Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

The sequel to ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.’ David Dastmalchian On the Importance of His New Role and Reuniting with Christopher Nolan

After realizing that ex-con Kurt would not be appearing in this story, the actor received an unexpected call for a completely new character: “this character is you.”

Quantumania’s Veb required David Dastmalchian, and it turns out that he required Veb more than anyone realized.

Veb, a slime-like creature with the ability to break down communication barriers in the Quantum Realm, is Dastmalchian’s second role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the role came as a surprise after Quantumania director Peyton Reed informed the actor that his original Ant-Man character, Kurt, would not be returning for the threequel. Dastmalchian was so moved by Reed’s idea for the CG Freedom Fighter character that he put together a cassette with Veb’s potential voice and movement, and Reed responded with an offer for Dastmalchian to come to the film’s London set and perform Veb’s motion capture.

The offer came as welcome news to Dastmalchian, who had just finished a difficult shoot that had been exacerbated by the death of his father the week before he was set to begin mocap work.

“Man, I simply needed this experience. I was in a very bad position. “My father passed away the week before I was due to start,” Dastmalchian tells The Hollywood Reporter. “And then, all of a sudden, I put on this ridiculous grey motion capture costume… and I got to utilize my imagination to make this insane, strange, fantastic figure. It was some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a movie set.”

In a recent interview with THR, Dastmalchian also discussed his vast 2023 agenda, which includes a reunion with Christopher Nolan, the filmmaker of The Dark Knight, on Oppenheimer.

Dastmalchian, David…

(Dastmalchian instantly reaches out to his off-screen buddy.) “A Fantastic Planet poster is behind him!” This is something I’ll never forget witnessing. I won’t be able to pick up this computer, therefore I’ll have to send you a picture of the framed [Failed] poster. It’s breathtaking. [Editor’s Note: The space rock band Failure’s 1996 album Fantastic Planet is widely regarded as a masterpiece. Dastmalchian has been in a music video for them and will be heavily featured in their upcoming documentary, Failure: The Documentary.]

Since we’re on the subject, do you know when the Failure documentary will be released?

At any time! I just chatted with the band the other day, and they are hard at work on finishing it up and getting it out to folks. It is required by the people. When I first heard Fantastic Planet, that band has been the soundtrack to my life, and the fact that they’re still making music together — and that they’re now my friends — is insane.

Despite the fact that you’re an open book, I’ll be purposely vague out of sensitivity, but did you guys bond over common experiences in the past?

Yeah, without a doubt. In fact, I wrote, acted in, and produced the film Animals, which we shot in Chicago in 2013 on a shoestring budget. Then there was a key plot point for me where my character shoplifts a Fantastic Planet tape cassette and refuses to sell it to a pawn shop. He wants to get rid of everything else he stole, but not Fantastic Planet because he wants to give it to his love. So I contacted the band through a friend, who really assisted me with my [Ant-Man] audition for Kurt. Her brother was in a band with [Failure], and they were ready to let me use the Fantastic Planet artwork as a prop. We bonded when they came to see the movie with me, and we’ve been friends ever since. It’s insane, guy. It’s as insane as getting to live and play in comic book movies like [Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania]. It’s like, “Aah!” that they’re now my pals and that I’ve done music videos with them.

Hey, I appreciate you telling me that, and we’ll have to resume this issue in the near future. Well, did you get a phone call from Peyton Reed saying that Kurt wouldn’t be returning for Quantumania, but that this slime-like monster named Veb was yours if you wanted it?

(Laughs.) The first call brought awful news. [Peyton] is a friend of mine. We’re more than simply coworkers. “David, I’m sorry to say we’ve been trying to break this story, and it’s simply a really crowded story with so much to do,” he added. It takes place in space, and there doesn’t appear to be enough room for more than a cameo. And it wouldn’t do the role right, so I doubt Kurt will be a part of this. But I’ll always find a way for us to collaborate.” “I love you, man,” I said. Create the finest movie you possibly can. “I’m overjoyed for you.” That was the end of it.

So I was disappointed that Kurt wouldn’t be a part of quantumania, but that’s how things work. And it wasn’t until much later that I learned about Veb. I was in the middle of filming a feature that was causing me physical pain. The shoot was both physically and emotionally taxing. I was cut off from my family. It was a very dismal period. Then again, who doesn’t? “David, myself, and [writer] Jeff Loveness are writing these characters, and I swear to God, this character is you,” he says. I believe you should play him. “Are you going to read it?” He then sent me the papers, and I knew Veb instantly in my heart. So I started shooting myself in my hotel room to figure out how I imagined Veb moving and speaking.

