Paul Rudd on Ant-Man, career swerves, and why he's happy to be the nice guy

The sequel to the popular Marvel film will be released in the UK next month 

‘I’ve always wanted to do different roles and different genres,’ says actor
‘I’ve always wanted to do different roles and different genres,’ says actor

Paul Rudd came prepared to talk about a whole lot of nothing. “I can’t tell you anything,” he says, explaining the confidentially clauses that prohibited him from divulging more than a glimmer of the story line and techno-wizardry behind Ant-Man and the Wasp before its US release.

“I feel terrible for you,” he added, unleashing the dazzling nice-guy smile instantly recognisable to fans of Clueless, This Is 40 and I Love You, Man – the one with the ends almost imperceptibly twisted in the jokey way that make you question, “Does he really?”

As this sequel begins, the ex-con Scott Lang (Rudd), who becomes the minuscule Ant-Man thanks to a suit invented by Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), is under house arrest for violating laws that regulate superheroes. But after surviving the quantum realm in the original film, Scott is sent back in with Pym’s daughter, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) – outfitted as the Wasp, complete with wings and blasters – to rescue her mother and Pym’s long-missing wife, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer).

Riding the wave of recent movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp, it’s one of the rare times a female superhero has landed in the title of a Marvel movie.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp, we’re a team,” Rudd says. “She is, in the first film, somebody who I think was probably so much better suited for the job than I was and finally has been given the wherewithal to be who she was born to be, which is a badass and the rightful heir to the throne.”

Natty in a crisp summer suit at an Argentine bistro in Tribeca, just around the corner from where he lives with his wife, Julie, and their children, Jack, 13, and Darby, 8, Rudd, 49, talks about his midlife foray into superherodom, the spoils of fame and the burden of being so darn likeable.

I’ve read that you don’t like the interview process.

“I’ll be honest with you, I never feel totally comfortable talking about myself in this kind of setting, and there’s always some kind of filter. I’ve done it for so many years now that I wonder if my own narrative is even true anymore or if I’m just going off of answers I’ve given in interviews. Like, is that really how it started? Is this really how I feel about things, or is that because I answered this question once and now it has become true?

“No, I don’t love it, but it really is part of the gig, isn’t it?”

It is when you’re a superhero. Or do you prefer the term action figure?

“I call myself an action figure in real life and a superhero in fake life.”

What’s it like moving into that realm at what we might call the midpoint of your career?

“I hope not. If it is, we’ve just predicted my death. [Laughing] I was very excited by it. It was so out of left field and something so different from anything I’ve done, and I thought this would be the first thing that my kids would be able to watch.

“My career, it’s weird. I definitely have been on film sets and looked around and realised I’m the veteran of the group. It just kind of happened without me noticing. But when I look back I realise my career has had several left turns. Before Anchorman happened, I was never really in comedies like that, so that whole Judd Apatow chapter of my career is a left turn. As an actor I’ve always wanted to do different roles and different genres and things that were interesting to me but certainly not the same thing.”

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You ended up helping to write the screenplay for both the original and this sequel. What did you bring that wasn’t already there?

“All the good stuff. That’s going to play real well in print. The tongue-in-cheek humour and sarcasm.”

I imagine there’s a whole training and diet regimen for a role like this.

“While we were shooting, I was eating way more salmon than any one person should eat, and a lot of beets. Beets are something that came to me as an adult. I love them. I never ate them as a kid. There was always something way too intimidating, maybe just that the colour would bleed everywhere. And I think about things in terms of cardio, like any kind of exercise where you sweat to get your heart rate up and then maybe an hour of weight training. Oh god, listen to me. I hate myself right now. If I start talking in terms of lats and delts and reps and sets, kill me.”

Someone called the latest Hasbro action figure the most realistic likeness of you yet. Is having your own toy the pinnacle of success?

“Somebody showed me a picture where it’s smirking, right? I have a Mr Potato Head of Ant-Man. And one of the coolest things was the Lego figure. I grew up playing with Lego and my kids have Lego, and that one stopped me in my tracks.

“I was also in a New York Times crossword puzzle. I was an answer, and that was incredible. I love crossword puzzles and I do them, and then to do the puzzle and discover myself was... there were a couple of moments when you’re like, ‘You know what? This is working out.’ And that was one of them.”

Did you immediately recognise yourself as the answer to the question?

“What if I didn’t? I put down Judd. I thought the question was about Wynonna Judd. No, I got it. To be fair somebody had alerted me to it and said, ‘Dude, you’re 21 Across!’”

You’re famously likeable. Does that ever grow irksome?

“There is something a little milquetoast and benign about that phrase. As far as likability, I don’t think that I have more than most people but I try not to be rude. I like when people are polite and kind to other people. I just think life is so hard, why make it harder?”

‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ is released in the UK 3 August

© The New York Times

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