Q&A: A talk with Evangeline Lilly, the most competent character in ‘Ant-Man’

Although audiences are probably meant to root for Scott Lang in “Ant-Man,” it’s hard to not want Hank Pym to just give his Ant-Man suit to the character who most deserves to wear it -- his daughter Hope Van Dyne.

Unfortunately Pym (played by Michael Douglas) is blinded by his desire to see Lang (Paul Rudd) succeed in his journey of redemption and repair his relationship with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson).

Nevermind that Pym has his own relationship with his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) to worry about. Be warned that spoilers for “Ant-Man” are discussed below.


As soon as Pym declares Lang his successor, it becomes Hope’s responsibility to train the ex-con in all the skills necessary to be an effective Ant-Man. Skills she has already mastered.

“I think that’s what makes that final scene with Hank and Hope so satisfying,” said “Ant-Man” director Peyton Reed.

That final scene, of course, is the end-credit scene where we see Pym present Hope with a prototype Wasp suit that he and his wife, original Wasp Janet Van Dyne, were working on before Janet’s accident.

A scene that fans can only hope means we will see Hope as the Wasp in the future.

While Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige declined to share any details, he did say that Marvel already has ideas and plans for when audiences will finally be able to see Hope in the Wasp suit in the future that he thinks “will be very cool.”

"[Hope’s] arc as a hero in this movie is as every bit as crucial to the movie as Scott’s,” said Reed.

Hope was so crucial to Reed that he made changes in “Ant-Man” in order to strengthen her presence.

“When I came on one of the things I really wanted to do was to strengthen that character,” said Reed. “Hope was always a presence in [‘Ant-Man’], but not to the emotional extent she is in the final movie.”

And strengthen he did. So much so, in fact, that Hope Van Dyne ends up being one of the strongest characters in the entire film.

“One of the things I love about ‘Ant-Man’ is that Hank Pym has this problem,” said Reed. “This technology is going to get out into the world and he recruits Scott, but the answer to his problem was there under his nose the whole time. Hope is clearly the more capable person to pull this off, and Hank just isn’t evolved enough to see it yet.”

Hero Complex sat down and spoke to Evangeline Lilly about her turn as Hope Van Dyne, the possibility of her future as Wasp and her respect for fanatical fans.

How did it feel to play the most capable person in the entire movie?

It was very fun. In fact there was a scene where those of us that were the main characters of the heist were all together in a room and it was very fun to play the straight woman in a room full of goofy people. To play that person who really knew what was going on and was really capable while everyone else you weren’t really sure if they could pull it off.

How hard was it to maintain that strict persona being surrounded by all of your funny cast mates?

It was very hard. It was very hard first of all because I love to smile and I love to laugh and it’s not in my nature to be quite so dour. But also, like you said, people were constantly riffing and ad libbing and cracking jokes and I can’t tell you how many takes I blew because I would break and I would start laughing. I couldn’t help myself.

What initially drew you to the Hope character?

Initially it was Edgar Wright I was having conversations with, and there was this real film noir feel to Edgar’s iteration of Hope that I loved. I thought it would be really fun to play a woman that had that sort of persona and that vibe.

As somebody who has played primarily, I think, fairly sympathetic characters, it appealed to me the idea of playing a character that might rub people the wrong way and might be a little bit hard to swallow. She’s so serious and she doesn’t give Scott an inch and she can be really cranky. I liked that. It was something that would be a challenge for me to play because I’d never really played a character that had that kind of personality.

How important do you think it was to establish Hope was a strong and capable person even before she was given any access to any super-gear?

Well first of all I just think playing strong and capable women is important. Period.

That’s something that I look for a lot in the roles that I play. I don’t know if it’s necessarily because I think that every female character needs to be strong. Of course there are a myriad of different types of people in the world, but I think a woman needs to be very multidimensional.

Often there can be a lot of stereotyping and pigeonholing that happens with female characters, and I think once you open the door to a woman being strong it just opens up more dimensions so that you can see more aspects of her character rather than just the girlfriend or the wife. That’s really important to me.

Was it refreshing that there really wasn’t much of a romantic element that was played up in this movie?

