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Exclusive: Michael Douglas talks ANT-MAN, Comics and Entering the MARVEL Cinematic Universe

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Growing up as a child of the 1980s – watching certain, more “grownup” films than I probably should’ve at the time, Michael Douglas was a hero – my first memories of his performances coming from THE CHINA SYNDROME, ROMANCING THE STONE (and its sequel) and A CHORUS LINE. Later, WALL STREET, FALLING DOWN and THE GAME – all of which became personal favorites – really hit me, and those are just such a small, small fraction of the work of a man whose ANT-MAN co-star Paul Rudd refers to as “acting Royalty.” The amount of pure good in Douglas’ filmography is immense – as is the diversity… but something had been missing until 2015, and that’s a full-blown Comic Book movie. So how did the 70-year-old actor decide that MARVEL’s ANT-MAN would be his entry into that world? It’s all about diversity, fun and friends…

Entering the room at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, the first thing that Douglas did was stop to admire the ANT-MAN action figure that I’d brought to the meeting – “I’m disappointed. I was hoping I’d get to see a Hank Pym figure this time!,” he joked, taking his seat perhaps unaware that like his co-stars, he too would get the plastic treatment (albeit masked) as part of a newly-released LEGO set. Like a cool relative that you only get to see once in awhile, Douglas jumped right into things, sharing some wisdom about his craft, his process, and his new part of something… bigger, despite “going small.”

Michael Douglas
Photo: Michael Douglas during his interview at the #AntManEvent | Credit: Louise Bishop, MomStart

Being the twelfth film in the film in the MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE, I asked what kind of time, if any, he’d spent going through the previous eleven films to explore the world he was becoming a part of. “Not much,” he said with a laugh, explaining that he’d seen AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY with an awareness that ANT-MAN would follow a tone closer to the more light-hearted GUARDIANS. “I’m surprised by just how many laughs there are, and that element and idea of going small – rather than trying to compete and go any bigger and bigger, it made a big difference.” 

Having seen the film, Michael is absolutely right in that it’s the small (and no, that’s not a pun) details that make ANT-MAN stand on it’s own – but why do a comic film now? There’s a big connection to Tim Burton’s BATMAN and BATMAN RETURNS…

“Two of my best buddies are Jack Nicholson Danny DeVito, and each of them had a great time as The Joker and as The Penguin. I remember them talking about it… and never having been offered anything in this realm before when this came up, I thought this will be cool.” Douglas’ 14-year-old son agreed. “He was like my agent! He said ‘Dad, you know what? This is a whole new audience for you,’ and I said thank you, you’re right.”

Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas in ANT-MAN

It also didn’t hurt that the ANT-MAN screenplay arrived in a little bit more thoughtful manner than most.

“When they sent me this script, they also sent me a lovely leather-bound book with two of the Ant-Man comics. Before I read the script, I opened that up and sort of familiarized myself with the different characters and a little of the back story. Ironically, for these kind of superhero/comic book projects, it was more character background than you get for most parts you ever play -the your loss of your wife, the relationship with your daughter. There was a whole bunch of stuff to actually play once you read it.”

While his friends made their comic book jump by playing villains, Douglas’ turn as Hank Pym is one with more noble intentions – but it’s his cinematic adversary that provided one of the biggest surprises…

Michael Douglas and Corey Stoll

“Corey [Stoll, Yellowjacket] was a great heavy. He was a great, great villain, and in the scenes I had with him, he brought much more strength and dynamo than I ever had anticipated. He had this whole subplot of me being his father figure and reaching out for my acceptance — which was haunting. The way he played it had a real depth to it.”

Ant-Man Movie Prop SweepstakesVery much the “elder statesman” of the ANT-MAN cast, Douglas is quick to lay heavy praise on the MARVEL team and the entire cast and crew, including those on the ground in Georgia, many of which jumped right into CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR.

“Working with them since they work together often, there’s a familiarity that brings a comfort factor and a relaxation. Based on, what, 12 out of 12, these guys got a hell of a track record and they seem to know what they’re doing. That combined with the talent you’re actually seeing around you makes you feel very secure. I’m happy to be part of the MARVEL Universe.

I didn’t realize I had to get tattooed.”

MARVEL’s ANT-MAN is in theaters on July 17, 2015. Buy tickets now via Fandango.

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