Exclusive: Edgar Wright Talks Ant-Man

Director Edgar Wright was at Comic-Con in San Diego this year for two reasons, to talk about his second feature film, Hot Fuzz, a police action spoof once again with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and to talk about the new movie he would be directing for Marvel Studios, based on the Marvel superhero Ant-Man.

Not to be confused with Marvel’s other insect-based superhero, Ant-Man has the power to make himself really small and, if that isn’t power enough for you, he can communicate with ants!

No, I know it doesn’t sound too exciting, but it somehow makes sense when you realize that Wright is the director who first brought zombies to the world of romantic comedies with Shaun of the Dead. And he’s looking to adapt Bryan Lee O’Malley’s indie graphic novel “Scott Pilgrim’s Previous Little Life” to the big screen, as well.

Superhero Hype!: Is it true that you brought “Shaun of the Dead” to Comic-Con two years ago?

Edgar Wright: Yeah, it was probably the first big public screenings that we did here.

SHH!: Did you actually do a panel for it?

Wright: Yes, in this room here two years ago. Same slot even.

SHH!: Oh really? The Sunday slot? So you’re kind of used to that then.

Wright: It’s cool. It’s still exciting being here. I was with Simon [Pegg] two years ago, so it’s Nick’s first time.

SHH!: You seem to be taking everything that’s gone on since then in stride.

Wright: The Marvel thing is interesting, ’cause like I was saying in the [Marvel] panel yesterday, it was weirdly, a treatment we’d written that before “Shaun,” so it’s kind of odd to come back to that. Basically, this writer Joe Cornish… Before we’d written or maybe around the same time we’d written the first draft of “Shaun,” I was in L.A. and I’d met with Artisan and at the time, they had some of Marvel’s lesser-known titles, and they asked if I was a Marvel comics fan, and I said that I always was a Marvel Comics kid, and they said, “Are you interested in any of these titles?” The one that jumped out was “Ant-Man” because I had the John Byrne “Marvel Premiere” from 1979 that David Micheline had done with Scott Lang that was kind of an origin story. I always loved the artwork, so when I saw that, it just immediately set bells going off kind of thinking going “Huh, that could be interesting. ” So we actually wrote a treatment for it, which was never sent to Marvel. It was like more our pitch on the thing. Ant-Man was basically doing a superhero film in invert commas, and it takes place in another genre, almost more in the crime-action genre, that just happens to involve an amazing suit with this piece of hardware. The thing I like about Ant-Man is that it’s not like a secret power, there’s no supernatural element or it’s not a genetic thing. There’s no gamma rays. It’s just like the suit and the gas, so in that sense, it really appealed to me in terms that we could do something high-concept, really visual, cross-genre, sort of an action and special effects bonanza, but funny as well. There will definitely be a humorous element to it as well. So we wrote this treatment revolving around the Scott Lang character, who was a burglar, so he could have gone slightly in the Elmore Leonard route, and they came back saying, “Oh, we wanted to do something that was like a family thing.” I don’t think it ever got sent to Marvel. So then about two years ago I met Kevin Feige and Ari here and they said, “Are you interested in any Marvel titles?” and I said, “Weirdly enough, I did something for you,” [At this point, writer Joe Cornish walks into the room with a camera, because he's also the official Hot Fuzz "blogographer."]…so we basically said, “Do you want to read the thing that we did three years ago?” So they read it and that’s kind of the basis for what we’re working on.

SHH!: So Marvel contacted you later about Ant-Man?

Wright: No, not specifically about Ant-Man. I just brought it up because they asked me if I was interested in any Marvel titles, and I had written a treatment for Ant-Man three years ago, but that was the first they had ever heard of it.

SHH!: Did you end getting the exact same call and the exact same meeting a second time?

Wright: No, I just met them here at the Comic-Con for a general meeting, talking about Marvel Comics, and the fact that they were just really intrigued that they had no idea that I had written a treatment for Ant-Man.

SHH!: I think it’s interesting that the Ant-Man you knew and grew up with was the Scott Lang one, since most people I would think know the one who hung with the Wasp in “Tales to Astonish.”

Wright: Well, the thing is that what we want to do, the idea that we have for the adaptation is to actually involve both. Is to have a film that basically is about Henry Pym and Scott Lang, so you actually do a prologue where you see Pym as Ant-Man in action in the 60′s, in sort of “Tales to Astonish” mode basically, and then the contemporary, sort of flash-forward, is Scott Lang’s story, and how he comes to acquire the suit, how he crosses paths with Henry Pym, and then, in an interesting sort of Machiavellian way, teams up with him. So it’s like an interesting thing, like the “Marvel Premiere” one that I read which is Scott Lang’s origin, it’s very brief like a lot of those origin comics are, and in a way, the details that are skipped through in the panels and the kind of thing we’d spend half an hour on.

