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Monday, July 13 2015 08:00

Exclusive: ANT-MAN's Antourage - Heists, Heroes, and the Cooler Side of the MARVEL Cinematic Universe...

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After witnessing the first-ever press screening of MARVEL's ANT-MAN in Burbank last month, I wandered out onto Universal CityWalk while collecting my thoughts and trying to fully comprehend the multitude of elements at play within the 12th entry into the ever-expanding MARVEL Cinematic Universe. Those who've seen the trailers and clips or have really delved into the coverage here on this site or others, have seen bits and pieces already, but when I say that ANT-MAN is a superhero movie like no other - I truly mean it. There's the action you'd expect; a comedic side carrying the torch first lit in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY; stories of family drama with father and child; and then there's this whole "heist film" thing happening... and for me, that's the real hook. With 2001's OCEAN'S ELEVEN remake being one of my favorite films (and I worked for one day on its 2004 sequel), the fact that a MARVEL film brought some of that stylish humor into the mix is an unexpected treat - one made perfect by the crew assembled by Paul Rudd's Scott Lang/Ant-Man. Enter the "Antourage": The Getaway - Dave (T.I.), The Hacker - Kurt (David Dastmalchian) and The Inside Man - Luis (Michael Pena).

I had a chance to sit down with Ant-Man's crew at Walt Disney Studios last month, part of the #AntManEvent with 24 fellow writers from the pop culture parenting space. It was by far one of the most vibrant, energetic and flat-out entertaining interviews that I've ever taken part in. The atmosphere was more like a party than a roundtable, and the whole thing got started with a trio of very surprised actors...

Surprise!
Original Photo Credit: Jana Seitzer - Merlot Mommy

...and the whole room ending up on Michael Pena's Instagram:

A photo posted by Michael Pena (@mvegapena) on

JAMES ZAHN/THE ROCK FATHER: David, you hashtagged your whole group as the #Antourage this morning....

DAVID DASTMALCHIAN: You like that? [the whole room fills with laughter] Alright, let's make it stick - let's put it out there!

ZAHN: I think after watching the the movie with everybody the other night, you guys stuck out as a highlight... and fans are going to want to see more of it. Now, since this is Ant-Man's big entry into the MCU, does that mean we'll be seeing more of The Antourage?

MICHAEL PENA: What's MCU?

T.I.: Marvel Cinematic Universe!

PENA: [laughing] Oh yea!

DASTMALCHIAN: I'm working on it, trust me. We're gonna show up with DOCTOR STRANGE and help with his hair and his style...

T.I.: Even cooler, they should give us a comic book! It just wouldn't be right to continue on in the films without us.

DASTMALCHIAN: That's what makes comics so great and fun for people -- not everybody has superpowers right? But these guys - we’re good at something. It’s just like, what do you do with the thing that you're good at? Are you gonna' do something good in your life, or are you gonna' do what our past is (for our characters)? I love that. I think that’s what makes these films great for audiences and families.   

The #Antourage Crew

The note of "family" is a big one with ANT-MAN, the first MARVEL movie that I personally have no issues showing to The Rock Daughters™ (still pretty young) as it refrains a lot of the larger, more perilous and violent set pieces that other films in the series have brought forth. So how did T.I.'s kids react to knowing that their dad was about to enter a larger world?

How a Conversation about ANT-MAN with T.I. and his Kids Went Down:

"My kids? You know my kids, they’re jaded. So when I tell ‘em I’m going to work - that I’m about to do ANT-MAN, they're like, 'Ant-Man? What’s that?' He’s a Marvel character like THE AVENGERS. 'Oh you're gonna' be in the Avengers!?' No, I’m not gonna' be in the Avengers - I’m gonna' be in ANT-MAN. 'Well I don’t know who Ant Man. Is Ant-Man in the Avengers?' Well technically in the comic-- 'No, the movie! Will we see it in the movie?' No. 'Okay, well you gonna' wear a costume?' No, not I’m not wearing a costume. You know, just forget about it. Don’t worry about it. I’ll be back [after filming]."

Breakfast with the #Antourage

And what's a heist film without some actual criminals? As early audiences will attest to, Michael Pena's Luis is a scene-stealing character with a vibe that needs to be seen and heard, not typed on your computer screen. His inspiration comes from some real-life characters that he encountered growing up in Chicago, including one guy that he noted as being "a real good dad, when he's not in jail."

"I'm imitating this guy - I won't say his name - from my neighborhood. It was like I was waitin’ for a movie to put that character in there [like this guy] because -- he’s like the most optimistic criminal that I’ve ever met in my life. Everybody loves him, but at the same time it's like you gotta’ be kidding me! So that’s Luis."Michael Pena on the inspiration for Luis

As we've seen on-screen in the past, it's the supporting characters that often make a film or series, sometimes going on to see spin-offs of their own - like the Bounty Hunters of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, or THE LONE GUNMEN of THE X-FILES. T.I.'s suggestion of a spin-off comic book based on The Antourage could completely work - even if separating from the ANT-MAN lore and going back to the criminal adventures that each man took part in prior to partnering with Lang, Hank Pym and the Pym Technologies crew. There's definitely some stories to be told, if audiences relate to what they see on film, and if MARVEL wished to make it happen.

ANT-MAN Opens Friday, July 17, 2015 - Get tickets now via Fandango. Want more from our meeting with the Antourage? Search #AntManEvent on Twitter to find coverage from 24(!) other sites and blogs!

Ant-Man Movie Prop Sweepstakes

Bonus Weird Rock Father Factoid: Back in 2008, while I was still working as an "actor" (loosely-used term) in Chicago, a usual audition at O'Connor Casting led to my spending a few days in New York City to do a commercial for Wendy's. While in the hotel lobby, I ran into a familiar face from Christopher Nolan's THE DARK KNIGHT, who was also in town to shoot a Wendy's commercial with AMERICAN MOVIE director Chris Smith of Smuggler. That actor? David Dastmalchian. See one of his commercials here. See mine here. In true Disney fashion, it's a small world, indeed!

Bonus Bonus: Dastmalchian stars in the recent indie, ANIMALS, for which he also wrote the screenplay. It's now available on VOD.

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

Learn more here

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