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Directing 'Ant-Man' a dream for self-proclaimed comic book nerd Peyton Reed

Paul Rudd and director Peyton Reed chat on the set of
Paul Rudd and director Peyton Reed chat on the set of "Ant-Man."
Paul Rudd and director Peyton Reed chat on the set of
A scene from Marvel's "Ant-Man."
Paul Rudd and director Peyton Reed chat on the set of
Paul Rudd stars in Marvel's "Ant-Man."
Paul Rudd and director Peyton Reed chat on the set of
A scene from the Marvel film "Ant-Man."

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Marvel's Ant-Man was one of the original members of The Avengers, but he never quite managed to match the popularity of the other superheroes on the squad, like Thor, Ironman and Captain America.

Perhaps the powers of shrinking and controlling insects weren't as impressive as flight, superhuman strength and immortality.

As a fan of Marvel Comics since childhood, director Peyton Reed has a deep understanding and respect for Ant-Man's place in history, regardless of his diminutive size. 

But unlike other Marvel films, which now run well over two hours and cost close to $300 million to produce, "Ant-Man" was filmed to be a lighter, faster Marvel movie at about half the typical Marvel budget.

When Peyton Reed joined us on The Frame, host John Horn asked him about the influence of classic heist movies, making Ant-Man's shrinking power seem real, and that hilarious scene with Thomas the Tank Engine.

Interview Highlights:

Let's talk about the theme or the style of "Ant-Man," which contains elements of both physical comedy and tropes from heist movies.

The score is by Christoph Beck, and I had first worked with him on my first movie, "Bring It On." For various reasons, mostly scheduling, we've never been able to work together again until "Ant-Man," and we talked a lot about it being a big, muscular orchestral score, but it also wanted to be jazzy and feel like a heist movie.

I also was really adamant about having a theme — one of my favorite movies growing up was Richard Donner's "Superman: The Movie," with that amazing John Williams theme. So I was really determined to do a recognizable theme for "Ant-Man," and one of the first things I said to Chris was, "Can this still be done in 2015?" His score for the movie is spectacular, I love it.

There's a lot of physical comedy, which was just inherent in the story. Paul Rudd is such a great guy to have play Ant-Man, because he really is the eyes and ears of the audience — he reacts to these very strange situations and powers the way that you or I would if we found this suit. And that's one of the things that makes the movie work so well.

When you're having conversations with your director of photography, Russell Carpenter, what are the important things that you're talking about, the look and feel of this film visually?

The first question I had for Russell was, "Hey, can I see your Oscar?" [laughs] We had a lot of philosophical discussions about what it would look like if you could actually shrink, things like, "Okay, when Ant-Man shrinks, is the camera shrinking with him?" We also talked about how light would play — Russell would take a little pen light out of his bag and he'd be like, "When I hold this light over the table, at our size it only makes a little dot of light. But if I'm an ant, it's like a giant sun!"

We talked about what it would sound like, and we talked about dust. There's a lot of dust in the air, and when you shrink down they become these pretty large-scale dust motes, so we wanted all these visual cues to make it as photorealistic as possible.

I brought my 10-year-old son to a screening of "Ant-Man" and he almost hurt himself laughing so hard at a sequence involving Thomas the Tank Engine. Where did Thomas come in in the design of this film? Did you inherit that, or was that something you cooked up on your own?

There was always a train set in Cassie's bedroom, and I also loved from the get-go that this was a superhero movie where the third act battle takes place in a little girl's bedroom. I remember that, as we were prepping and getting ready to shoot, we'd been in contact with the Thomas the Tank Engine people.

We needed the rights to Thomas for that scene, so there were definite things that Thomas was allowed to do and not do — he has a very specific rider about food he wants in his trailer. [laughs] There was seriously a thing that was like, No one can be tied to a track and have Thomas run over them. Thomas does not run over people.

You inherited this movie from Edgar Wright, who also shares screenplay credit. What was the tone that Edgar was after, and do you think it was consistent with the tone that you're after?

The comedic tone of the movie was always there from those early drafts of the script. When I came on, it was concurrent with Adam McKay and Paul Rudd coming on to write the revisions of the script, and we had certain things that we loved in the Ant-Man comics that had not found their way into those early drafts that we wanted to add.

We also really wanted to strengthen the character of Hope, played by Evangeline Lilly, because in those original comics, Ant-Man and Wasp are really a team. And I didn't know how we were going to do it, but I really wanted Wasp to be a presence in the movie.

I really wanted to strengthen the emotionality of the movie, because at the core it's two fathers and their daughters, and there's a real, compelling story there to be told, and it's a story that's inherent to the heist movie structure. I love the hero's dilemma being that he wants to be a part of his daughter's life, and that's his journey. He goes on an insanely crazy path to get there, but that's part of the fun of the movie.

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