Many are still reeling from yesterday’s news that Edgar Wright has left Marvel’s Ant-Man, myself included. Wright’s exit came as a pretty big shock to everyone, since Wright has been developing the comics adaptation with Marvel going so far back as 2006—he even showed up at Comic-Con alongside Jon Favreau before production on the first Iron Man began. For Wright to leave Ant-Man after that much investment, and just months before filming was poised to begin, something significant must have occurred behind the scenes.
While there’s no telling when or if we’ll ever get the full story of what happened, a new report has surfaced claiming that Wright’s exit was due to significant rewrites to his script by the higher-ups at Marvel. Hit the jump for more.
With a July 17, 2015 release date set for Ant-Man, Wright was deep in pre-production on the film when he left—he had even set his entire principal cast with Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Douglas in the leads. The official word from Marvel was that this was an amicable split due to “creative differences”, and that a replacement director would be announced shortly with the film’s release date still intact.
So what were these “creative differences”? A rumor surfaced on reddit claiming that production was running behind schedule, but that doesn’t make sense given that filming isn’t even set to begin until July. The folks over at Latino Review, however, have a much more plausible explanation for the exit, as they claim that the script for Ant-Man—which Wright has been fine-tuning with co-writer Joe Cornish for many, many years now—went through a significant rewrite by Marvel that the filmmaker was uncomfortable filming:
About 3 months ago, Marvel had notes. The meat of the notes were about the core morality of the piece, must include franchise characters. etc., These notes came from the big four at Marvel. Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright did two drafts to try and answer the notes without compromising their vision.
6 weeks ago Marvel took the script off them and gave the writing assignment to two very low credit writers. One of the writers was from Marvel’s in house writing team. Edgar stayed cool, agreed to stay on the project, and read the draft.
The script came in this week and was completely undone. Poorer, homogenized, and not Edgar’s vision. Edgar met with Marvel on Friday to formally exit and the announcement went out directly after.
Though Latino Review is hit and miss when it comes to casting or spoilers for specific Marvel films, this rundown of the behind-the-scenes events doesn’t sound entirely out of the realm of possibility. The studio is known for wielding a heavy amount of power on their films, and they’ve been moving farther and farther away from auteur-driven features for a while now, and this tweet from Simon Pegg appears to suggest that Wright left on his own volition. Moreover, Edgar Wright is a brilliant filmmaker with a wholly unique style. I would’ve been shocked if he tailored Ant-Man—a movie he’s been working on since before the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever existed—to Marvel’s every whim.
The report notes that the cast doesn’t have the option to leave the film even if they want to, so it appears that Wright’s group of actors will remain the same. Additionally, LR says that Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige always “batted for” Wright and Cornish, saying this push for script changes came from the higher ups (possibly even the folks at Disney). Again, there’s absolutely no confirmation that any of this is true, but it feels very much in line with how Marvel operates.
And this is my problem with studios moving towards “shared universe” franchises. No one film can be too different from the others, and when you bring in a guy like Edgar Wright who has a very specific vision and a distinct filmmaking style, he’s not allowed to rock the boat. These are episodes, not movies, and in the world of television, directors are forced to adapt to the style of the overall TV show instead of exuding their own personal style.
Yes Iron Man 3 had many unmistakable Shane Black moments and it looks like James Gunn’s offbeat comedic tone remains intact in this August’s Guardians of the Galaxy, but you can bet that specific plot beats and character arcs that service the larger MCU were “requested” by the higher ups at Marvel on both films with an unwavering tone. The difference between those films and Wright’s Ant-Man is that both Black and Gunn signed on knowing they’d be working in the larger Marvel universe. Wright and Cornish conceived of their plan for Ant-Man before the studio’s MCU vision materialized, and if this report from LR is true, then I commend Wright for sticking to his guns and leaving with his integrity intact.
I think Joss Whedon spoke for us all when he tweeted the following photo earlier today, and though Wright leaving Ant-Man is certainly a disappointment, I can’t wait to see what he tackles next.
— Joss Whedon (@josswhedon) May 24, 2014