Michael Douglas has spent nearly five decades in the limelight, delivering iconic performances in films like Wall Street, Basic Instinct, and Wonder Boys, just to name a few. He stars now in Ant-Man and the Wasp, reprising his role as Hank Pym, reluctant mentor to Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang. In this Q&A, he talks about staying contemporary, and his relationship with his younger co-stars.
What is it like being part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe now?
It’s cool. First off, I’ve got this whole new generation of fans under 15 years old, all of whom could never see my movies before because they were all R-rated, and they’re saying, “Hey, Hank Pym!” It flatters you after doing this for 50 years to see this new group. And there’s just a fun factor to it. My whole career has been contemporary films—comedies, dramas, and all that. So to get into this other world, the quantum realm where anything goes is a trip. So I’ve enjoyed it. It has a family feeling about it, in terms of the Marvel family, and just some really good actors to work with.
What made you come back?
It’s a nice part of my legacy to have a show like this that I can come in and out of. Most of my career, I’m always carrying the movie. I’m in every single scene. Now I can leave that up to Paul and Evangeline.
How did the news of Michelle Pfeiffer playing your wife hit you?
It was just fabulous. In the first one, “Ant-Man,” there is a flashback with me that depicts me as 30 years younger. It is really cool. It would be great in this to have the chance to act with Michelle Pfeiffer as we looked 30 years ago. Who wouldn’t like that?
What is enjoyable about revisiting a character?
The best thing about doing a sequel is the opportunity to work with the people you worked with before, so there’s a feeling of familiarity. You don’t have to go in like strangers and feel your way out. There’s also a comfort factor with the director, Peyton Reed. You also get to define your character more. I’m sort of the straight man in this. Hank Pym is the guy who keeps this thing grounded; he keeps a degree of credibility and reality. I am now comfortable in that role, where I may not have been as comfortable early on. It’s what my role is and I’m enjoying it.
What about Hank’s lab?
Hank Pym’s lab in San Francisco looks like a five or six story factory building, kind of non-
descript. But inside, he’s doing tremendous research basically exploring the possibility of entering the quantum realm, which is where he lost his wife Janet 30 years ago. He still has the ability to make things small, even shrinking down a block-long, six-story building. We have one of the greatest sets that I’ve ever seen from a production designer named Shepherd Frankel. It’s just a stunning, stunning set. We will make you believe that I can reduce it to the size of a travel suitcase and take it wherever I want. The lab is wanted by a lot of people that are up to no good.
Tell me about Paul playing Scott Lang.
Paul has a wonderful everyman quality. He’s a lovely, warm, generous guy. And it comes across in his performances. But he’s got this great quirkiness too, this little twinkle, this sparkle. He also is a very smart guy. I thought he did brilliantly in the first one as Ant-Man and in this one as well. He’s a writer also as well as being a wonderful actor. He comes up with some great, clever lines and displays an inherent honesty about his work and his performances that is just captivating. I love our on-screen relationship because there’s a romantic involvement teasing with Scott and Hope. So Hank’s looking at Paul as any possible future father-in-law would look at his son. And let’s just say he doesn’t cherish all of Scott’s qualities and doesn’t necessarily think he’s the best choice for Hope. So it allows me to be very judgmental with him and very critical, so we have a lot of fun with that.
Talk about your character’s relationship with Hope and working with Evangeline.
Based on the first picture, Hank had lost his wife, Janet, who was Hope’s mother. Hank is guilt-ridden to a good extent about that loss. So at the end of the first one, Hank felt that Hope was old enough to show her Janet’s Wasp outfit, as she was the original Wasp. So that was an introduction to Hope beginning her career of Hank being her mentor in the Ant-Man adventures. They have mutual respect for each other now.
But like any young filly, Hope’s always feeling like Hank is little holding her back to some degree. Hank has underestimated her intelligence, and her wile and her guile, and her ability to get things done. Of course, also in this search for her mom is a personal link between the two of them of how important that Janet was to both of them. It’s a real joy to watch Evangeline come into her own in a superhero film in which she plays a title character. I get a kick out of watching her joy and her excitement, and her incredible hard work and overall ability. She’s a wonderful actress and has great ability at handling stunts. I’m proud of her.
Was there anything special that you did to connect?
I have produced a lot of movies, and I have acted in a lot of movies that I have produced, but when you reach number one or number two on the call sheet and you’re carrying a movie, you have a responsibility to make it as comfortable as possible for everybody else. I want everybody, whether I’m producing or not, to be as good as they can be. So I go out of my way to try to make people feel comfortable and give them the confidence to step forward. I was fortunate enough for my first experience on a television series, “Streets of San Francisco,” to have Karl Malden advise me. When I was the second lead in soft focus about two steps back behind him, he said come on up here and take the stage. So when we’re feeling each other out on the first one and we know we might have a long run together for pictures to come, I encourage people to step forward and take the stage. It’s their moment.
What can audiences expect from this movie?
“Ant-Man and The Wasp” probably has a little more humor than some of the other Marvel pictures. And, of course, this whole concept of getting small just has an innumerable number of possibilities. In Marvel’s infinite wisdom, they’ve found a whole bunch of ways to play this out. It has some great action sequences and some good laughs. I even think I’m going to try to bring a couple of tears here and there.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is currently in cinemas. All images courtesy of Marvel Studios.