‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania’ Cast Talk Phase 5 & Kang the Conqueror – Press Conference
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s newest addition, Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, has finally arrived!
The film features Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), and Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton). Kicking off Phase 5, the group embarks on a journey deep into the Quantum Realm, where they encounter the new villain, Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), a complicated and enigmatic villain with unimaginable power.
Moderated by fan-favorite Randall Park (a.k.a. the MCU’s Jimmy Woo), the press conference panel included Rudd, Lilly, Newton, Pfeiffer and Majors, the film’s director Peyton Reed, and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige.
The discussion focused on a variety of topics, including characters’ evolution over the trilogy, Lang’s thoughts on his superhero identity, the Quantum Realm’s exploration and visual representation, Kang the Conqueror’s involvement, the father-daughter relationship between Scott and Cassie, the introduction of M.O.D.O.K, and the film’s connections to Phase 5.
Check out the recap for the Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania press conference below:
Peyton, as the director of the Ant-Man movies, you’ve helped shape these superheroes and their adventures from the beginning. What would you say is the signature of these movies, and how does Quantumania continue that while amplifying everything we know about Ant-Man and the Wasp?
Peyton Reed: The Ant-Man movies have really always been about family. It is a generational story about a family of heroes, with Scott Lang, who is not a billionaire or super scientist or anything, getting sucked into this world, and Hope van Dyne, who is the legacy daughter of two superheroes, Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer. It’s this generational thing, and now there’s young Cassie Lang, who is probably Scott’s biggest motivating factor of having time with his daughter. He wants to be a hero, obviously. He’s an Avenger. But it’s really about work-life balance and also finding time with his daughter. That’s the most important thing.
In this movie, Cassie Lang is 18, but we continue the story of this family. One of the things we’ve done in Quantumania is really broaden that story and start talking about the secrets the family members keep from each other that they don’t tell each other. At the beginning of the movie, very quickly, we find out that maybe Janet hasn’t told the family about her 30 years in the Quantum Realm, and maybe Hope and Hank have not told Scott about what they’re working on with Cassie down in the basement, and maybe Cassie hasn’t told her dad about time she might’ve spent in jail. Everyone is keeping secrets from Scott at the beginning of the movie. And then, suddenly, they’re thrust into the Quantum Realm, and they have to work out these family dynamics while being in this bizarro, whacked-out world. But it really is the theme of family that is the constant in the movies.
Paul, how have Scott’s feelings about being a superhero changed since the very first Ant-Man in 2015?
Paul Rudd: Being a dad is his main focus. He always had a love-hate relationship with it, but now, I feel as if he’s accepted it. He is happy that all of that seems to be in the rearview mirror, and now they get to have a normal life and have some time together. That obviously doesn’t last as long as maybe he thought it would. But I think that he’s grown a lot over the course of nine years or so that we’ve been doing these movies. This is a guy who started off with a regular job. He was brought into this group and has no innate super abilities, but then he went up and fought Thanos, so he’s experienced a thing or two, and he’s accepted who he is.
When we start this movie, it’s present day. The events of Endgame have already transpired. I wouldn’t say he’s taking a victory lap, but others might say that. And he’s written a book, a memoir called, “Look Out for the Little Guy.” He’s explained everything that’s been going on in life and his experiences with the Avengers, but now he’s ready to have some time to be a normal dad. There are some issues there because we missed out on a lot, and I wanna recapture some of those years. Cassie’s older, and she has ideas of her own, so we’re trying to kind of grapple with all of that.
Evangeline, how has Hope van Dyne evolved since audiences first met her? What is she doing in Quantumania as the movie gets underway?
Evangeline Lilly: Well, Hope started the first Ant-Man film as a very cold, detached, very isolated woman. She didn’t have a lot of relationships in her life. She had a lot of broken relationships in her life. And over the course of these three films, I’ve had this incredible arc to be able to play, where she has, in that time, repaired her relationship with her father, she’s reunited with her long-lost mother, she’s fallen madly in love with Scott, and she’s become a stepmom to Cassie. Her life is just full of relationships, and it’s full of love.
She’s really a blossomed version of the woman that we met, and you see that in the work that she’s doing in the world. She’s thriving and taking that love and spreading it around by trying to do right in the world and fix issues that are massive, like global warming and housing crises, and she’s doing it with success. And then, there’s this little hiccup. There’s this little missing piece, which is that she had always fantasized about her mom coming home one day. Because that fantasy started when she was 8 years old, it was like, “We’re gonna be best friends, and she’s gonna tell me everything, and we’re just gonna be so close.” And then, she really keeps Hope on the outside, which is a wound that’s festering, at the beginning of the film.
