Pym’s who is better known in the comics as the growing hero, Goliath. Previously, Fishburne voiced the title cosmic hero in 20th Century Fox’s 2007 sequel “Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer.” Over in the current DC film universe, he plays Daily Planet Editor in Chief Perry White.
“I realized that I was on the lot with Marvel, working at ‘Blackish’ at ABC/Disney and I remembered that I had worked with [producer] Louis D’Esposito a hundred years ago. I thought, ‘I should go talk to them. Say, hey. What do I got to do to be in the movies?’”
Another new addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is John-Kamen as Ghost, a mysterious antagonist whose fight to save her own life comes into direct opposition with the heroes’ search for Janet.
“I definitely approach the character not as a villain at all. She’s definitely a threat to the characters and the heroes of the movie, but when you play a villain, you have to play it like you’re the good guy and everyone else is bad… The stakes are so high. She has such a clear objective in the movie and you know, it’s every man for himself. Every woman for herself.”
“I have a 7-year-old son and he loves violent movies,” Lilly says, laughing. “He likes to taunt me by telling me, ‘Mom, I love violence!’ because he knows I hate it. When he talks about good guys and bad guys in movies, I always feel a responsibility to clarify for him: ‘Honey, you know that there really is no such thing as a bad guy, right? They’re only just good guys who have made so many bad choices that they’ve forgotten how to make good choices. A true hero’s job is to remind them of their goodness, not to annihilate them or to kill them. It’s to help them redeem themselves.’ I think that’s applicable to life. Super hero stories are fun and they’re a totally different world, but what I think is cool is to have redeemable villains. You’re teaching children that if you encounter somebody that might have a different opinion than you, that doesn’t mean they’re a villain. If they have a different objective than you, it doesn’t mean you should attack them. Maybe you want to try to understand them first.”
“[There is] this theme of parents and children that runs throughout the film,” Rudd adds. “Fathers and daughters. It’s something that’s relatable because, whether or not we have children of our own, we all have parents… Certainly when I’m thinking about it and we’re talking about story and script and everything, that’s the approach. I have a daughter roughly the age of Cassie in the film. She’s a little bit younger. I know what it’s like to spend the evening playing with Barbie dolls… That’s the glue. That’s the soul of it. The love that a family shares and how we need each other. You know, parents need their kids. Kids need their parents.”
One of the biggest questions Marvel die-hards have about “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is how it connects to “Avengers: Infinity War” and the future of the MCU. One of the only clues that Feige was willing to provide is that fans should pay close attention to the Quantum Realm sequences in “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”
“In the first film, we got a glimpse of people who like to go through frame-by-frame,” he says. “There was a little silhouette of Janet as the Wasp in there, which is a big story element in this movie. There are things that you see back there that Peyton has put in there. Where and how they pay off in the near term and in the long term remains to be seen.”
Lilly, meanwhile, has her own idea of where she’d like to see Hope go next.
“I used to say it would be fun to see the Wasp with the Hulk because she’d be so teeny and he’d be so giant,” she says. “But we did Giant Man in ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp,’ so that’s out. I don’t know, but I just personally have an enormous crush on Okoye [from “Black Panther”] and would love a chance to hang out with Danai [Gurira] as much as possible… [Also,] I am personally going to continue to keep the rumor and gossip about an all-female Avengers film going until it happens.”
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” opens in 2D, 3D and IMAX theaters Friday, July 6.
(Photo Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images 2018)