Marvel has confirmed that the screenplay-writing credit for the superhero film Ant-Man (out July 17) is being shared by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, and the film’s star, Paul Rudd. In addition, Wright (the director and cowriter of Shaun of the Dead) and Cornish (Attack the Block) are receiving a “story by” credit.
A question mark hung over the credits of Ant-Man because of the large number of writers ultimately involved in the project’s long march to the big screen. Wright and Cornish first wrote a treatment for the film way back in 2001, when the film rights to the Marvel character were temporarily held by the company Artisan. In 2004, after the rights had reverted back to Marvel, Wright successfully pitched his idea for a movie that would be part superhero film and part crime-caper to Kevin Feige, who was then running production at Marvel Studios. (He is now head of the company).
Wright, who signed on to direct the project, and Cornish then worked on the script for the next decade, in between collaborating on the screenplay for 2011’s Steven Spielberg-directed The Adventures of Tintin and working on their own projects. When EW spoke with Wright shortly before the release of his 2013 comedy The World’s End—the concluding chapter of Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost’s so-called “Cornetto trilogy” of films—he revealed he was about to start casting Ant-Man. The director also expressed happiness that the movie’s gestation process had been so lengthy, saying, “I’d rather do the film with 2015 effects than with 2005 effects.”
Last May, however, it was announced that Wright was leaving the project, reportedly after Marvel presented the director with a new script rewritten without his input—although Feige subsequently told EW that there was nothing untoward about the process. “It is true that there were disagreements about the direction the script should take,” said the Marvel Studios boss. But “everything was above board. Everything was done with everybody else’s knowledge. There was a sense of ‘We’re going in this direction, you’re maybe staying in this direction—maybe it’s best that we end as friends.'”
The news shocked fans of Wright and prompted Avengers director Joss Whedon to show solidarity with his fellow filmmaker by tweeting a photograph himself holding a Cornetto ice cream. “I thought [Wright and Cornish’s] script was not only the best script that Marvel had ever had, but the most Marvel script I’d read,” Wheedon would later tell BuzzFeed. “I had no interest in Ant-Man. [Then] I read the script, and was like, Of course! This is so good! I don’t know where things went wrong. But I was very sad. Because I thought, This is a no-brainer. This is Marvel getting it exactly right. Whatever dissonance that came, whatever it was, I don’t understand why it was bigger than a marriage that seemed so right.”
The Ant-Man script was subsequently rewritten by Rudd and his friend McKay, who had directed the actor in both Anchorman films. Rudd previously received a writing credit for his contribution to the 2008 comedy Role Models. But when EW visited the Ant-Man set in Atlanta, Georgia, in September of last year, the actor admitted that it came as something of a shock to find himself retooling the script for a summer tentpole movie. “This took on a whole new life,” he said. “I’ve found myself in these kinds of situations before, where all of a sudden you’re writing scenes and taking on writing responsibilities. But it’s a little strange writing something that’s really truly out of my comfort zone. Sometimes you just hit the ground running, I guess. But, thankfully, Adam was there.”
For a short time, McKay was also in the frame to become the director of Ant-Man. After he bowed out of contention, Marvel instead approached Peyton Reed, best known for the comedies Bring It On, The Break-Up and Yes Man. But in the early aughts, Reed developed a version of The Fantastic Four with Feige, albeit one that never reached the screen. “Peyton, I think, is a great great filmmaker,” Feige told EW last year. “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? He came in on a number of our movies. It came down to he and James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy. 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 to say, ‘Might you be interested in this?’ And it wasn’t just a ‘Yes.’ We had to bring him in, we had to show him some of the work that had been done before. He wanted to be comfortable that he could add his voice to it, that he wasn’t just picking up pieces that had already been prepared.”
Reed and Marvel brought on two more writers, Gabriel Ferrari and Andrew Barrer, to further rework the script during the film’s shoot. “They are a really talented screenwriting duo,” Reed told EW earlier this year. “They had a script that we all read, which we loved, and was called Die In a Gunfight. It has not been produced, but [it’s] really terrific. And then they wrote a version of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, which was a really dark modernized version of that story, and the writing in that script was terrific. They came in, pitched their thoughts on Ant-Man, and we found ourselves to be really really in-sync with them. So they were with us on set for the entire run of the shoot. They added some really crucial elements as well.”
In December of last year, EW asked Feige about the situation with regard to the film’s writing credits. “It’s a WGA thing,” the Marvel boss said, referring to the Writers Guild of America. “We most certainly have Edgar and Joe’s name on it, Adam McKay and Paul Rudd’s name on it, and there are a few others that did great work. We submit them all the materials and the WGA makes the decision.”
The decision that both Wright and Cornish deserve cowriting and “story by” credits reflects the view of its star. On the film’s set last year, Rudd told EW that no matter how much the script may have changed following the duo’s exit from the project, the finished film would owe a huge amount to them. “I would say the story, the bones of it, the idea, the trajectory, the goal and the blueprint of it all, is really Edgar and Joe,” Rudd said. “The story that’s being told is theirs. We changed some scenes, we added new sequences, we changed some characters, we added new characters. So if you took the two scripts and held them up together they’d be very diferent—but the idea is all theirs.”