In Ant-Man’s opening scene, Michael Douglas’s Hank Pym strides into S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters to tender his resignation. Well, that’s not 100 percent right — it’s definitely Hank Pym, and it’s definitely S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, but it’s not quite Michael Douglas, at least as we know him in 2015.
The scene takes place in 1989, and the Douglas that walks into the room is the spitting image of the actor during his Wall Street and Fatal Attraction days. How did the film undo 25 years of time’s cruel work? We were lucky enough to talk to Trent Claus of Lola VFX, the company that de-aged Douglas for Marvel, to learn the scene’s secrets.
In the world of visual effects, Lola specializes in “visual cosmetics,” which can range from secret touch-ups to complete physical transformations. As Claus puts it, the company can make anyone “older, younger, thinner [or] fatter.” Lola first got into de-aging in their work for X-Men: The Last Stand, but their breakout moment came on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, where they handled the aging and de-aging of Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett’s characters. Since then, they’ve had a long relationship with Marvel — Lola created skinny Chris Evans for the first Captain America film — and they were brought on fairly early in the production process to handle the de-aging work in Ant-Man’s prologue.
The heads-up helped. “They asked for advice for what they could do when they were shooting that could aid us, which is very much appreciated,” said Claus. “We put our two cents in, and they did everything we needed right from the start.” Mostly that meant no anti-aging makeup on the 70-year-old Douglas (it messes with the way light works on the face) and a sprightly stand-in to give a reference point for the way young skin looked on the S.H.I.E.L.D. set.