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Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania's David Dastmalchian Discusses The Creation Of Veb In The Quantum Realm - Exclusive Interview

Nearly 15 years after his riveting turn as Joker henchman Thomas Schiff in "The Dark Knight," David Dastmalchian has earned a stellar reputation as the go-to actor when it comes to comic book adaptations for movies and TV.

Dastmalchian has mostly played around in the DC space as four of the legendary comics company's characters — most prominently Abner Krill, aka Polka-Dot Man, for director James Gunn's antihero opus "The Suicide Squad" — with another project soon on the way. In the MCU, Dastmalchian originated the role of Kurt, one of Scott Lang's (Paul Rudd) heist crew members in director Peyton Reed's 2015 blockbuster "Ant-Man," and he reprised the role for the film's 2018 smash sequel "Ant-Man and the Wasp."

As one of the three Wombats (along with Michael Peña's Luis and T.I. Harris' Dave) — Dr. Hank Pym's (Michael Douglas) affectionate nickname for the crew — Kurt also appeared in animated form in one of the episodes of Marvel's Disney+ series "What If ...?" However, since most of the new Ant-Man movie "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" takes place in the Quantum Realm, Kurt and his X-Con Security consultants thematically couldn't fit into the narrative.

Luckily, Reed had another role in mind for Dastmalchian, presenting him the rare opportunity to take on a second character in the MCU with "Quantumania." As such, Dastmalchian does the motion capture acting and voice for Veb, a curious creature that Scott Lang and his daughter, Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton), encounter in the Quantum Realm after they are separated from Hank, Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). Veb and his friends live in resistance of Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), and they'll need their human visitors' help to help break his stranglehold over the Quantum Realm.

In an exclusive interview, Dastmalchian sat down with Looper to discuss how Veb came to be and gave his thoughts on his longtime friend Gunn's new job as co-CEO of the DC Universe. He also previewed the second volume of his comic book series, "Count Crowley: Amateur Midnight Monster Hunter."

Another One Rides the Bus

Before we start with the new "Ant-Man" movie, I have to tell you that one of my favorite movie scenes last year was in "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story," when all of the sudden, this familiar face shows up and says, "I'm John Deacon." There were so many wonderful actors in that scene — you as Deacon, Jack Black's Wolfman Jack, Rainn Wilson's Dr. Demento, and Daniel Radcliffe's Weird Al performing the Deacon parody "Another One Rides the Bus." How surreal was it being on set that day?

That is a day in my career that I will never forget. I had no idea what I was in for. I am friends with Al [Yankovic], and we do a charity together for Paul Rudd, Dave Koechner, Eric Stonestreet, and Rob Riggle in Kansas City that's called The Big Slick. We've been going for years, and Al is a guest who always goes, and Al and I became friends through that. He's also mutual friends with Peyton Reed, my incredible friend who directs the "Ant-Man" films. I go to parties at Peyton's and Al and I hang out, and out of the blue, he emailed me and said, "Would you come and do a day on this movie we're making about me?" I said, "Sure, man. If I'm in town, I'll be there." Then he said, "You're going to play John Deacon," and I said, "Who's that?"

I had no idea who John Deacon was [and that he played bass for Queen]. He said, "Doesn't matter. You look him up. But that's the perfect answer." I didn't understand why until I saw the script. I showed up not knowing who else was going to be there that day. All of a sudden, I walk up to the set, and all these titans of comedy [were there]. The Lonely Island guys were there, Paul F. Tompkins was there, Emo Philips was there, and Conan O'Brien was there. Oh, my God, it was incredible. Nina West as Divine was there. It was insane, and with Daniel Radcliffe and Rainn Wilson there, I felt like I had to deliver the funny, which is terrifying. But it was a great experience. Al was there on set. Everybody was super cool. They shot that whole movie in 18 days, so we had to bang it out very quickly, and we nailed it.

More midnight monster madness

Looking at all the cool monster stuff in your office, just to prove I'm a Monster Kid, I'll hold up my glass and mug with all the Universal Monsters.

Oh, I know you are. We've talked over the years many times about how much you love the monsters, which is why I appreciate all the support you've given me for the "Count Crowley" comic books [Darkhorse Comics], because it continues to grow. The Creepy Crowleys [fan group] — their numbers are expanding every month, it seems like, according to social media. The fan base is growing. There's a lot of young people who are starting to get into Jerri and her journey.

We had a book release the other night for "Vol. 2" at a wonderful comic shop in Eagle Rock [in Los Angeles] called Revenge Of, and I pulled up, and man — there was a line all the way down Eagle Rock Boulevard. It blew my mind. I couldn't believe it. It's really exciting. Again, I feel like we're just getting started.

Jerri is still learning as an Amateur Midnight Monster Hunter

The interesting thing about that first volume of "Count Crowley" was that Jerri Bartman was the "Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter." Then, for the next volume, she became the "Amateur Midnight Monster Hunter," and she remains that way for this new volume.


