Who you calling small?
Unlikely superhero Paul Rudd leaves comedy comfort zone and gets big career boost from tiny Ant-Man
Probably the most likeable actor in Hollywood, Paul Rudd plays the most unlikely of superheroes in Marvel Cinematic Universe's Ant-Man.
Rudd, who made his name in comedies like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and This Is 40, dons the Ant-Man suit for the latest superhero flick.
He portrays master thief Scott Lang, the jailbird recruited by Avenger Hank Pym (original Ant-Man, played by Michael Douglas), who becomes his mentor.
Together, they must safeguard the super-suit's technology - it allows its user to decrease in size, but increase in strength - from threats and pull off a heist that will save the world.
It's easy to see why the bosses at Marvel cast Rudd for Ant-Man, which opens here next Thursday.
In person, the 46-year-old New Jersey native is appealing, his quick wit and disarming smile on display when M met him at the Warner Bros Studios to talk about the film.
Ant-Man was 10 years in the making, with script delays and director changes until Rudd and his writing partner Adam McKay (Anchorman, The Other Guys, The Campaign) took a shot at the screenplay.
Rudd didn't set out to make a career in comedies, having studied Jacobean drama and classical theatre at the British American Drama Academy in England.
For such roles, a few love handles on his body didn't matter.
"Working with Judd, he wanted me to gain weight," Rudd said with a laugh.
"On This Is 40, he was sending me food and my character ate cupcakes throughout the whole movie. I realised he was turning me into him."
But things were different on Ant-Man, for which Rudd had to get in the best shape of his life.
"I would eat specific foods at specific times and I worked with a trainer with weights. I would do cardio on my own and I also worked with a gymnast to learn tumbling and flips.
"It helped me feel the part a lot more and I felt a lot less like an impostor."
Going to restaurants with his family was tough. The father of a nine-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl said: "I would get a plate of asparagus and a club soda and explain to the waiter, 'This isn't how I normally eat.'"
Is he still keeping up the training?
"As much as I can. Occasionally, I will have a single malt scotch and I will have a carb," he said.
"But never too far from it in case Marvel calls and says: 'We need you for Captain America 3.'"
Rudd is signed for three Ant-Man movies, but will also make appearances in other Marvel movies like 2016's Captain America: Civil War.
Shooting the CGI scenes against a green screen was a first for him.
"I went into this soundstage and there was probably about 100 cameras in a circle. I went through all of the action of the whole movie.
"I was doing all sorts of things, imagining a foot coming down and dodging it, sitting on a suspended sand bag and riding an ant.
"It's a weird feeling, pretending that you are a little kid, pretending you are riding an ant."
With not much of a career plan, Rudd, who got his star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame last week, is happy to return to his comfort zone after hanging up the Ant-Man suit.
"I love comedies and I think my default is comedy. I think that's how I deal with any kind of trauma or anything. They are just fun to make."
So it's only natural that Ant-Man has comedic moments, since Rudd had a hand in the script.
"At the end of the day, you think: 'I am a guy who is shrinking and riding an ant, I think we can have fun with this.
"When Douglas says, 'We need you to be Ant-Man,' my reply is, 'Is it too late to change the name?'
"There is inherent comedy just in the story itself. But if you can counter that and surprise people with emotional depth and have it all work in tandem, then that's the goal."
If he really were Ant-Man, what would he like to make bigger and what would he like to shrink?
"To make bigger, I always think my apartment in New York City as well as some other things that I probably can't say out," he said laughingly.
"What would I like to shrink? My stress levels."
'I looked like a Power Ranger in a cheap suit'
When Hollywood auteur Woody Allen watched his actress-muse Scarlett Johansson in A View From The Bridge on Broadway back in 2010, it was her co-star Corey Stoll who walked away with a part in Allen's next movie, Midnight In Paris (2011).
Stoll played US author Ernest Hemingway and stole the show.
In between his stage gigs, the 39-year-old US actor did supporting roles in several television shows (Law & Order: LA) and movies (Non-Stop, The Bourne Legacy, Salt) before playing Peter Russo in US political drama House Of Cards.
He got a Golden Globe nomination for his performance as the drug-addled politician manipulated into a tragic end.
Now, Stoll is back on the big screen as baddie Darren Cross, aka Yellowjacket, in Ant-Man.
A protégé of Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man, Cross discovers Pym's shrinking technology and decides to weaponise it, ousting Pym from the company he founded.
In keeping with the lighter tone of the film, Stoll had to find ways to make Cross humorous.
The comic book fan told M: "What's funny about Darren is that he is the least cool person in the world but he thinks he's the world's coolest.
"He's this boastful coward but playing that up too much can take away from how scary he is.
"The villain has to be somewhat powerful for the hero to be heroic, so the challenge was to find that balance."
After a lot of trial and error with practical suits, the Yellowjacket character ended up getting CGI-ed.
"It took like an hour to get into it and everybody was standing around trying to convince themselves and me that it looked great because they had spent so much time working on this.
"I was incredibly uncomfortable and felt like an idiot. I really looked like a Power Ranger in a cheap suit.
"Eventually smarter heads prevailed and they went all CGI."
Describing the motion capture and CGI process, Stoll said: "It was really just a form of play that harked back to being a kid on the playground.
"I'm going to be the good guy, you're going to be the bad guy, you chase me around. Oh, no! There's a force field!
"It was fun to be able to do that in my late 30s."
Has the movie made him love ants?
"My hatred of ants has only deepened. I actually have an ant problem in my patio. I can't get rid of them. It must be karma."
Corey Stoll (left) with Paul Rudd, who plays Ant-Man. (PHOTO: AFP)
The power of love
These girls are the pillars of strength behind our favourite superheroes.
Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly)
Beau: Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone)
Beau: Peter Parker/Spider-Man
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Jane Foster (Natalie Portman)
Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell)
Beau: Steve Rogers/Captain America
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow)
Beau: Tony Stark/Iron Man
Iron Man (2008)
Betty Ross (Liv Tyler)
Beau: Bruce Banner/The Hulk
The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst)
Beau: Peter Parker/Spider-Man