Extremely refreshing. As a woman who has played in two love-triangles in two very big roles that lasted a very long time, it was so nice to just play a woman standing on her own two feet with her own agenda, her own goals, her own desires that had nothing to do with the men in her life. That was great.

Are you looking forward to putting on the Wasp suit at some point in the future?

I would love to if they ever tried to make [another movie]. If that’s in the works. But I’ve not been told I’m putting on any Wasp suit any time in the near future.

You mentioned how Hope could be a little unlikable as a character. What about her did you connect to in order to make her relatable to the audience?

I think first of all there’s the automatic relatability to daddy issues. Almost everyone can relate to daddy issues on some level, and that was helpful.

But also I just really believe when a character has a very, very clear goal and they’re trying with everything in their power to attain that goal, they become more sympathetic.

When I was playing Kate Austen [on “Lost”] one of the frustrations I had with that character is that you never really knew what she wanted. There was a bit of ambiguity and uncertainty about what she was really trying to do, and I think that’s where people can sometimes get frustrated with a character and distance themselves from that character.

Whereas you can sympathize to a certain degree with a character, even a villainous character, who has a very clear idea of what they want and why they’re trying to get it and they just put all their heart into getting it, even if you disagree. Even if you want them to lose, I think you still enjoy the character.

Did you do any Wasp research just in case?

I did my research on both Ant-Man and the Wasp when I started, mainly because they’re my parents and I figure if you know a kid’s parents you really understand a lot more about the kid. I wanted to know who are these people that raised my character, Hope van Dyne.

I think that the version of the Wasp that I imagine Hank Pym from our movie having married is miles different from the one that was in the original comic books. Because the one in the original comic books was a fashion designer who changed her costume about every month and she was very much a 1960s woman.

Then of course we have Hope as an example of what Marvel is doing with female characters in 2015. That’s why I would be excited to see her in another film just to see what they do with her. I think that they would create such a formidable character if they went ahead and did a Wasp character.

Not a lot of the characters punch people around in this movie, but you do. How fun were the action sequences?

It was fun. I have a tendency to take stunts too seriously and not have enough fun with them. I really want to get them right. It’s really important to me because I like to do them myself.

Watching them is fun, but when I do them I get pretty serious.

I had a fantastic stunt trainer and stunt double on this film who have done incredible work and their resumes speak for themselves. I knew I was in good hands no matter what. Whether I could do it or if I couldn’t do it, no matter what I did and no matter what I flubbed they were going to make me look good.

Was there a flub?

There was this one sliding maneuver that I could not make work. I get pretty serious because I want to do it right, so I was frustrated that I couldn’t make it work.

Although in the end I don’t think anybody could. It just didn’t end up in the film, so that means it probably didn’t even work with the stunt double and it just wasn’t going to work. So that was reassuring.

At the end of the slide I was supposed to stand up and punch a guy and knock him out. I did the slide and then I stood up and I was off balance when I went to do the stunt punch and I just nicked the end of his nose and I panicked. I thought “oh no! I touched his face!”

But luckily it was just a little nick. I didn’t knock him out or anything or break his nose.

Is it intimidating at all for you to take on characters with an established fan base or where people already have an idea or an expectation of how the character should be?

It’s definitely more intimidating than a completely fabricated story. Especially because I respect those fans. They are what I would like to think of as my fans, since I started my career on “Lost.” The kind of comic book geeks that are like fanatical fans. Those are my people. I love those people.

It means a lot to me to do right by them. So yeah there’s definitely pressure there, but in a way I love it. Because I want to be held to a high bar. I want to be held to a high standard and I want to try to live up to that. I don’t want to be reaching for anything other than the highest mark and that’s what those fans hold us to. They expect a lot.

Unrelated to what may actually be in the works or what any other people might be talking about, what do you think Hope is up to after this? What would you like to see her do or take on next?

I don’t know. I really haven’t put any thought into it because frankly I just feel like I’m waiting for Marvel to say, “We’d like to use you in another movie” and I’d say: “Yeah! use me in another movie! What do you want me to do?”

They’re so brilliant at story and character creation.

That said, I probably should. I should probably put some thought into it and I should go and pitch an idea to them and maybe that might get the gears going and get the wheels rolling.

Twitter: @tracycbrown