‘Ant-Man’ Loses Another Director; What Will Marvel Do Now?
Here we go again... After Edgar Wright left Marvel's 'Ant-Man,' the studio quickly made an offer to Adam McKay ('Anchorman'), hoping the director, who's adept at improv and pals with star Paul Rudd, could help save the project. The two sides entered "advanced negotiations," but shortly thereafter, McKay decided to pass on the film. Marvel was really in a bind at this point, so they reached out to the #2 option on their shortlist, 'We're the Millers' director Rawson Thurber, with an offer. But, late yesterday came word (via The Wrap) that Thurber too has passed on the job and now Marvel is back to square one.
It's unclear why Thurber passed, but the word we heard following McKay's abrupt departure from the negotiating table was that Marvel had offered a insultingly low salary number for a director whose last four films all grossed over $100 million. Marvel has had an issue with lowballing directors in the past (after the first 'Iron Man' film grossed over $500 million, Marvel initially offered Favreau his original salary to return for the sequel, believing they could make the movie without him), but that can't be the only issue here.
The 'Ant-Man' script is reportedly in very bad shape and Marvel's insistence on sticking to an accelerated schedule to meet the original release date will leave little room for any significant repairs. Also at issue is that even after his departure, 'Ant-Man' is still very much an Edgar Wright film. The entire movie has been storyboarded, so whatever director signs on would have little to no input on the look and feel of the movie. With no say on the script or the visuals, why would any even relatively established director want to take this project on?
So, where does Marvel go from here? Only one name - Ruben Fleischer - still remains on their original list of candidates to replace Wright, and Fleischer is reportedly more interested in the 'Ghostbusters 3' directing job. As we can see it, there are only a few other options:
One, they need to push the release date back. Marvel very much wants to keep that 2015 release date (without it, they have only 'Avengers 2' on the schedule for next year), but the reality of the situation is that they need more time. Push the film to a March 2016 date and spend the next two months revising the script. Look for a director that can come in and contribute to a new draft while being a larger part of the creative process.
Two, hire Louis D'Esposito. In addition to directing the two previous Marvel One-Shots, D'Esposito is also the co-president of Marvel Studios. So, he's a competent director who can execute what Wright had already laid out, while also acting as a company man who can shape the film into Marvel's vision. We spoke with D'Esposito last year and posed the question about whether he would be a candidate for 'Captain America 3' or 'Thor 3' and he told us, "Kevin (Feige) and I have certainly discussed the potential for doing that," so it seemed likely he was going to get a shot to direct a full-length Marvel movie eventually, and why not start here, on a project that desperately needs a director and has some of the difficult pre-production work already completed?
D'Esposito may not be the sexy choice, like Adam McKay, but let's be honest: D'Esposito is the practical choice. He can get the job done on time and his creative sensibilities and vision for the film are going to match up almost exactly with Marvel's (something that would've been very difficult with an outside director). And, we'll be honest here, 'Agent Carter' was pretty great. It was so good, they decided to make a TV series out of it. So, as replacements go, this isn't a terrible one.
Third and finally, Marvel needs to take a good hard look in the mirror to figure out if they really want to make this movie. It was a project so creatively tied to Edgar Wright, that without him, it seems foolhardy to chase down directors, scrambling to find some suitable replacement. Marvel, and perhaps more importantly, Disney, execs had doubts about an 'Ant-Man' project, which led to the rewrites, which led to Wright leaving the film. If they had doubts about the commercial viability of an 'Ant-Man' film with Edgar Wright directing, what could they possibly think about the film at this point, where they'll be lucky to get a journeyman to just point the cameras and call "action"? Perhaps it's time to shut down the production, call it a loss and maybe, one day down the road, you revisit the property with fresh eyes and start from scratch.
It's possible that 'Ant-Man' could still be a great movie (and as movie fans, nothing would make us happier), but Marvel really needs to stop and think about what it would take to make that happen and whether it's really worth the risk.