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[The following story contains spoilers for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.]
Nearly three years to the day that he was hired by Marvel Studios, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quatumania writer Jeff Loveness is finally able to openly discuss the fruits of his labor. After having one of Marvel’s last in-person meetings before the world came to a standstill, Loveness spent his Covid lockdown in the Quantum Realm, writing Quantumania and its introduction of Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), the big bad or a variant of the big bad for the MCU’s current Multiverse Saga.
Loveness joins Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Michael Waldron and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law’s Jessica Gao as the third Rick and Morty writer to tackle an MCU project, and out of 31 MCU movies, he’s only the eighth screenwriter to have a solo writing credit. However, even with sole credit on the Quantumania screenplay, Loveness and the rest of the creative team still had to kill their darlings for the sake of the most optimal final cut.
In this case, Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne/Wasp lost a multiverse-related storyline to the cutting room floor, as a long-haired Hope shot some scenes with two children that are believed to be hers in a different universe. Loveness admits that it was tough to see the story point go, but he’s hoping it can resurface someday, maybe even in Avengers: The Kang Dynasty, which he’s also writing.
“I really love the movie that’s out in theaters, but there was a bit more,” Loveness tells The Hollywood Reporter. “There was Hope’s perspective on the multiverse as well, and possibility, and things like that. So you never know what might come back around in an Avengers movie down the road, but I can’t say too much more. I’m happy with what we have, but there’s always something on the side for the three-hour Loveness cut. Maybe you’ll see it one day.”
Loveness is currently working on the fifth Avengers movie, The Kang Dynasty (2025), and he’s already had numerous creative discussions with director Destin Daniel Cretton and Majors, who’s going to have his hands full with an untold number of Kang variants on his plate.
“We’ve got a plan and we’ve got a story, but the goal right now, without giving too much away, is to show the true versatility and passion that Jonathan Majors has,” Loveness says. “I truly feel like I’m the luckiest guy in the world because I get to write for the most exciting young actor that I’ve seen in a long, long time. The big answer is that Kang is a legion. So let’s see what that legion is like, and let’s get great character performances from the best actor around right now.”
Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet van Dyne also learned some unpleasant personal details about each other during Janet’s 30-year imprisonment in the Quantum Realm, as she had relations with Bill Murray’s Lord Krylar. Hank, on the other hand, had a brief fling with someone named Linda, and Loveness reveals that Marvel nearly went out to the beloved star of The White Lotus to fill the role.
“I don’t think it even made it into pages, but we wanted Jennifer Coolidge to be Linda for a brief moment. It never reached beyond a Zoom between ourselves, but I had some good ideas there,” Loveness shares. “We’ll save her for next time. I’m sure she’ll wind up in the MCU, sometime. She can be Doctor Doom.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Loveness also discusses why Quantumania opted to take the opposite approach as Josh Brolin’s Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War by introducing the MCU’s new big bad with a defeat.
Well, with a name like Loveness, do you feel like you’re not allowed to be a cynical writer?
(Laughs.) I feel like I should be some weird Italian lounge singer from the ‘60s, but I don’t have the sexual confidence to pull it off. (Laughs.) But no, I think I’m a pretty bleak writer, secretly. I just try to infuse some playfulness on top of it, but it’s a weird name. I think it’s one of those names that got changed at Ellis Island from something Norwegian or something like that.
So, how did you find yourself on a Zoom, presumably, with Marvel leadership, offering your services?
Oh man, it was two weeks before I knew that Zoom existed. I had just left Rick and Morty, and I was in that unemployed writer phase. And then once in your life, you get that cliché agent call where they call you and say, “Can you get to Marvel at three o’clock? I can’t tell you what it’s for.” And I was like, “Alright!” So I met with Peyton [Reed] and those guys, and got the job. And then the big lockdown was maybe two weeks later, so I wrote the movie on my couch for about a year in the middle of Covid. But luckily, I got a little face time before the world went to shit.
So you were probably one of their last in-person meetings, if not the last.
Truly, and thank Christ that I had something to work on during Covid. I had a way to put some of the insanity into the script, which probably comes across in the movie a little bit.
Rick and Morty deals with the multiverse, so did that appeal to Kevin Feige and co., especially as we venture into the Multiverse Saga?
Having that shorthand was helpful, as was the story structure bones that [Dan] Harmon School teaches you. He’s in that Joseph Campbell vein, and Marvel Comics, obviously, uses that wheelhouse very well. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Candide, any kind of story like that. (Laughs.) But certainly, having a little bit of a shorthand with multiverse and time travel helps you, as you’re already coming in at a high school level for someone like Kang the Conqueror.
