How big a superhero nerd was Corey Stoll growing up? “I was a big comic book fan,” says The Strain star. “Before this big wave of comic book adaptations took over Hollywood, me and my friends sat around casting productions of The X-Men or Avengers. I remember Harvey Keitel was Wolverine.”

While the Bad Lieutenant never got to wear retractable claws, Stoll is getting to play the villainous Darren Cross, a.k.a. Yellowjacket, alongside Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, and Evangeline Lilly in Marvel’s shrinking-superhero movie Ant-Man (out July 17). “I was this child prodigy that Michael Douglas’ character Hank Pym discovered at an early age,” Stoll says of his character. “He nurtured me and I was part of his technology company. I started to become aware of these rumors of this fabled technology that can shrink people to half an inch while keeping their full-size strength. And I became very obsessed with it and demanded that we move forward. But Pym had sort of buried it for ethical, moral reasons.”

According to Stoll, his character and Pym’s daughter Hope, who is played by Lilly, colluded to take over the company. “Now, I’ve discovered my own version of that technology and I’m using it for militaristic purposes,” Stoll continues. “I’ve even started to use the technology myself, which as a sort of psychotic effect on people if they use it too much. I can’t get into the details of all the goodies of the Yellowjacket suit but it’s several generations advanced from what Ant-Man has. And then I put it on—and then I am Yellowjacket!”

Credit: Lewis Jacobs/NBC

Stoll says shooting the film’s special effects sequences was both an enjoyable and surreal experience. “I did a bunch of motion-capture stuff, so that was completely abstract, without any set or even costumes,” he recalls. “It’s just getting the movements and the facial performance. It almost feels like you’re making a silent movie, where the director shouts out, ‘And now you’re gonna get punched on the left side of your face!’ ‘And now there’s a swarm of ants!’ It was a lot of fun. The last time there was a movie about shrinking was like, Innerspace or Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. So there’s no comparison in terms of what the special effects can do. There’s a whole unit that was dedicated just to macro photography and they had I think 45 days of shooting where every set, every prop, or anything that was part of the world that Ant-Man interacts with when he’s small, was shot with this crazy, next-level technology that enables you to film things at an incredibly small level without the distortion of a very wide lens. I think it will all add up to a believably immersive, super large-scale world.”

Stoll was originally cast by director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) who unexpectedly left the project last May following disagreements with Marvel over the direction of the film’s script and was ultimately replaced by Bring It On filmmaker Peyton Reed. “I followed the ridiculous ins and outs of the director search just like everybody else,” Stoll says. “When I first met Peyton I was expecting to meet somebody very nervous and did not see that at all. He was so comfortable. He’s such a fan at heart and was having so much fun that that was really infectious.” How does the finished film differ from the script originally penned by Wright and his fellow Brit Joe Cornish? “I don’t want to get into comparing the old script with the new,” says the actor. “It’s sort of lose-lose. I think the script was great—and I think it’s great now.”

For more on Ant-Man, pick up this week’s issue of EW, on stands today.

2015 movie
  • Movie
  • 115 minutes