As this weekend’s worldwide box office (a not-too-shabby 112.6 million dollars) for Ant-Man has demonstrated, moviegoers are thinking smaller these days when it comes to their favorite superheroes. But alongside Paul Rudd’s heroic Scott Lang stands an equally tiny titan, the villainous Darren Cross, aka Yellowjacket. As played by House of Cards‘ Corey Stoll, Cross proves a cunning adversary for both the film’s title hero as well as Lang’s mentor, Hank Pym (the original Ant-Man, played by Michael Douglas) and Pym’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly). I caught up with Stoll at last week’s San Diego Comic-Con, where he talked about playing Marvel’s latest screen baddie, as well as his ongoing role as good guy Dr. Ephraim Goodweather in Guillermo del Toro’s The Strain (pictured below, season 2 of which airs Sundays at 10 PM on FX), and his turns in Blumhouse’s next thriller Dark Places (with Charlize Theron, out on August 7th) and the Johnny Depp-starring gangster biopic Black Mass (opening on September 18th).
Nerdist: What attracted you to The Strain? Are you a horror fan?
Corey Stoll: Any TV show is a leap of faith, and when I first met with Carlton and Guillermo, I knew that they were trying to do something that had never quite been done before. It was not a genre that I was very well versed in. I’m much more in the sort of comic book area. But in terms of horrow, it was kind of new for me. But I figured if you’re gonna do horror you should do it with Guillermo del Toro, and if you’re gonna do an adventure TV show you should do it with Carlton Cuse. This show is sort of both of those, so it’s about trying to align yourself with people who are passionate and well-versed and adventurous about how they create work.
N: As a comic book fan, who were your favorite characters when you were growing up? Did you tend more towards Marvel or DC?
CS: I think I started off with Marvel and then started to become aware of Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen and stuff like that. But I was an equal opportunity reader. I was really into the X-Men the great thing about the X-Men was the team aspects of it. It seemed like it was very different than DC, where it was these towering heroes like Batman and Superman and Green Lantern.
N: Was it a dream come true to star as a supervillain in Ant-Man?
CS: Yeah, absolutely. There were so many moments where my face was frozen in this giddy smile.
N: What do you think distinguishes Darren Cross from some of the villains we’ve seen in other Marvel movies?
CS: I think he is driven less by a sort of generic sense of world domination and more by a very… What he wants is really just the approval of this father figure.
N: Does that make him a kind of mirror image of Scott Lang, who wants the approval of his daughter?
CS: Yeah, exactly, and Hope and Hank also have a similar thing. The film is obviously small in terms of having these set pieces in a little girl’s bedroom and the like. But it’s also the most intimate of the Marvel movies.
N: So its heart might be the biggest?
CS: [Laughs.] Yeah, I really think so. That was something that surprised me when I finally saw it. I knew it was gonna be funny and I knew it was gonna be really fun and clever, with all these action sequences in these tiny spaces. But I think the emotional impact lands.
N: How much of a trip was it to see yourself shrink onscreen?
CS: Well, that’s really a leap of faith, to do the motion capture and really go for it. And to just pray that it looks good. But you know with Marvel that they’re really gonna take care of you in terms of visual effects.
N: What can you tell us about your role in Dark Places?
CS: In Dark Places I am the brother of Charlize Theron’s character. Their family was murdered in the ‘80s and I was convicted of the crime, and I’ve been away in jail and out of her mind and off her radar. From her perspective I killed them and that’s it. Suddenly some new evidence is out there and I may not have done it… It was a great job, because it was just three days on set and it was just a few scenes, just one on one with Charlize. It was just great fun work.
N: How about Black Mask? That film has a particularly impressive ensemble.
CS: All of my scenes were with Joel Edgerton, and then some other actors. [Director] Scott Cooper was really keen on the verisimilitude and he brought in a lot of the real guys. There’s some scenes where I’m interrogating these criminals who are there to rat on Whitey Bulger, and a couple of them were from Southie and were around during Whitey’s reign. It was really kind of incredible.
I showed up at the end of shooting, and the word on the street was that everybody who had actually met Whitey Bulger came on set and saw Johnny Depp they got chills, because he had it. He had the eyes, he had the look, he had the sound, and that sort of piercing gaze.
N: We’re looking forward to it. Thank you very much for your time, Corey.
CS: Thank you. My pleasure.
Have you seen Ant-Man? Let us know what you thought of the film, and Corey Stoll’s Yellowjacket, below!