Paul Rudd and Jonathan Majors’ Improv Skills Were Key to the Scott and Kang Variant Scenes in ‘Ant-Man 3’

SPOILER ALERT: This story discusses major plot points, including the ending and the post-credits scenes, for “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” currently playing in theaters.

While improvising in a meticulously crafted Marvel movie — full of CGI, green screens and elaborate costumes — seems nearly impossible, Paul Rudd and Jonathan Majors did just that “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” According to editors Adam Gerstel and Laura Jennings, Rudd, who plays Scott Lang/Ant-Man, and Majors, who plays the MCU’s new Thanos-sized villain Kang the Conquerer, especially exercised their improv muscles during two similar scenes — one which features a multiplied Ant-Man and another, an army of Kangs.

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Gerstel says the scene where Lang replicates and faces hoards of his multiple selves was a technical shoot that required the entire sequence to be pre-visualized to understand the story. The concept was to “showcase Paul’s comedic talents and riff off of that,” wondering how far they could take the scene.

Jennings reveals, “When it was a longer sequence, [we had ideas of] little versions of Ant-Man crawling around, but he had to pull back and keep it to the story because it was always about him trying to get to the goal.”

Says Gerstel, “Paul recorded an array of facial performances and audio recordings that we put together to work on so we could get things tight.” He adds that being on set watching Rudd in action provided value in the live editing process. “Rudd would improvise. He would do one side and then he would have to act against what wasn’t written to the other side. We had two Avids on the set. We would do one together, send the audio to the sound guy, he would play it into Rudd’s earwig so he could respond to what he had just done. Multiply that by four, then eight, then 12, then 1,000.”

Jennings, Gerstel and Reed would sit with the writers wondering how they were going to get their heads around cutting the action part. Says Jennings, “We had incredibly skilled people on the production who built this rig to have him climb up. There were people in blue suits so he could interact with those ‘other’ versions of himself. [VFX company Industrial Light and Magic] did an extraordinary job that pulled from all different places that Adam and I could stack up.”

Gerstel says the post-credits scene with an army of Kangs gathered inside the amphitheater was easier “because we had already done the multiple Scotts scene.” Gerstel and the team had to fly to London, where Majors was shooting “Loki,” for the shot, which took place over four days and was again live-edited with the same setup of two Avids.

The army of Kangs, known as the Council of Kangs in the comics, are overseen by three Kang variants: Rama-Tut, the Scarlet Centurion and Immortus.

Gerstel explains, “With Kang, it was all motion control. We would shoot one version of Jonathan, and we’d go through with Peyton to pick the performances we liked because every move was ever so slightly different with the focus pull and lens.” He continues, “We had to know if we liked this take of Rama-Tut, we had to know which take of the Scarlet Centurion we’d use. We had our VFX supervisors on set to cover ourselves and get the clean plates.”

Another bonus of being on set watching Rudd and Majors in action was not only their improvisational techniques but also gaining insight into their acting process.

Says Gerstel, “The most fun was watching Jonathan get into character for each different version of Kang, because he would walk on a set and every time he came in, it was a very different personality.”

Jennings adds, “He’d disappear for a little bit, and it would allow the team to check the motion rig, and Jonathan would come out and say, ‘Who’s it going to be?’ It was amazing to see part of his process and how in-the-zone he was because that was all you were getting from him for that particular pass.”

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