Kevin, a lot of this movie takes place in the Quantum Realm. What exactly is the Quantum Realm, where have we seen it before, and what does Quantumania reveal about it?
Kevin Feige: We first saw it in the first Ant-Man film, and I was sort of reminded recently that this was an idea that Paul had, early on, before we started filming the first Ant-Man film, to explore this and quantum mechanics, which I’m happy to discuss at length today if you guys want. Things act very differently at the quantum level, and Paul was talking about the amount of storytelling and imagination and fun that you could have there. The first Ant-Man movie was mainly about meeting the characters and the origin story, but at the very end of that, we got a taste of it, and that’s what led to where we took it in Endgame.
It’s a place that is on the subatomic level, where space and time act differently. That allowed us to time travel at Scott Lang’s suggestion in Endgame, and it allowed us to have this entire manic quantum-ness in this film, where we go to a point that only Janet had ever seen before and didn’t talk about it too much. There’s an entire universe below the surface where we meet all sorts of fun, crazy characters.
Reed: We looked at everything from electron microscope photography to things like Heavy Metal magazine in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and we wanted to bring in all of those elements. There’s a little sword and sorcery element. There’s a real Mobius element to it. We just wanted to assemble a team of artists to create the Quantum Realm. None of the other Marvel movies have really dealt with it, so we wanted to create this very vivid world that has its own internal history and internal logic.
Who are the creatures there? Who are the people there? How do you travel? What are the laws of physics? All those things needed to be figured out. With Will Htay, our production designer, we assembled this insane group of visual artists. We said, “Bring some of your most fantastic ideas to the table and let’s figure out what it can be.” We wanted to take these characters that the audience has come to know and send them on this journey and traverse these very strange lands and just have fun with it. It was a part of the MCU that we were free to create on our own, and that was one of the most exciting things about it.
Jonathan, can you explain Kang the Conqueror and the concept of variants?
Jonathan Majors: Who is Kang? That is a question that we will all be answering for a very long time. The quick answer to that is Kang is a time-travelling supervillain who is also a nexus being, which leads to this idea of variants. There are multiple versions of Kang, versions being variants. They occupy different universes, multi-verses, and have different intentions.
They are all different beings, and yet something that we’re still and I’m still working on and continue to refine has something of a throughline between them that, to me, is the Kang gene. Kang the Conqueror is stuck in the Quantum Realm, and he has some issues with some variants and is not happy about it. When he was down there, he met Janet.
What’s your approach to playing him as an actor?
Majors: This really feels like joining a Shakespearean troupe, back in the day, when you have Shakespeare in the room, and you’ve got other guys in the room, and Shakespeare has a very clear idea of what it is he wants to do. And then, you have your lead actor, and they set the tempo and the tone that you get in.
The culture of the play and the story is all there, but it’s changing, so you really have to be very clear about what it is that you’re doing and who the spine of the character is, what he or she is about, and what they’re going after. You build that, and you just play hard. At least, that was my take. You play hard, and if everything turns left, you turn left. Kang gotta Kang. That’s the approach. It’s the same as all the other pieces of the people I’m blessed enough to play. Kang is just different in so far as he lives in a very different world.
What’s it like to enter the MCU, playing someone as big as Kang? How is it to live up to such high public expectations?
Majors: It’s deep. We, as artists and creators, make it for the people. We are the people, and we make it for the people. We always make it with good intentions. There’s something good in it. You may not see it right away, but it’s in there. This is cool because it’s a big order. The MCU has established itself as not just a national pillar but an international pillar of culture and education, and entertainment.
To be Kang and to come in with that, you realize it’s been pushed that far with so much strength, power, and support. That’s what I feel. I feel the support of it. I’ve also lived a life, so I just have a certain temperament, which is helpful. I’ve also been surrounded by individuals from the beginning that really support Jonathan to step into Kang. I’m learning more and more that the fans and those who follow this world really love it, and they really have an open heart about it. Because there’s so much good in it, it’s gonna work, so I don’t really think about it much, except for that whole monologue I just gave.
Kathryn, have you dreamed of playing a superhero?
