‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ Director Peyton Reed Was Inspired by Elmore Leonard Crime Novels

“Rum Punch” and “Get Shorty” writer imbued Marvel sequel

Peyton Reed
Alberto Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

[Note: There are spoilers ahead for “Ant-Man and The Wasp,” “Infinity War” and the MCU at large. Read at your own risk.]

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” isn’t director Peyton Reed’s first time around the block working with Marvel, but he certainly had more room to play this time around.

Playing off of the heist movie format that was laid out in the first “Ant-Man,” Reed told TheWrap he wanted to take the crime genre in new directions. Novels like “Get Shorty” and “Rum Punch,” both of which were adapted for the big screen — the latter serving as the basis for Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown” — inspired the two-time Marvel movie director.

“It was just us sitting in a room — and that’s me and the writers and Stephen Broussard our producer — and just talking about, from the beginning we wanted to stay in the crime genre, but really talking about, ‘Could we make this like an Elmore Leonard novel’? If Elmore Leonard had written a science fiction novel and Marvel made a movie of it, that was the mindset,” Reed said.

After coming on board late in the process to direct 2016’s “Ant-Man,” Reed has returned to the franchise and the Marvel machine, but with much more control over the film, its characters and the world in which they live.

“I certainly can’t speak for any other filmmaker who’s worked in that system, but on this movie we had a tremendous amount of freedom to devise the story,” Reed told TheWrap. “We went off and really talked about what we wanted to pay off that we’d set up in the first ‘Ant-Man,’ and obviously dealing with the stuff in ‘Civil War,’ but beyond that no one from Marvel sat there and said it’s got to be this genre or it’s got to be this, or these things have to happen.

I think that perception has stuck around about Marvel, but I really have not found that to be true,” he continued. “I feel an incredible amount of freedom.”

“Ant-Man and The Wasp” takes place two years after the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” which is the last time audiences saw Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) suit up a the titular, tiny hero.

The film unfolds over the course of the three remaining days Scott Lang has in his two years under house arrest, which resulted from being caught after fighting alongside Captain American in “Civil War,” violating the Sokovia Accords.

Reed and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” screenwriters talked about how to pay off decisions Ant-Man made in in previous films.

“It gave us a really organic jumping-off point, you know,” Reed said, adding that he didn’t know what “Infinity War” and “Captain America: Civil War” directors the Russos Brothers and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely even thought about that connection. “But my reaction was, ‘Oh, man, Scott exposed the tech to The Avengers and Tony Stark and he got thrown in prison and the suit got confiscated — that is Hank Pym’s worst nightmare. And that is going to alienate Hope Van Dyne, and so here ‘s the jumping-off point for this movie. It was great.”

Now that Marvel is in the third phase of its cinematic universe, the studio is letting the reins loose, giving their directors and filmmakers more authority to develop the characters, film and tone into something that feels different from the rest of the universe. “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Black Panther” are recent examples.

The only thing Reed said he knew he had to consider as far as sticking to the Marvel plan was tying in “Infinity War.” But there was even freedom in approaching that. “Ant-Man and The Wasp” takes place before the cataclysmic event of “Infinity War.” There’s no reference or hint to Thanos or anything that’s happened in that film until the mid-credits scene in “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”

“We always knew we were coming after ‘Infinity War’ and we knew how ‘Infinity War’ ended,” Reed said. “We knew at some point we were gonna have to figure out how our particular tone, how the ‘Ant-Man and The Wasp’ tone was gonna deal with that event. But we never really considered this movie taking place after ‘Infinity War.’

“We knew the audience was going to come into our movie looking for those clues as to the timeline and we talked about structures early on: Do we tell our story and then slowly, as it progresses, start to see these Easter eggs of these things in backgrounds on screens about ‘Hey, this stuff is going on in other parts of the world, what’s going on?’ And that just seemed to us kind of clumsy and like we’ve seen that conceit before,” Reed said. “And then it became a question of that tag scene and what we do in it and also who’s involved in it — there was a lot of discussion about that.”