Bobby Cannavale told us that he actually gets most of his roles from people he’s known over the years. We caught up with the star of Danny Collins to talk about his work in the Al Pacino film (more on that soon), a legend with whom he has become quite close with since they starred in Glengarry Glen Ross on Broadway a few years back. Another gig that came that way was his role in the highly anticipated Ant-Man.
“Ant-Man was (star Paul) Rudd calling me up and saying, ‘Dude, you have to play this part. It’s going to be fun. Marvel’s going to call you tomorrow.’ That’s literally how it happened,” Cannavale told us and laughed.
“He literally said, ‘Marvel is going to call you. McKay and I have been working on the script. It’s going to be awesome. I’m not going to (expletive) you.'”
We suspect we’ll see more of him, but he does have the smallest of moments in that widely talked about Ant-Man teaser trailer that recently debuted. Cannavale plays Paxton, and from what the actor tells us about it, he has to be in front of the ant-sized Rudd on many an occasion. To say it was a challenge to not laugh while witnessing his BFF being a superhero is an understatement.
“He’s supposed to be this big [pinches fingers together]. Then I’m supposed to see him growing in front of me. But what I’m really seeing is Paul off camera standing on an apple box. Then he jumps off the apple box. And I’m supposed to act like he’s growing in front of me into this giant ant and then lands with this really heroic pose. But, he’s jumping off a box with green dots on him,” he said and laughed.
Cannavale also seemed to challenge his director Peyton Reed seeking to possibly go deeper than was required.
“[Paul’s] supposed to have a mask that they CGI in. I never see the mask. Every time I see him to talk, he goes like this [hits a pretend button]. I wasn’t used to that. He’d start to talk and he’d be like, [pretends to push button]. I’d ask ridiculous questions all the time,” Cannavale said.
“Peyton Reed, he just kept saying, ‘Dude, just do it.’ But I’d say, ‘I don’t understand. Is the mask going up this way or this way?’ They got so tired of my questions! ‘I don’t understand. If I was just over there, how did I get over here so quick?’”
His director had to keep reminding him he was in a Marvel film and not executing high art on the Broadway stage with his old friend Pacino!
“Reed would be like, ‘It’s a superhero movie. Just do it!’ But I’d say, ‘Do I have superhuman speed, because I was just three blocks away and now I’m here and I’m not even out of breath. Should I be out of breath?’ He’d be like, ‘Dude, it’s not the Unbearable Lightness of Being. It’s just (expletive) Ant-Man, just say the line.’ Then it just became a joke. I had a blast. We laughed so much on that thing.”
That seems to be the one thing that we get from chatting Ant-Man with Cannavale. In hindsight, it is not surprising. When you have Rudd starring from a script he co-wrote with Adam McKay (the guy responsible for those Anchorman quotes), humor has to be prevalent, on and off the set.
“They weren’t mercurial about the script. They weren’t mercurial about the humor, at all. They let us be in charge of that. We improvised a lot. Judy Greer’s very funny. Paul’s very funny. He’s a great improviser. The re-write of the script that Paul did with McKay lent itself to that. You could see that there’s a funny scene and we could actually riff off of that,” Cannavale said.
“That felt impressive to me in this big huge blockbuster film. It made me feel kind of good, that Marvel was going for something different. It didn’t feel like Thor. It felt more like Guardians of the Galaxy, which I really enjoyed. It brought a certain levity to a superhero movie that I had never seen before. But still, it was a trip because I’ve known Paul for so long since before he was famous like this. It’s just a trip to see one of your best friends in a ridiculous leather suit with dots all over him and you’re not supposed to laugh. We just laughed.”
Clearly the experience of working on Ant-Man has moved the award-winning actor. “It was a trip. I’ve never been in anything like that before. There’s a ton of people on this crew. There’s blue screen everywhere,” Cannavale said.
Those night shoots, combined with those aforementioned blue screens, had a bit of an effect on Cannavale.
“I remember one time, we were shooting at night for three weeks. I hadn’t seen anything behind me that wasn’t a blue screen for three nights in a row. I remember one night at four in the morning, being frustrated and just saying, ‘If it’s going to be blue screen all the time, why can’t you just make it be night? Why do we actually have to be here at night?’ That part of it was baffling to me,” Cannavale said.
“But, the actual work, the scenes with me and Paul Rudd, and Judy Greer and Michael Pena, felt like an indie film. It felt like fun.”