Avengers: Endgame had a number of comic book-y elements in it, but Back to the Future Part II prepared generations of viewers for how to digest that movie. And yes, I appreciated Quantumania’s tribute to “hydrate level four, please.”
Anyway, how does one handle the more complicated comic book concepts like the Multiverse in a way that’s still accessible to the casual movie watcher?
In many ways, it’s too accessible to the audience now, and the challenge is to put your own unique spin on it because of great things like Rick and Morty, Everything Everywhere All at Once and Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse. So I feel that the audience is a bit smarter than we give them credit for, and the trick is to find the humanity in the middle of it. The downside to multiverse stories is that it can make your characters seem disposable, or it can make your storyline seem unimpactful if there’s an unlimited amount of these characters out there. So I try not to focus on the multiverse; I try to focus on what it means for the particular character who’s facing it.
What probably helped me get the job was drawing the connection between Scott Lang and Kang the Conqueror. I’m a die-hard comics fan, but I don’t think they’ve ever had a conversation together in the comics. So, in the room, when I found out about Ant-Man 3 and that they were considering Kang as a villain, an idea just popped into my head of like, “Oh yeah, Kang the Conqueror is a time god. He’s this time pharaoh who’s lost more time than Scott Lang in the MCU.” And so that helped me put a very personal touch on it.
You’ve seen Spider-Man with a mustache, you’ve seen Doctor Strange without a goatee, so it’s time to evolve a bit with our multiverse storytelling. And between me doing Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Michael Waldron doing Avengers: Secret Wars, I think we’re both excited to take it up a notch because the audience already has a pretty good education in it.
You guys must’ve been ecstatic over the embrace of Everything Everywhere All at Once and its multiverse shenanigans.
Yeah, it brought the multiverse to the A24 crowd, which is great for us. On paper, it seems like a very heady, maybe nerd-centric world, but that gave the multiverse to a much broader audience and a much more elevated audience that maybe wouldn’t go for that kind of hard sci-fi in another medium.
So, what parameters were you given before you started writing? I presume the Quantum Realm setting and Kang’s introduction were at the top of the list.
That was pretty much it. When I walked in, I had no idea what to expect, but we basically had a blank canvas, so you just laid it out like it was. Peyton really wanted to do a tonal shift for this movie. He wanted it to be a more epic scale. He wanted it to be set primarily in the Quantum Realm, and Kang the Conqueror was on the table. So that was pretty much where I jumped off of, and it just seemed too good to pass up. You get to write something elevated, almost like a Jurassic Park or Lord of the Rings adventure movie, but you still get to have that playful, Three Amigos-style comedy of Paul Rudd. So we got to do a little more of an adventure comedy, which is actually kind of rare these days with big budget movies. So it was a thrill to balance these tones of playful family comedy with a few hard sci-fi jokes. But the intimidating challenge was to write a villain who had none of that and was actually as terrifying and jokeless as possible. I’m primarily a comedy writer, but as an old-school comics fan, I jumped at the chance to write a guy like that.
Ant-Man himself, Paul Rudd, did some writing on the first two movies, but he told me he was too busy to consider writing on this one. Did part of you still expect him to come along at a certain point and offer notes?
Well, he absolutely did. He didn’t write the screenplay, but absolutely, every line, every delivery … He’s a master of improv and comedic delivery, and even if he wasn’t a credited writer, he certainly put his own voice into his character and other parts. But I come from the TV world where sometimes there’s just too many voices in the room. (Laughs.) Some things kind of get lost at the table or everyone wants to get out that day. So it’s actually really rare and really exciting to be the only main writer on this, because I got to drive some weird ideas in there. And obviously, with Marvel, there’s a lot of cooks in there, and every actor and every person is going to have their own thoughts. But once again, I secretly got to write a huge weird movie all by myself, and that doesn’t happen a lot with these types of movies.
This movie had a tall order in that it had to introduce the Multiverse Saga’s big bad and make him menacing enough to where the audience will be worried about future Kang variants as well. But at the same time, you also had to give the Langs, Pyms and van Dynes a collective win over Kang. So how did you approach this juggling act?
With Kang, the danger was falling into another derivative time-travel multiverse villain. Endgame just did a time-travel plot in their movie, and there’s been plenty of time-traveling multiverse guys. And so I thought it would be interesting to approach the character first before we get to the more grandiose sci-fi elements of him. Peyton and I stumbled across the idea of Napoleon in exile, where he’s cut off from most of his time powers. We catch him at the end of a story that we just don’t know about yet. Guys like Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar are defined just as much by their defeats as they are their victories, and so I thought it would be humanizing to show a Kang who’s just been defeated. He’s like a Julius Caesar who was just assassinated by fifty other Julius Caesars and sent away. (Laughs.) Or he’s like Alexander who has just been turned back at India and has lost the worlds that he conquered.
