In May of last year, an announcement shook the universe—the Marvel movie universe, anyway. It was revealed that director Edgar Wright had jumped ship from the Paul Rudd-starring Ant-Man, the superhero movie he and co-screenwriter Joe Cornish had been working on for more than a decade.
It was subsequently reported that Wright had decided to leave the project after Marvel presented him with a new script rewritten without his input. “It is true that there were disagreements about the direction the script should take,” Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige tells Entertainment Weekly in this week’s issue, which features Ant-Man on the cover. (Read the story in full here.) But “everything was aboveboard. Everything was done with everybody else’s knowledge. There was a sense of ‘We’re going in this direction, you’re staying in this direction—maybe it’s best that we end as friends.'”
The loss of Wright came as a particular blow to Rudd. The Wet Hot American Summer actor is a longtime friend of Wright, and it was the British director who had cast him in the role of Scott Lang, an ex-con who becomes the film’s titular, shrinking, ant-controlling superhero.
“It all happened pretty quickly,” says Rudd. “Edgar called me, and then it was just out in all the trades. It was a bit of a whirlwind, to say the least.” Was the actor tempted to follow his friend out the door? “Well, I mean, there are lots of things that go through your mind,” he says. “There are certain things I can and can’t do, and then there also certain things I will and won’t say. But I was devastated, you know.”
Following the departure of Wright, Rudd himself took a pass at the script of the film (which will hit cinemas July 17) with his Anchorman director, Adam McKay.
“It somewhat happened organically,” says the actor, who previously cowrote the 2008 comedy Role Models. “When Edgar left, they were talking about directors and I knew Adam and Adam’s brilliant. So he came in to meet with them. He and I had some ideas and so we spent some time rewriting it and wound up doing a rewrite on the whole thing. All of a sudden, this took on a whole new life and was much more intensive that I had maybe anticipated. I’ve actually found myself in these kinds of situations before—maybe not quite on this level, but not far off—where all of a sudden you’re writing scenes and taking on writing responsibilities. And that’s okay. But it’s a little strange writing something that’s really, truly out of my comfort zone. I wouldn’t know how to begin to write [something like this], but sometimes you just hit the ground running, I guess. Thankfully Adam was there.”
After McKay bowed out of contention for the directing gig, Marvel hired Peyton Reed (Bring It On, The Break-Up), a self-confessed comics nerd who knew Feige from having worked on an ultimately abortive Fantastic Four movie project.
“I’ve known him for probably 2 years,” says Feige. “We had worked on a version of the Fantastic Four at Fox that ended up not happening. I always thought, ‘Gosh, wouldn’t it be great to work with him again?’ It came down to him and James Gunn when we were making our choices for Guardians of the Galaxy, and obviously we thought James had a hair advantage there, and we’re very very glad we went that way. When this occurred, he was one of the first people we called.”
The company also recruited up-and-coming screenwriters Gabriel Ferrari and Andrew Barrer to further rewrite the script. “It’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster,” says Rudd. “But I’m excited and I’m impressed with Marvel.”
However, Rudd is keen to point out that, while the Ant-Man script has changed considerably since last May, credit for creating “the bones” of the film should go to Wright and Cornish. “The idea, the trajectory, the goal, and the blueprint of it all, is really Edgar and Joe,” says the actor. “It’s their story. We changed some scenes, we added new sequences, we changed some characters, we added new characters. If you took the two scripts and held them up together they’d be very different—but the idea is all theirs.”
Read our full cover story on Ant-Man here.