SHH!: Obviously, you’re going to need a lot of ants, so are you going to hire an ant wrangler or get into the whole CGI thing?

Wright: Oh, yeah, yeah, totally. Visually, the two kind of powers… aside from the shrinking–obviously the shrinking is incredibly visual, the fact that he can shrink and enlarge, kind of mid-combat, it’s not like a peril thing where he shrinks and then he’s stuck there. It’s not like “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” or “The Incredible Shrinking Man”, he can enlarge as well. So the thing that really appealed to me, the idea of doing action scenes, fight scenes, like hand-to-hand combat scenes with a protagonist who can shrink to an inch high and still have the same punching weight, and then spring back up up mid-fight. So I think you could do some crazy Jackie Chan sh*t with that.

SHH!: Some people might not think much about the character or even know about him, so is there less pressure because it’s not “The Incredible Hulk” or “Spider-Man?”

Wright: Yeah, yeah, I think so in way. This is something me and Joe were talking about… [urges Joe to come over for his first ever interview]… come and join us! That’s what is interesting in a way is that I think a lot of the really successful comic book adaptations, are either from books. I think “Spider-Man” and “Batman Begins” are kind of the two exceptions, but prior to that, some of the best comic book adaptations were either of lesser-known titles, like “Men in Black” or they were films that traded so much on comics without actually being an adaptation like “RoboCop” and “The Matrix,” they’re both kind of steeped in comic book lore. “Robocop” probably wouldn’t have existed without “Judge Dredd.” “The Matrix” may not have existed without a lot of Anime and stuff… or Grant Morrison. [Laughs very loudly at his own joke.]

SHH!: How did you two guys meet and start working together?

Wright: Well, Joe is a very talented, multi-hyphenate. Joe is like a writer and director, and can we say that you’re a comedian as well?

Joe Cornish: Yeah.

Wright: And a presenter. What else?

Cornish: No, I wouldn’t say presenter, but I had a TV show on just before and during “Spaced” basically.

Wright: Yeah, right around the time “Spaced” was on, Joe had a show on called “The Adam and Joe Show” which was very, very funny indeed and very sharp. We kind of met around that time and became really good friends and always wanted to write something together.

SHH!: I can guess that you’re a comics fan, so do you just come at this from your comics background?

Cornish: Yeah, pretty much, absolutely, and just like Edgar, a complete movie, pop culture fanatic basically. Just to get the chance to do Ant-Man is just amazing.

Wright: You like the films, and you like the music… and we both like ants.

Cornish: I like the films and comics, anything that doesn’t take too much effort… and we’re obsessed with ants.

SHH!: You’re going to have to like ants, because you’re going be spending a lot of time with them.

Wright: I’m going to have ants… no, I’m not going to say “ants in the pants”… too obvious.

SHH!: Do they even have ants in England?

Wright: Do we have ants in England?!? [by now, Nick Frost has joined us intrigued by the ant conversation]

Cornish: We have many species.

Nick Frost: That’s a joke, right?

Wright: I’m not sure we have Fire Ants. No.

Frost: No.

Cornish: No, we have completely different species of ants

Wright: Nick Frost is going to name them.

Frost: I think they just go from “Ant 1″ to “Ant 30″ and then they… [breathes out in an exasperated way from being put on the spot like that] I never felt so low.

[Wright laughs at this and they begin playing table hockey with the microphone.]

SHH!: Since we’re talking about comic books, what is going on with the “Shaun of the Dead” comic book that IDW did?

Wright: We didn’t really… the truth of it, with some of the spin-off things, you can’t necessarily say “no” to people doing stuff, because with some kind of rights of merchandise, it’s out of your hands. In the case with IDW, they wanted to do it, and we basically said we would do it as long as we could have approval on it basically, and I have to say they did a really cool job. I thought that Zach Harris’ artwork was great, was really cool. So it was interesting. I always found adaptations of films were kind of weird. When I was a kid, I never used to like reading the film adaptations like “Star Wars.” It felt kind of odd. In the case of “Shaun,” it was almost kind of like… [Wright gets distracted when Kornish pulls out some DVDs.] What is that? Oh, no way, they’re out already? That’s brilliant!

SHH!: Are you still interested in doing comic stuff?

Wright: It’s difficult time-wise. Simon is really interested in writing something original and stuff, but it’s just finding the time, really.

Since Ant-Man is probably a year or two away, you can check out Edgar Wright’s work in Shaun of the Dead, currently out on DVD, or Hot Fuzz, which opens here on March 9, 2007.

Source: Edward Douglas