And so that allowed us to really give Jonathan Majors an opportunity to show the sheer humanity of this character. It’s also the opposite of Thanos. Josh Brolin did a terrific job, obviously. So much has been said about Thanos, but he is a purple, CGI space alien. So it was thrilling to write for a human face and one as expressive as Jonathan Majors’. But there’s going to be plenty of sci-fi and conquering in these Avengers movies going forward, so my approach was to give people a taste of who this guy is.
Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights was an example I tried to use. I wanted more of a tortured anti-hero. I was a big X-Men guy growing up, and there’s no fictional character I love more than Chris Claremont’s Magneto. He wrote that character for like 40 years and put him through so many seasons of his life. And so just to write this Kang the Conqueror as a lion during winter felt like a really interesting place to begin with him. We can get his ethos and his passion, and then, by the time we see him or another variant of him again, we’ll have more room to play with him because we’ll know his vibe.
When Thanos was properly introduced as the big bad, he earned a resounding win over the Avengers, creating fear in the remaining Avengers and the audience. Conversely, Kang the Conqueror ended this movie in defeat. So what was the rationale behind introducing our new big bad in the exact opposite way?
Well, I think you root for someone who knows defeat. Thanos says that he knows what it’s like to lose, but we never see him lose until the end of Endgame. All he does is toss away the people that he loves and beat Thor’s ass. (Laughs.) But yes, it’s a risk, and we certainly took some heat for it. But I am willing to bet that we are going to root for a guy that we’ve seen stumble and fall, much like Chris Claremont’s Magneto from those X-Men comics. That guy loses a lot, and we see how much pain he’s been through. And so by the time he really unleashes that rage, we’re on his side and we kind of get it. So I think we’re allowed to have a villain that takes a few shots along the way as [Kang the Conqueror or his variants] make their rise.
Loki also loses pretty hard in that first Thor movie, and so by the time he rolls back around, we get more of his baggage. But once again, the big distinction between Thanos and Kang is that Kang is more of a human being. And so his defeat was a way to showcase his humanity and his unending passion. If you go back in the comics, you can beat Thanos once, and that’s the end of the day. Kang is not a guy that you can beat once; he is an existential problem. And so he doesn’t care if he loses because he’s got nothing but time.
Because this film was setting up the “new Thanos,” I think many viewers expected a tragic ending of some form. So were seismic deaths ever in the cards?
They were. We certainly gamed out a ton of scenarios, but it just felt a little obvious. It’s up for debate, but it just felt like we’d be copying the Thanos approach where he comes in pretty heavy and wipes the floor with everybody. I certainly see the critiques and all that, but this is a multi-step story that we’re telling. It’s also an Ant-Man movie. (Laughs.) I think people say they want that, but do you really want to see Paul Rudd get murdered in his third movie? It was all debated, all discussed and all gamed out, but in The Wizard of Oz, you don’t want to see Dorothy die and never go home. It’s supposed to be one of these classic adventure movies. If everyone gets eaten in Jurassic Park, I don’t know if you’ll want to see the next Jurassic Park. But I wouldn’t worry too much about Kang’s kill count. He’s going to rack up some kills as he goes along.
And I presume more Quantum Realm banishments or imprisonments were also on the table?
Yeah, absolutely. That was all stuff we debated, and on paper, it seemed thrilling. But at the end of the day, we’d literally be copying the exact same beat from the end of the last Ant-Man movie. There also weren’t a lot of ways to go that were different from Endgame. If Scott gets trapped in the Quantum Realm like he does in the last movie’s ending, then the only way to go is that he gets out of the Quantum Realm like he does in Endgame.
Scott Lang, much like Spider-Man or Charlie Brown, is a man who’s been through constant pain, loss and sorrow. And so the more unexpected thing would be to maybe give him a happy ending, but with the lack of assurance that he has in the first act. There’s this ever-gnawing sense of dread in him, whereas at the top of the movie, he’s carefree while his family are keeping secrets from him. And now we end the movie with his family carefree, but he has this secret that he’s keeping. He has this feeling of approaching dread, and he’s choosing to bury that terrible sinking feeling that’s coming for him.
So moving forward, will the big bad be a revolving door of Kang variants, or will an alpha soon emerge if he hasn’t already?
