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It took some skilled editors to put Ant-Man, the mighty but micro hero, on the big screen.
For Disney and Marvel’s Ant-Man, which debuts this weekend, the studio brought in veteran Dan Lebental, who edited the studio’s Iron Man, Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World. And this time around, he co-edited the film with Colby Parker, Jr., a frequent collaborator with Peter Berg, whose credits include Lone Survivor and Hancock.
As Ant-Man opens, The Hollywood Reporter talked with Lebental about working in the Marvel universe, the change from Edgar Wright to director Peyton Reed, and a “wish fulfillment” sequence that didn’t make the final cut of the movie.
What’s the formula for the success of Marvel movies?
Lebental: I think it’s the tone. The tone can vary, they keep ‘real’ stakes and there’s a mixture of humor — making it not take itself overly seriously and lightening it up. With Iron Man, the tone was in a territory that the Bond films used to have. It worked so well that it became sort of a focal point for how we do Marvel films.
Production halted when Edgar Wright exited Ant-Man and Peyton Reed came on board. How did that impact the editing schedule?
Lebental: They did that change but they didn’t change the release date. It meant that postproduction lost 10 weeks, and it made for some very long days. … It was hard on editorial, but it was very hard on visual effects and sound and 3D. We were doing final mixing while hundreds of visual effects shots hadn’t come in yet. That unfortunately has become a norm in the business, but this was an extreme case.
If it wasn’t for Peyton Reed’s demeanor and extensive knowledge of Ant-Man and Marvel, I can’t imagine how we would have pulled it off as well as we did. I’m very proud of this movie. He really knew the material. He had the comedy background and the tone, and also stepping in the way he did he knew how to take control and keep it fun and light.
As this was an origin story, how did you introduce and develop Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man character through editing?
Lebental: I really like origin stories. I think it’s fascinating to see how they became what they are. But a lot goes into it because you have to find ways to get the audience on the side of the character; that’s the main point of any origin story. This one in particular was very non-Marvel. He has no super powers; he was just an underdog who life hadn’t been too good to. You want to give the audience just enough so [they understand how he can do they things he does] but if you give them too much, they’ll think ‘this is taking forever.’ Origin stories always take a little longer to get going, but to me they can be much more interesting.
Due to Ant-Man’s size, the perspectives of course had to be different. Was that a challenge?
Lebental: That included how you plan and what we learned. If you wanted him to appear small, you had to have something in the frame that was of a comparative size, i.e. you put a nail in there and so you knew his size. Also when he was small you couldn’t shoot like you normally would shoot a ‘super hero angle,’ sort of low or mid-shots, because those would betray the scale. The normal way you would cover an action movie, you didn’t want to do. You actually wanted to shoot a little bit from above to keep that feeling that he’s small.
There had been a sequence in the movie that was shot and removed, a kind of wish-fulfillment sequence. At one point, he could walk into the casino and change the dice or he could walk into a girls’ locker room. We decided it was a little silly, but it led to a lot of laughter in the editing room.
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