Then I sent it back to Peyton, who exclaimed, “Oh my Goodness, the movement. You wouldn’t be willing to come on set and do mocap, would you?” “I’ll be there in a second,” I said. Obtain an airline ticket for me. “I’ll be there.” And that’s how it went down, man. I arrived in London, and I needed this experience, guy. I’m telling you, I was in a terrible, dark place. My father died the week before I was meant to start.

I’m sorry, David.

Thank you. The acting was simply too difficult for me at the time. And then, all of a sudden, I was back with my old buddies on this bizarre world that they’ve made, wearing this ridiculous grey motion capture outfit. And all I had to do was use my imagination to come up with this wild, odd, fantastic figure. Then again, who doesn’t?

So, what do you think of Veb’s obsession with his body? Is it a matter of desiring what you don’t have?

There is some of that. There’s a big discussion about hole envy, but it’s also the intrigue and curiosity of a creature who lived its entire existence with other species of its type until they were wiped out by this brutal conqueror [Kang]. Fortunately, Veb found camaraderie with these other Freedom Fighters, and with his ooze, Veb was able to offer them the capacity to overcome language barriers. Thus Veb’s curiosity keeps him moving, which is one of the qualities that make Veb such an intriguing and enjoyable character to play. In Veb’s universe, there is never a dull moment. Veb is fascinated by everything that moves and everything that exists.

Actors sometimes have a gut hunch that a director will contact them again someday. So, when you walked off the set of your first film, an enormous crime drama called The Dark Knight, in Chicago in 2007, would you expect Christopher Nolan to call you 15 years later for an epic historical drama called Oppenheimer?

Certainly not. It’s no secret that I adore the medium of comic book storytelling. I believe it is a very significant type of storytelling. I’ve enjoyed it in all of its forms and from all of its publishers since I was a youngster. So I couldn’t believe that I was on the set of a Batman movie and that it was a Batman movie in which I got to portray a person who was in alliance with the Joker [Heath Ledger], my favorite villain of DC. DC, in my opinion, has the best villains of any publisher. But I couldn’t believe it was being directed by someone I consider to be one of the best filmmakers of all time.

“Oh, that was it,” I thought as I departed that encounter. I had my experience, and I couldn’t envision anything else because it had already been beyond my wildest expectations. So I never imagined or assumed that I’d get another chance to play with him, or that I’d ever be in another movie again. I’ve been so blessed and privileged over the years, and I’m grateful for the number of wonderful tales I’ve gotten to tell with the filmmakers I’ve worked with. Every time, I’ve pinched myself. So when that call came in [for Oppenheimer] and I learned out he wanted me to come to play with him again, it was and still is difficult to grasp. “Is this real?” I’m still wondering.

Three of the 17 projects you’re releasing this year are the Failure documentary, Quantumania, and Oppenheimer. Did you just jump from one set to the next last year? [Editor’s Note: There are at least seven projects in all.]

(Laughs.) I did it all while working on Count Crowley, my Dark Horse comic book series. We really just released the latest trade paperback, which is now available in stores. I was also writing and producing my own movies and TV projects, which I was trying to market. So 2022 was this expansive year of creative fulfillment, and I wish every artist and maker could have had as many opportunities to work with so many kind and inspiring individuals as I had.

Absolutely, I went from one set to the next. I was on Matt Ruskin’s set with these other tremendous people, bringing this incredibly dark and tough story to life, and Matt is an incredible, imaginative filmmaker. Then I rushed over to New Orleans to play in the universe of Rob Savage’s The Boogeyman, with my colleagues from 21 Laps and all these wonderful artists and actors. Then I flew to Australia to work with all of these fantastic filmmakers on Late Night with the Devil, which will screen at South by Southwest in a few weeks.

And then, right in the middle of it all, I found myself in the middle of New Mexico with Christopher Nolan, telling this story that leaves me speechless. So I like to think that in the last year, I evolved as a storyteller and learned more than I ever had in my life. There was just so much exposure to so many various procedures and so many different talented and gifted and great people who allowed me to expand and spread my wings.

And each of the characters was completely unique. It’s strange to transition from being Veb to acting in the Boston Strangler universe, to characters in The Boogeyman, Oppenheimer, and Late Night with the Devil. It’s strange, yet it’s my dream. I’d always wished to be Lon Chaney Jr. I grew up watching Lon Chaney, and I saw him turn into these character that still had empathy and humanity even when they did terrible or sad things. So far, everything has been insane.

The film Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is out in theatres. The following interview has been modified for length and clarity.