I think I’ve already been killed by Feige for even taking this interview. (Laughs.) But we are in the process of figuring that out. I am so far behind on my Avengers script, but I’ll tell you when we’ve got it figured out. We’ve got a plan and we’ve got a story, but the goal right now, without giving too much away, is to show the true versatility and passion that Jonathan Majors has. I truly feel like I’m the luckiest guy in the world because I get to write for the most exciting young actor that I’ve seen in a long, long time. And so the short answer is that I can’t say anything, but the big answer is that Kang is a legion. So let’s see what that legion is like, and let’s get great character performances from the best actor around right now.
Peyton Reed helped cast Jonathan Majors alongside the Loki team, so did you have any involvement with He Who Remains in Loki’s season one finale?
No, I think that was written a little bit before I jumped on, or it was in motion at least. I have to give full credit to Peyton Reed for casting Jonathan. I had seen him in The Last Black Man in San Francisco, and he’s incredible in Da 5 Bloods, in kind of a supporting role there. But that’s full on Peyton Reed. He had incredible instincts. We certainly talked about a lot of different actors, but once he showed up and Peyton made the call for that, there was no one else that could have done it.
There was a version of Quantumania where we thought, “Well, it’s an Ant-Man movie, so maybe it should have more of a loser Kang or maybe even a goofy Kang the Conqueror.” But once I saw what Waldron did in the Loki finale, I took it as a challenge to dive in and write the classical and tortured supervillain version of Kang the Conqueror from the Silver Age. So I think we made the right call because there’s such a nice conflict between Jonathan Majors and Paul Rudd’s energy.
Ryan Coolger’s original plan for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever involved T’Challa grieving the five years he lost with his son, and that unrealized story happens to coincide with Scott and Cassie’s current story. Despite these characters’ shared experiences, was this ever an issue?
Tragically, the circumstances of Black Panther had already changed by the time I came in, so I don’t think that was ever in conflict. But as a theme going forward, in the next stage of the MCU, there is actually a strength to the fact that there have been 31 of these movies, and there’s this almost generational feel because we have characters that have experienced a fair amount of loss. And so it was really exciting to write Cassie Lang [Kathryn Newton] in that way because we’ve seen her since she was six years old. We’ve actually been able to grow up with the character, and we get to explore the trauma of what it’s actually like to grow up in the Marvel universe. She was nearly killed by a supervillain when she was six, and her dad missed half of her life because he was trying to do the right thing. So there’s a lot of characters that you can expand that theme through, and we can pay that off through Kang. Everyone is living their own linear tragedy, and so what’s it like to go against a villain to whom linear time is nothing? He can offer you any sort of Faustian bargain you want.
For people who don’t know the books, what are you trying to communicate with the mid-credit scene?
The main theme to get across is that Kang is many things, but he is not a liar. All the hints, threats and warnings he was giving Scott in the middle of the movie turned out to be very true, and Ant-Man, the Wasp and the whole family barely survived beating just one of these Kangs. So, what the hell are the Avengers going to do against a thousand Kangs? And on a villain level, we saw how bad Jonathan Majors was as one Kang, so who was bad enough to beat him? Who’s the Kublai Khan to the Genghis Khan of the Kang Dynasty? Who is the Caesar Augustus to the Julius Caesar of the Roman Empire? Who is clever and cunning and evil enough to take out the dictator of the Kang Dynasty? So it’s a bit of an exponential step up, and it’s a way to show the Avengers are in way over their head. They just don’t know it yet.
And then I must presume that the Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Mobius (Owen Wilson) and Victor Timely (Jonathan Majors) post-credit scene is straight from Loki season two. Did you have a hand in writing that at all?
Not direct writing. We had discussions with them, and there’s an overarching theme. But no, that team had already been working on their stuff, and it’ll certainly come into play in future movies. But I wrote the mid-credit scene, and that’s a tease of the next Kang appearance. So I haven’t written for Owen Wilson yet. Perhaps one day. (Laughs.)
There’s some evidence out there that a deleted scene exists involving a long-haired Hope (Evangeline Lilly) and two children. Can you tell me anything about that?
(Laughs.) I don’t know what I can say. Oh boy.
There’s an infrared laser on your forehead.
(Laughs.) Exactly. Scripts are always bigger than the cut that the audience sees, and while that was a storyline that I really liked with Hope and Evangeline [Lilly], I certainly understand why we had to streamline the movie. I really love the movie that’s out in theaters, but there was a bit more. Again, I don’t quite know what I can say, but there was Hope’s perspective on the multiverse as well, and possibility, and things like that. So I’m a fan of that story, and I’m a big fan of Evangeline’s performance in some of that stuff. So you never know what might come back around in an Avengers movie down the road, but I can’t say too much more. I’m happy with what we have, but there’s always something on the side for the three-hour Loveness cut. Maybe you’ll see it one day.
