Playing a serial killer is apparently on Paul Rudd’s list of dream jobs.
“I hope to continue getting parts that I’m not used to or that I might be considered a weird choice for,” says the actor best known for leads and memorable supporting turns in comedies like “I Love You, Man” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.”
He found that in the title role of Marvel’s superhero film “Ant-Man,” out Friday — the biggest role of his career so far.
But not exactly one that matches the rest of his resume.
Since his breakthrough in “Clueless” in 1995, Rudd has made a living starring in quirky indies and raunchy comedies. Nothing he’s done has been close to an action movie, unless you count those over-the-top rumble scenes in the “Anchorman” flicks. He’s not going to be confused with Thor.
“If I had to wrestle Chris Hemsworth to get this part, there is no way I would have gotten it,” Rudd says, “Though I don’t know if anyone else would have gotten the part if they had to wrestle Hemsworth.
“I think (Marvel) liked the idea that nothing that I had done before said ‘superhero.’ That it was a little bit outside-of-the-box decision.”
It’s a decision Rudd is thankful for. And he’s excited to defy expectations even more in the future.
“Do you have a script you can send to me?,” he asks The News. “Have you written something that needs the role of a serial killer?”
In “Ant-Man,” Rudd, 46, stars as Scott Lang, a computer programmer fresh out of prison who’s trying desperately to reconnect with his daughter. Money woes force him into a misguided heist attempt that gets him involved with a retired tech genius (Michael Douglas) and his mysterious daughter (Evangeline Lilly). They recruit the ex-con to help steal back dangerous shrinking technology from an unstable businessman (Corey Stoll) who’s out to turn the scientific breakthrough into a military weapon.
Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige says he had no doubts about the film’s original director Edgar Wright’s first and only choice for the role.
“It’s those kind of leaps of faith that founded our studio, starting with Robert Downey as Iron Man, which now everyone takes for granted — but at the time was considered a very, very risky move,” says Feige. “Last summer with Chris Pratt (for ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’), same thing. Right now, he’s the biggest movie star in the world, but at the time he was considered unproven.
“Paul Rudd is actually the much bigger star than either Chris Pratt or Downey was at the time we cast them.”
And he got even bigger on-set: Rudd became so ripped that costume designer Sammy Sheldon Differ had to soften his leather super-suit to fit him.
“It’s such a cool-looking suit and from that first fitting…I never got over the fact that I was standing in this Ant-Man suit,” says Rudd, who went through a comic book phase as a kid.
“I stood differently, completely excited by it and that never really went away. Even when shooting, I was thinking, ‘Oh cool, I get to put on the suit.’”
The suit allows Lang to shrink in size, grow in strength, and control ants — turning him into Ant-Man.
Rudd was forced to save the day behind the scenes too. Shortly before cameras were scheduled to start rolling last summer, Wright abruptly dropped out of the project that he had shepherded for eight years in what the director and the studio called “differences in their vision of the film.”
Reports say the disagreement stemmed from the studio’s rewrite of the original edgier script penned by Wright and Joe Cornish, without the director’s approval.
“There’s always drama, just some gets in the press, some doesn’t,” Feige says. “It’s part of making a movie. It was a little bit (worse than usual), but we believed in the movie and we believed in the direction in which the movie was heading.”
The departure of the director who personally recruited Rudd years earlier hit the actor hard. But instead of sulking, he teamed up with Adam McKay to inject more humor into the script.
“It was tough,” Rudd says of the uncertainty at the time. “But then you try to recalibrate and think about what needs to get done.”
Comic book nerds who were eagerly awaiting Wright’s version initially freaked at the announcement that Peyton Reed would direct. But the “Bring It On” veteran can out-geek most of them. Reed, who unsuccessfully lobbied for the directing job of both Fox’s “Fantastic Four” in 2005 and Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” last year, has been waiting for this shot since his childhood spent reading the brand’s comics.
Up against a tough deadline less than a year before the film’s release date, Reed at least had his hero in place.
“I’m a person who happens to believe that Paul Rudd is capable of absolutely anything,” he says. “I think he’s our generation’s Jimmy Stewart.
“For a concept like Ant-Man where you’re dealing with a superhero whose two powers are shrinking and controlling ants, that’s incredibly weird,” adds Reed. “I like that Paul… recognizes that these concepts are as absurd as the audience is thinking.”
For Rudd, one of the draws of being Ant-Man is sharing the experience with his biggest fan — 9-year-old son Jack.
“To be able to share this with your kid is such a cool feeling,” says Rudd. “He can’t wait to see it. He’s never seen anything that I’ve done before.”
That’s a sentiment echoed by others in the cast, since “Ant-Man” is the lightest and most fun of the Marvel movies, a palate cleanser after all the doom and gloom of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
“For a long time, most of my movies my kids could never see,” Douglas told The News earlier this year. “For a long time they thought all dad does is make pancakes.”
No one’s a bigger kid than Rudd — especially when he met his Marvel superhero colleagues while filming the upcoming “Captain America: Civil War.”
That 2016 movie sees Ant-Man fighting with (or against) Chris Evans’ Captain America and Downey’s Iron Man.
“It wasn’t until I was standing around those guys that it felt real,” Rudd says of being a part of this much larger cinematic universe.
“(It felt) like it (did) when I put the Ant-Man suit on for the first time. I turned into a 10 year old.”
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