Paul Rudd was inspired casting for Ant-Man. Like Chris Pratt before him a solid, likeable presence is crucial for audiences to buy into the risky expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe beyond the well-known Avengers team.

The risk has paid off handsomely however, as the reviews for Marvel’s Ant-Man have been overwhelmingly positive, and not a small part of that success is down to the lead actor.

Dan Brightmore caught up with Paul Rudd and they chatted all things from a new found respect for insects to a bright future in the MCU.

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We’re used to seeing you in comedies like Anchorman and Role Models so you’re not necessarily the obvious choice to play a Marvel superhero. Were you surprised you eventually got the role?

Probably not as surprised as you! I was thrilled and loved the idea of doing something where people might not think of me as the obvious choice.

Marvel movies are known for bringing the funny… What do you love about that combination of action and laughs?

When you’re playing a part you’re not just thinking about genre. ‘Oh this part is gonna be action then drama and I’m gonna tell some jokes and be funny…’ I don’t compartmentalise it like that.

Doing the motion capture and the fighting and all that stuff was new to me but I liked the idea of focusing on other things within the film.

I am not a comedian. My background isn’t sketch comedy or improv. I’ve done other things besides funny stuff even though I’m known primarily now for comedies I’ve made over the last ten years like Knocked Up. So it didn’t feel new to me to do the dramatic stuff but shrinking down to the size of an ant was a new experience.

You’ve got pretty ripped to play cat burglar Scott Lang turned suit-wearing hero Ant-Man. What’s your secret?

It’s not CGI! My secret is work out all the time and don’t eat anything! I didn’t do anything fun and I was miserable to be around for about a year.

What did you miss the most?

It’s funny because I wound up not missing stuff as I got so focused on what I was doing as I knew I was gonna have to be held accountable… I got into the mindset of it and enjoyed it. I figured if I got into really good shape I’d feel like less of an imposter in the role. I wasn’t really having any sugar, carbs, alcohol or any of the good stuff! I stopped all of that but I’d wake up very early in the morning, feel fantastic and immediately start working out.

So have you converted to a more purist lifestyle?

It’s wild but yeah. For the better part of two years… I’m not as strict on things but I’m still working out and eating well in case Marvel comes calling again and I have to put on an ant suit!

Shaun of the Dead creator Edgar Wright was due to direct Ant-Man and wrote the original script. What did you change?

Well, working with Adam Mckay (Anchorman writer) and director Peyton Reed we wanted to keep the DNA of Edgar and Joe Cornish’s script and enhance the heist movie dynamics of the story. We didn’t start again – it felt more like a collaboration.

Were you a big comic book fan growing up?

I dipped into the Marvel comics as a kid. I’d heard about Ant-Man but I was more of a Hulk fan, mainly because of the TV show. Funnily enough I was more of a fan of English comics which my family would send over to me, like The Beano and Dandy. They were the ones I was obsessed with not superhero comics. I loved Roger the Dodger!

Has making this film given you more respect for ants?

Absolutely! Last week I was in the kitchen and saw some ants walking across the worktop to the coffee maker… In the past I would have just given them a flick but now I stand back and let them do what they wanna do. People will see this movie and walk out loving ants with a newfound respect for them. I think they’re fascinating creatures and I’ve read up on a lot… I would hesitate to say they were powerless because what they can carry around is pretty impressive in relation to their size and weight. And there’s something maybe we can take a lesson from with a species that puts colony first. Ants are awesome.

Was there much improvisation on set like when you’re working on an Anchorman movie?

Well, I helped write it so you play around with it when you’re on set. I’ve worked with improvisation a lot and love working that way because you never know what’s gonna happen. Working with an actor like Michael Pena (the End of Watch star plays his sidekick Luis) you want to take advantage of his skills and establish the relationship between these guys. He’s been in prison, his girlfriend’s left him, his mother died and his father got deported but he’s still positive because he’s got his van! It was the same working with the rapper T.I. (the hip-hop star formerly known as Tip).

Are you a fan of his music?

I didn’t know a ton about him before the film but I knew who he was and knew that people love him… But, you know, I’m still listening to Glen Campbell country music records. But T.I. is a blast, a really good guy.

What was it like putting on the Ant-Man suit for the first time?

I felt like a little kid! It’s such a cool looking suit. I couldn’t believe I was actually gonna wear this in a movie.

If you could wear Ant-Man’s suit for the day for real what would you do?

Your mind races when you think of all the things you could do. A lot of it amazing and some of it sketchy… I think we could picture where that one goes! A PG-rated one would be the ability to sit on the field during a ball game or go sit on the neck of Jack White’s guitar while he’s playing live. You could do those things and then you could also do some other things.

Ant-Man will appear in Captain America: Civil War. So whose side is he on?

You couldn’t possibly think I’m gonna tell you that! Valiant effort though…

Did you enjoy being a part of the Avengers ensemble?

That was a totally unique experience that made me feel a part of the Marvel universe that shooting Ant-Man did not. You’re on set thinking ‘Whoa! That’s really the Iron-Man suit.’ You know, I went over and grabbed Captain America’s shield. It was a real thrill and like being ten years old again. After working in a bubble on Ant-Man it made it all very real that I hadn’t felt until that moment.

Did your fellow Parks and Recreation star Chris Pratt give you any advice about entering the Marvel universe following his success with Guardians of the Galaxy?

I talked to him about working in the ‘MCU’ (Marvel Cinematic Universe) just before Guardians came out. Now I’m the outsider/new kid on the block and he’s the salty veteran…

You’ve said that when you told your young son you were going to be Ant-Man he said he couldn’t wait to see how stupid you looked. Were you ever a bit worried about how it was going to turn out?

Not at all, I loved how strange it all sounded. I think my son just wanted to make me laugh. At nine years old coming at me with insults and jokes is just great. He’s never been as interested in anything I’ve done. It’s the first movie I’ve been in that he’s seen and he was knocked out.

What was the toughest sequence to shoot?

There wasn’t one particular scene… But I’d never done motion capture work before so all of the running around, rolls, flips and dodging could be pretty tiring when you had to do it over and over again. It’s physically challenging and mentally too because when you’re working against green screen you’re imagining everything. That’s something Chris Pratt told me about Guardians and how overwhelming it was when he finally saw the finished film and got to see what that world looked like. So I’m playing make believe running around with ants and don’t have a clue what its gonna look like… But I love that.

Coming after Guardians with it’s psychedelic universe and huge action it’s cool that we can still create an alien universe on the surface of a table where everything literally and figuratively has shrunk.

Who would win in a fight between Ant-Man and the little guy from Honey I Shrunk the Kids?

That’s not even a fair fight. I’m biased but I think I’m taking Rick Moranis!


Ant-Man is in cinemas July 17, read our review and see our features here.