I can already envision the hashtag.
Yes, please! I need to get the Zack Snyder fans on my side! (Laughs.)
So you said you’re a bit behind on The Kang Dynasty script, but what stage would you call it at the moment?
It’s hard to even say. I think I’m in the jet-lag stage of a press tour, but we’re working on it. Destin [Daniel Cretton] is incredible. I’ve had conversations with Jonathan about where he wants to take the character, so it’s still very early days. We’ve got like 40 more movies to go before I get there, but we’ve certainly got a plan. We’re all very excited for the story that we’re laying down, so now it’s just on me and my ADHD and my procrastination and all that. So, hopefully, Kevin doesn’t read this. If he is, hey, Kevin. I’m doing great. The pages are just flowing, man. (Laughs.) It’ll be there next week.
So who’s Hank’s (Michael Douglas) Linda? And did you ever try to use the names Catherine (Sharon Stone) or Alex (Glenn Close) as a tribute to Basic Instinct or Fatal Attraction?
(Laughs.) I heard some good Basic Instinct stories on set because Lou D’Esposito, one of the EPs, was [Associate Producer and First AD] on Basic Instinct with Michael Douglas. So I got to hear some very 1992 stories. (Laughs.) But no, Linda is my mom’s name, so I just tossed that in there for her. Linda has always been just a good go-to adult woman name for comedy. I don’t know if I should say this or not. I don’t think it even made it into pages, but we wanted Jennifer Coolidge to be Linda for a brief moment. It never reached beyond a Zoom between ourselves, but I had some good ideas there.
I tried to write an ‘80s flashback scene with Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Douglas, because why not? You have the two of them together so there’s gotta be an erotic thriller there, with a foggy lens, and Hank and Janet doing hot, hot science in the ‘80s. (Laughs.) But Linda never made it, and Jennifer Coolidge, I don’t think she ever got a call. We’ll save her for next time. I’m sure she’ll wind up in the MCU, sometime. She can be Doctor Doom. (Laughs.)
Did you ghostwrite Scott’s memoir?
I wrote the parts you hear in the movie, but I believe that was written by a writer named Rob Kutner. He wrote for Conan and The Daily Show, and he’s a very funny guy. So he quite literally wrote a whole book from the perspective of Scott Lang, which is quite good.
In Endgame, Scott said that his five years in the Quantum Realm felt like five hours, so how much time has actually passed for these characters in the real world?
Ooh, we may have to pick this up in another movie, but we didn’t play too much with time dilation in this one. I would say all that time dilation stuff might be more in the upper strata, which is where those ants fell through. They fell through it and went through a thousand years or something. The Avengers were also doing it in those upper-strata levels, and so I think the realm we were playing with was a bit more of a limbo space.
We’ve already played that card in Endgame, so we just wanted more of a contained adventure without having to check your watch the whole movie for how much time has gone by. The better question is how long was Janet actually down there with Kang? Was it 30 years, or was it this endless amount of hell time? But I’ll leave that for Reddit. They can have fun with it because I don’t really care. (Laughs.)
Decades from now, when you’re reminiscing next to a crackling fireplace inside the Loveness estate, what day on Quantumania will you recall first?
I was in a deleted scene where I got blown apart by MODOK. I played a little henchman who talked back to him and got blown apart, and I think I died about 25 times after all the times we shot it. So that was probably my favorite day, getting killed by MODOK, and maybe that’ll make the Loveness cut as well. (Laughs.)
And then on a serious note, the first rehearsal we had with Jonathan was the first meeting between Kang and Scott, in that jail cell. And again, I primarily come from comedy, so I’ve always wondered in the back of my head if the dramatic stuff was going to work. I was also writing a guy in Kang who’s on a tightrope. There’s no quips to fall back on. There’s no irony with Kang the Conqueror. No one’s making fun of his purple cape or his big purple boots from the comics. It’s written completely straight.
And then Jonathan Majors just walked up and absolutely nailed it from the first rehearsal. And that to me was so exhilarating because in a movie with MODOK and gooey guys with holes, you don’t know if the center is going to hold. But man, when he showed up, I just exploded inside. I was like, “Goddamn, this might actually work with Kang.”
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is now playing in movie theaters. This interview was edited for length and clarity.
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