If you’ve been following my coverage on MARVEL’s ANT-MAN over the past couple of weeks, then you already know that I had an action figure companion accompanying me on my trip to Los Angeles. While my MARVEL Legends Infinite Series Ant-Man was Hasbro’s articulated version of Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang, they haven’t done a version of Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross/Yellowjacket just yet – sans the tiny, half-inch figure that comes packed alongside and equally-small Ant-Man… inside the package with the bigger Ant-Man. It was pure luck that I happened to find the Funko Pop! Vinyl version of Yellowjacket the night before I was set to meet with actor Corey Stoll, a lucky score at a Hot Topic store on Universal CityWalk. The next morning, it was hard to tell who was more excited about the figure – me, or Stoll.
Sitting in a conference room somewhere within the famed Walt Disney Studios, Stoll (HOUSE OF CARDS, THE STRAIN) entered the room all smiles, greeting a full group of writers from the pop culture parenting space to discuss his entry into the ever-growing MARVEL Cinematic Universe. But first he had to pause – “This is so cool,” he said, picking up my Pop! Vinyl to get his first look at one of the first toys to represent a character that he’s portrayed. I had to ask one of the same things that I spoke with Rudd and co-star Evangeline Lilly about –
JAMES ZAHN/THE ROCK FATHER: “Now that you’ve played a character that’s become a toy, will you be collecting yourself?”
After the room erupts with a quick burst of laughter, Stoll confirms that there’s certainly some Yellowjacket figures in his future… but not just for him.
“I will! I hope I can get a discount,” he proclaims “I have the LEGO set, but that [points at the half-inch Yellowjacket in front of me] one is a choking hazard [“adult collector,” I add]. I’m about to have a baby, so I’m in tune to that now. We know that it’s a boy (not that I wouldn’t have a girl play with action figures), but my second thought after ‘Thank God, he’s healthy’ was ‘I’ll be able to play action figures with him!’ Now I think we’ll have to make our own action figure for my wife so she doesn’t feel left out.”
Playthings aside, we had to throwdown about stepping into the suit to play what could be one of the best MARVEL villains yet to see the screen. Thing is, there really isn’t a Yellowjacket suit.
“I did two separate trips down to Atlanta just to try on different versions of the of the suit and it just never looked right,” explained Stoll about the reason why his performance went motion capture vs. Rudd in full Ant-Man garb. “The first time I tried it on, everybody was trying to convince themselves that it looked cool. ‘Yeah, yeah, it’s gonna be great, just a little CGI over there and you know, it’ll look great.’ I just felt like a Power Ranger. Luckily, smarter heads prevailed and they just did the suit in CGI.” Remarkably, the CGI looks great and you’d think that he’s actually in a suit when you see it in finished form. “My first day of shooting was sort of a microcosm of what the whole shoot would be, where in the morning it was all, motion capture – totally abstract, just stunts, and it was like being in a silent film where you run this way and then duck and then pick up a toy train and throw it. It was pure play. Then the afternoon was a very quiet scene with Michael Douglas, where I show up at his house unannounced and it’s really our most intense scene.”
Speaking with Stoll, you don’t really get the vibe that comes off on screen, and that’s a testament to just how good he is as Darren Cross. In my conversation with Michael Douglas, the legendary actor was quick to lay heavy praise on Corey as being “the big surprise” and “a great heavy.” In many ways, Cross comes off like a Bond villain, and the nuances of the character have been pretty well-thought by the actor inhabiting the role.
Corey Stoll on the sides of Darren Cross:
“There are these two extremes of what this role would be, and it was just fun. As things went on, I worked with [Director] Peyton [Reed] to calibrate the levels. I wanted to make sure this character is scary, but I also love what a loser he was. It’s incredible – he’s the least-cool guy in the World. He wants to be Tony Stark. He wants to be the coolest guy in the world. He’s puffing himself up with these Tom Ford Suits and driving an Aston Martin… but he knows that he’s not that guy. That’s the irony, he’s trying to buff himself up in the end to impress this father figure [Hank Pym] and it’s exactly the opposite of what a father figure wants. The script was really smart about giving very real, playable motivations.”
Finally, when it comes to actors appearing in films based on comics, generally you get talent that isn’t really into the source material. But Corey Stoll is different – a legit comic fan with a love for a lot of characters, but it’s another hero that’s soon to enter the MARVEL Cinematic Universe for the very first time that holds a special place for him…
“I would definitely say this about Spider-man: He was just the guy that I think that as a High School Student, I could identify with the most. And also, just the New Yorkness. I liked Batman and Superman, but they were all in these sort of fictional cities, a Spider-man was in New York. As a kid from Queens, the idea – that fantasy of being able to swing through the buildings that I see every day was really cool.”
MARVEL’s ANT-MAN is in theaters on July 17, 2015. Buy tickets now via Fandango.