Peyton Reed was once best known as the director of the hit cheerleading comedy, Bring It On, along with big screen rom-coms like Down with Love and The Break-Up. Then Marvel came a-calling. Over the better part of the past decade, Reed has helmed three installments in the Ant-Man franchise, starring Paul Rudd as the pint-sized superhero.
"Coming from the world of comedy but also having a background of being a kid who was immersed in Marvel comics, it really felt like, 'Oh, this is a sweet spot for me,'" the director says. "It's interesting, because in the eight or nine years we've been doing these movies, the movie landscape itself has changed. The thing I used to do regularly — directing studio comedies that were released theatrically — there's not that many of those anymore. So, Marvel has been a great playground to do the kind of character comedy that I've always loved to do, but also to do big physical comedy and action set pieces which are comedic."
"We did a car chase in Ant-Man and the Wasp that probably owes more to Bogdanovich's What's Up, Doc? than it does to an action-heavy car chase," Reed points out. And in the threequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, "There are action sequences that are really kind of harrowing, but when a gigantic Scott Lang shows up, like Liam Neeson out of a Taken movie, saying, 'Where's my daughter,' there's something comedic about that. That struck us as something that was cool and right in line with what Marvel does, but also weird and kind of funny.'"
While the first two Ant-Man movies were relatively small-stakes heist comedies, Quantumania goes big by sucking Scott Lang (Rudd) and the Ant-Family into the sub-atomic Quantum Realm. "I love that we took this third one in a weird, different direction, and I got to indulge my inner science-fiction nerd," says Reed, who still can't believe he got to make an Ant-Man trilogy at all. "There are three Ant-Man movies, which is kind of an insane concept in and of itself."
Below, Reed shares with A.frame the five films that had the biggest impact on him, and the ways he's been able to pay homage to them in his own movies. "Listen, you can't argue with the reach that the Marvel movies have. I mean, it's massive," he shares. "But it's nice during to still get a little Bring It On love."
Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner | Written by: Michael Wilson and Rod Serling
The first movie that was a big influence on me — and it's the movie that is largely responsible for me wanting to be a director — is the original Planet of the Apes. Growing up, it would play on CBS on Friday nights, and I couldn't wait. This was pre-Star Wars, obviously, and I was at the right age where I would sleep, eat, and drink Planet of the Apes. I loved it.
As a kid, you love the makeup, and the apes, and the vivid creation of Ape City. It's all really fun. As you grow older and you really start to look at that movie and the script by Rod Serling — based on this novel by Pierre Boulle, who wrote Bridge on the River Kwai — it really has a lot to say about race, and about religion, and about the uneasy alliance between science and religion, and about evolution. It's such a smart movie. You feel the Rod Serling in it. And you have Charlton Heston playing this guy who is a misanthrope. He hates humanity. He hates his fellow man. He became an astronaut to get away from earth. And through the course of this adventure, he's put in a position where he has to defend mankind to the apes and make a case for mankind. And then, the rug is pulled out when he realizes, 'Oh, you're not somewhere else. You're on Earth. Mankind destroyed itself.' It's a movie that grows with you as you get older, and I still love it to this day.
Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich | Written by: Alvin Sargent
Paper Moon is a movie that I saw first run in the movie theater. Unfortunately for me, I went with my brothers and my cousins, and I was the exact same age as Tatum O'Neal — who plays Addie in the movie — and I had the same bowl haircut that she had. But I remember loving that movie even then. It's shot in beautiful black-and-white, and it's a father-daughter movie, which obviously resonated with me in the father-daughter theme of the Ant-Man movies.
It's Bogdanovich shooting at his most efficient. It's a great-looking comedy, and one of the things that has always appealed to me as a comedy director is I don't want to make movies where I'm just recording people standing around being funny. I want the filmmaking to be complicit in the comedy. That's such a beautiful movie. I remember finding it funny as a kid, and I find it even funnier as an adult. That's definitely one that had a big influence on me.
Directed by: François Truffaut | Written by: François Truffaut and Marcel Moussy
The 400 Blows is one of my favorite movies of all time. I've seen it a million times. I own a 16-millimeter print of it. That's a movie that just puts you in a place in time, and I love the autobiographical nature of that movie, that it was Truffaut working out his childhood, and his influences, and his love of cinema, and how cinema saved his life. I love the behind-the-scenes story of the fact that he and Godard were young buck film critics for Cahiers du Cinéma, they had definite feelings about how calcified French cinema was becoming, and they said, 'F**k it, we're going to reinvent it.' A lot of critics probably sit around and say that, but they all went out and actually did it, and created the French New Wave.
That's also the first of five films that he did with that Antoine Doinel character, and you saw that character grow up on-screen — obviously, decades before Linklater did it in Boyhood. That's such a unique relationship. And it's a weirdly romantic movie. I can't get enough of it.
Directed by: Frank Capra | Written by: Sidney Buchman and Myles Connolly
So many great movies were made in 1939. And I'm a massive Capra fan. His autobiography, The Name Above The Title, is maybe my favorite film book I've ever read. I read it when I was in college, and it's Capra taking you step by step through his entire film career: How he essentially built Columbia Studios, but a really personal view of the movie business, and how it changed from the '30s to when he eventually quit in the '60s.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, to me, is the ultimate Capra movie. That movie's always held up. You look at that movie and what it has to say about how corrupt politics are in this country, and the things that were going on in 1939 that he deals with in that movie and how it's still going on today. Capra's movies were all about the common man. I always think of Jimmy Stewart saying, 'What about looking out for the other guy?' and this idea of everybody looking out for each other. That we, as a nation, have to take care of each other. We pay a tiny bit of homage to it in the Ant-Man movies; Scott Lang's autobiography is titled Look Out For The Little Guy.
Also, there's a Frank Capra quote from way back about the cardinal sin of filmmaking is dullness. You don't want to bore the audience. And I think with Marvel — we are the 31st Marvel movie, by God — the last thing you want to do is bore the audience. You want to show them something different. And with the Quantum Realm, we knew we could create this whole other corner of the MCU that's ours.
Directed by: Steven Spielberg | Written by: Steven Spielberg and Jerry Belson
I couldn't make a top five list without having a Spielberg movie on it. I struggled with this one because there's so many great ones, but the thing that I love about Close Encounters of the Third Kind — and why it is his sort of sweet spot for me — is that it puts absolutely ordinary people up against extraordinary circumstances. You have a guy, Richard Dreyfuss, who works for the power company, and a single mom, Melinda Dillon, and her kid, who are just trying to make ends meet. These character are all called by this power larger than them. They don't know what it is, and it freaks them out. Eventually, they realize they're being called by these aliens to meet at a certain place, and most people don't get there.
I like that idea of the common person getting mixed up with these extraordinary things. In the case of Close Encounters, it's alien contact. That's what I like about Scott Lang. He's not a brilliant scientist or a billionaire. He has no superpowers. He's the most ordinary person who gets pulled into this extraordinary world — the MCU.