When Edgar Wright made the ‘heartbreaking’ decision to quit Ant-Man: ‘You start to wonder why you’re there’

Edgar Howard Wright, commonly known as simply Edgar Wright is one of the most exciting filmmakers around, who is not afraid to venture into uncharted territories. He makes mostly genre movies — with the sole exception of documentary The Sparks Brothers — but infuses them with his distinctly auteur sensibilities in regards to writing, dialogue, camerawork, editing, and humour.

In a nutshell, he pays homage to classic filmmakers, while also charting his own path.

His filmography reads like a rich Indian meal — made up of eclectic components. He has taken on multiple genres with every one of those. He is most well-known for his Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy of comedy movies — zombie film Shaun of the Dead, buddy cop movie Hot Fuzz, and sci-fi The World’s End. He also has getaway thriller Baby Driver and most recently psychological horror film Last Night in Soho.

But there is one genre he is yet to enter. Long before even the Marvel Cinematic Universe came into existence, Wright showed interest in making an Ant-Man movie. He submitted a treatment with Joe Cornish — who contributed to The Adventures of Tintin along with Wright and Steven Moffat — in 2003 for the now-defunct studio Artisan Entertainment that had rights to the character then.

But things did not pan out. He quit, and Peyton Reed was brought in to direct the film. Later, when MCU was in the gestation period, Wright had a meeting with Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and producer Avi Arad and was asked if he had any ideas about a Marvel superhero movie.

Wright was happy to show them the treatment, which was the basis of the script he and Cornish wrote for a potential Ant-Man movie. He appeared alongside Jon Favreau, the director of the first two Iron Man movies, at 2006 San Diego Comic-Con in the Marvel presentation and told the press that the script of the movie was in very early stages then.

As Marvel Studios focussed on building a cinematic universe with introductory films like Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, Ant-Man and its finished script lied dormant.

But after The Avengers, he began work on the movie and even shot a test reel that was shown in 2012. But the dreaded “creative differences” began to crop in 2013 when the script had to fit in with the rest of the MCU and Wright perhaps saw his vision being eroded away to serve the exigencies of cinematic universes. He was still hopeful and said it is still his and Cornish’s original vision for the most part. By the early 2014, with the movie set to hit theatres next year, the team of the movie, including the cast and crew, was assembled.

And then Wright quit. He did not properly explain his decision until 2017. He then explained his “heartbreaking” decision after having worked on it for almost a decade. The decision came down to creative control. As an auteur, Wright likes to be both writer (alone or collaborating) and director. But Marvel was turning the script into another draft and get it rewritten, which Wright objected to.

He said Variety’s Playback Podcast, he said, “I was gonna make the movie. But then I was the writer-director on it and then they wanted to do a draft without me, and having written all my other movies, that’s a tough thing to move forward thinking if I do one of these movies I would like to be the writer-director. Suddenly becoming a director for hire on it, you’re sort of less emotionally invested and you start to wonder why you’re there, really.”

In the end, apart from Cornish and Wright, lead actor Paul Rudd and Adam McKay got the writing credits.

Reed undoubtedly did a good job with the movie, and the sequel, but the movie still felt very much like a corporate product and was missing that fiercely independent voice of Wright. It wasn’t the fresh, inventive vision that Wright would have brought if he had remained as a director.

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