Things got testy on the Marvel Studios front last May when beloved geek director Edgar Wright abruptly walked away from the Ant-Man production after developing it as a labor or love for over eight years. Fans and film critics all speculated about Marvel’s motivations leading up to Wright’s departure: Were they looking for a director they could mold or control? Were they homogenizing their product and trying to stifle true creative vision? Were they playing it safe with their cohesive cinematic universe and no longer willing to take any risks? Well, as it turns out, someone very close to the production—the female lead, in fact—also wanted to know what the deal with Wright exiting was, and she was so concerned about it that she almost walked away from the film herself.
Actress Evangeline Lilly, who portrayed badass plane crash survivor Kate on six season of LOST, and who is currently playing Elven warrior Tauriel in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, spoke to Buzzfeed and broke some radio silence regarding how those involved in the production felt about losing Wright:
“[I was] shocked and mortified, at first. Actually, I wouldn’t say mortified. You know, a creative project is a moving target. You never end up where you start. But we all, I think, signed on very enthusiastically with Edgar. We were excited to work with Edgar. We were fans of Edgar. So when the split happened, I was in the fortunate position where I had not signed my contract yet. So I had the choice to walk away, and I almost did. Because I thought, Well, if it’s because Marvel are big bullies, and they just want a puppet and not someone with a vision, I’m not interested in being in this movie. Which is what I was afraid of.”
Lilly changed her tune when she met new director Peyton Reed and saw how the new screenplay took the crux of Edgar’s concept and made it fit within the context of the established Marvel Universe:
“I saw with my own eyes that Marvel had just pulled the script into their world. I mean, they’ve established a universe, and everyone has come to expect a certain aesthetic [and]a certain feel for Marvel films. And what Edgar was creating was much more in the Edgar Wright camp of films. They were very different. And I feel like, if [Marvel] had created Edgar’s incredible vision — which would have been, like, classic comic book — it would have been such a riot to film [and]it would have been so much fun to watch. [But] it wouldn’t have fit in the Marvel Universe. It would have stuck out like a sore thumb, no matter how good it was. It just would have taken you away from this cohesive universe they’re trying to create. And therefore it ruins the suspended disbelief that they’ve built.”
Lilly also seems to confirm in the interview that she’s going to get the chance to portray an empowered female character and get physical with the bad guys in her role as Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne’s daughter Hope Pym, and perhaps become the second version of the classic Marvel comics heroine, The Wasp.
“You’re going to have fans up there who insist that you tell the story of Hank Pym, and fans up there who will be more on the Scott Lang side of it. … I think we are going to come close to pleasing them all. And what’s cool is that, you know, Janet Van Dyne is my mom. Hank Pym is my father. I was raised by two superheroes. I’m no schlump. I’m a pretty smart, competent, capable, kick-ass female. She’s very cool.”
Well…wow, Lilly has given us a lot to process there. I too, was extremely concerned about Wright’s decision to walk away over a creative clash, and what that said about Marvel’s philosophy towards working with visionaries looking to make unique and oddball films within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While I remain bummed that I’ll never get to see Wright’s interpretation, I’m comforted by what Lilly has to say and I’m confident Peyton Reed (an admitted Marvel fanboy) will deliver a tremendously fun film that retains the vital cohesion Marvel Studios has established. Also: how awesome is it that Janet Van Dyne and Hank Pym were probably old-school “secret Avengers” who fought crime as The Wasp and Ant-Man in the ’60s and ’70s? There could be a whole world of pre-superhero crimefighters and adventurers who bridge the gap from WWII/Cold War characters like Peggy Carter and Howard Stark to our modern super powered icons like Iron Man, Black Widow, and the rest of the Avengers.