One of the most surprising moments in Ant-Man came in its opening scene, in which a younger Hank Pym angrily resigns from S.H.I.E.L.D., with a de-aged version of Michael Douglas as Pym. It was far more convincing than the infamous digital de-aging done to Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in X-Men: The Last Stand back in 2006.
According to Trent Claus of Lola VFX, the de-aging technology “really hasn’t changed… The basic tools have been the same for decades. It’s more the experience of the artists that are actually doing the work.”
Lola VFX handled Douglas’ de-aging for Ant-Man, and the company had previously done similar work on Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, in addition to putting Chris Evans’ head on a skinny body in Captain America: The First Avenger. For Ant-Man, Lola VFX was brought in early to provide their expertise about the pivotal opening scene and how to achieve the illusion that Douglas was 45 instead of 70 years old. The biggest piece of advice they gave was to not use any anti-aging makeup on Douglas, because of the way it affects light on human faces.
Claus noted that that the VFX team at Lola watched several of Douglas’ films from the late ‘80s, including Wall Street to match his appearance as much as possible. “It helped us a lot to have that reference,” related Claus. “But it made us work harder, because the audience already knew what he looked like at that age. There wasn’t a whole lot of leeway.”
“What’s really important is the way his face moves as he speaks,” added Claus. “The way that the muscles in the face have changed over time, the way the skin reacts to those muscles. To sell the effect you have to look at the way [the face] looks in motion.”
Other steps in the process included giving Douglas a digital facelift that removed his sagging and excess skin while shrinking his nose and ears. The final effect was remarkably well done.
Ant-Man fans, would you be up for an extended flashback to the ‘80s with a digitally de-aged Douglas and whomever Marvel finally casts as Janet van Dyne? Shrink down to the Quantum Realm and share your opinions below!