Kathryn Newton: Iron Man was the first Marvel movie I saw, and I was probably eight. Since then, I’ve always wanted to be a Marvel superhero. Anyone who knows me from high school, it was probably my superlative in the yearbook. I really wanted to be a part of this because it made me dream. I went with my dad to the theater, and I just wanted to be a superhero.
It’s funny because I wanted to be the biggest Marvel superhero of all time, and it’s ironic that Cassie Lang grows 40 feet. I’m proof that your dreams come true because mine did.
You do so much more than just play a superhero in this movie. You have your relationship with your dad, Scott. How did you and Paul bring that dynamic to life?
Newton: It was really difficult working with Paul. I couldn’t get through scenes because I was laughing the whole time. It was very difficult for me to stay grounded in my character. Luckily, when Jonathan was on set, he really brought the music and made me get into it. It was very easy to find that dynamic with Paul. The first day, our first scene, was the hardest scene in the movie for me. I really just trusted Peyton Reed, our director. He believed that I was Cassie Lang when I don’t think that I did. I didn’t believe it when I got the call to be in the movie. I didn’t believe it when we filmed it. [I’ve seen it twice, and] I still don’t believe I’m in it. I don’t know how it happened, but I really loved the movie, and I loved making it.
Kevin, what made Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania the right choice to begin Phase 5 and introduce the next iconic Marvel villain, Kang the Conqueror?
Feige: We wanted to kick off, you know, Phase 4 by introducing a lot of new characters and new heroes to the world. We want to kick off Phase 5 with a third film of characters that were already beloved, which this team certainly is, and utilize them. We’ve talked about family. That goes along with vulnerability and relatability. And who better to face off against one of, if not the biggest villain the MCU’s ever faced than this family, who you might think could not handle it? And then, we learn, over the course of the movie, that Janet has not only handled it but has been dealing with it for decades.
In terms of the Ant-Man trilogy, there’s a flashback in the first film to the original Wasp, Janet Van Dyne. We don’t see her face. She’s wearing a mask. It was always our dream that someday we could make another movie, and then Michelle Pfeiffer could play that character. We get a little more of a taste of that in Ant-Man and the Wasp. And now, with this movie, there’s a large part of this movie where Peyton and the screenwriters just hand the movie over to Michelle, and it’s amazing. I keep thinking back to those first scenes in the first Ant-Man film, where it was just a dream and a possibility of who could play this part. But all of these characters, and these amazing actors, we felt would be a great audience surrogate to meet somebody as complex and scary and multiversal as Kang.
Jonathan, what preparation did you have to do to capture the distinctness of the different Kang variations?
Majors: The prep really comes down to who my director is and who my hero is. As an antagonist, we’re following our heroes. In this case, I had a few to look at and break down, which is the fun part. I look at them, and I figure out, “Okay, you can’t antagonize somebody if you don’t know who they are, if you don’t know what’s the opposite of them, and if you don’t know what their hopes and dreams are.”
My objective is to do that, to antagonize, in order to get what I need to fulfill my life and my dream. In Loki, I’m dealing with Tom Hiddleston]. That was great. It’s He Who Remains and Tom. I got to watch him the whole time. This opportunity came to me in lockdown, so I studied Tom Hiddleston for hours a day. And then, when that was done, I went, “Okay, Paul Rudd, you’re up.” I studied him, and I studied all of his hero colleagues and compatriots. And then, you speak to your director and even your producers. There’s a culture to it, so you lean into that. Kang has to relate to him first, as a man and as a human being. He relates to all of them as a human being. Then, we can combat, and I can get him to do what I need him to do, perhaps.
Evangeline, when is the Wasp’s standalone film coming, or the women of Marvel?
Lilly: This is an excellent question. I think you might have asked the most important question of the day. I’m going to defer this question up the line to Kevin.
Feige: Well, the opportunities within the MCU are endless, as they are in the multiverse. We will have to see what happens in the future.
Lilly: And just for the record, if that opportunity did present itself, I’m fully suited up and ready to go.
Okay, we need to talk about M.O.D.O.K. How was it introducing him in this film?
Reed: For me, it was a personal thrill. I was a kid who spent a lot of my childhood alone in a room reading Marvel comics, and M.O.D.O.K. was always this insane character. And he’s grotesque. He’s a giant head that has been turned into a mechanized organism designed only for killing. That was intriguing. So, we started talking about whether there was a place in the MCU, in the Ant-man movies, for a live-action version of M.O.D.O.K., what that would look like, and how we would go about it.
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