What is interesting is that the "amateur" status continues, because it seems like if you're an amateur, you're allowed to make mistakes and your readers learn about those mistakes with Jerri. If you were a professional, that's not so much the case. It makes the story that much more interesting that she's still an amateur because you don't become a professional overnight.

Yes — Jerri has so much yet to learn about monster hunting, but before she can achieve the level that she needs to as a monster hunter, she also has to learn how to fight the biggest monster, which is within herself. She's learning; she's tiptoeing into the beginnings of sobriety and learning about how to take care of herself and how to not hate herself. She's so haunted and tortured by shame, self-consciousness, her depression, her anxiety — so she's an amateur in all regards.

What's interesting — and I love this because it's true for me — was the people who have the information that she needs, let's say Fran at the AA meeting, speak to her and give her the information she needs. In a way, she doesn't like it because she doesn't like being told what to do. But when you're on the journey, you have to start learning how to listen to people even when you don't like the way they deliver the message.

Secondly ... This is important for me to write about a character like Vincent Frights, who, for all intents and purposes, is her monster-hunting mentor — the guy who has all the secrets and knows everything there is to know about hunting monsters. But he is a misogynistic, chauvinistic bigot, and she has to figure out how to navigate her frustrations and feelings with this guy who has all these antiquated, toxic ways of thinking about people who are others and yet has the knowledge she needs, which is something I get.

I have family who I love, who I need to learn from, who I need to be a part of my life, who have some ways of thinking that is so problematic, so toxic. What do I do? Do I walk away, write them off, be done with them? No, because I have to learn from them. I have stuff that they need from me and I have to stick around for. That's been wonderful, writing this amateur character in not just the world of being a monster hunter, but in the world of being a human in some ways. She's almost like just starting to learn how to be a human.

Sizing up to a new role in the MCU

I'm wondering about the events leading up to your casting as Veb in "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania." Did Peyton Reed say, "Kurt's not going to be in this," and then a few months later, "I got this character Veb," or did he say, "We're not going to bring Kurt back, but we want you to play this" so you wouldn't get bummed out?

Here's what happened. I knew he was making a third film. I knew it was going to be a science fiction epic of a magnitude that Marvel hadn't yet attempted.

"Star Wars"-like.

It's "Star Wars"-like. I knew some secrets about the project, and I knew that because of the structure of the film and the story that they were trying to tell, there was not going to be room for the Wombats. He had told me that pretty early on. I was sad, of course, that I wouldn't get to be a part of this film, considering that this is my family. The "Ant-Man" team are family to me now. The very first movie we shot when [my son] Arlo was 4 months old, and that was the first time I had ever been invited to be a part of a franchise — what a life-changing experience. There was a little bittersweetness, but I was so happy for Peyton that he was going to get to make the film that he wanted to make.

I was on another film that was physically breaking my body and my will — it was such a hard shoot. This is about two years ago, almost a year and a half ago. I was in the middle of Europe, and my mother had passed. My father was nearly dying. I was in a dark, dark place. Peyton calls me and says, "David." By the way, he'd always said this to me: "You're part of this film in some way." I said, "Okay, well, I don't know how, but sure." He said, "David, are you ready? This is the role I want for you," and we started talking about Veb.

The healing energy of the Quantum Realm

What was the process after getting the news from Peyton Reed?

As soon as he sent me the materials that he had been developing with Jeff [Loveness], the writer, and the VFX team about Veb, I immediately — and whenever it's okay for me to do, so I'll share it publicly — I took my cell phone in the hotel where I was living at that time and I started filming myself as I imagined Veb would be, and Peyton loved it. We started talking, and the next thing I know, I was in London with my "Ant-Man" family shooting these scenes in this epic space odyssey in the Quantum Realm.

Truly, as dark of a place as I was in when I landed there in London — my dad actually passed when I had only been there for about a week — Peyton and everybody else rallied around me. They gave me one of the most joyful experiences I've ever had as an actor, and bringing Veb to life was truly one of the most joyful experiences I've ever had as an actor. It's a character that was completely filmed in a mo-cap suit where everything was up to my imagination, my voice, and my body, to create for my fellow actors, for my camera team, for our VFX artists — every detail of the voice and all of that. It was just my imagination. Peyton said, "Go for it."

I was so happy filming those scenes. I love this character so much, and even though I got that really sad news that my dad had passed while I was there, all of them ... Paul [Rudd] came to me and helped lift my spirits. He was so great during that week; he made me laugh so hard. He had so many jokes, some of which were inappropriate, some of which were ... He's got that magic charm. He's Paul. He's such a special person. He really lifted me up.

Peyton and Stephen Broussard, our producer, said, "David, don't come back to work tomorrow. Don't come back to work on Friday. Take some time. We'll bring [your wife] Eve in for you. You can do what you need to do. You need to go to Kansas, go to the funeral, do what you want to do." I said, "Okay." Then I thought about it, and I said, "No, I need to be around the magic of the 'Ant-Man' family. I need to be in the Quantum Realm," and I went back to work the next day in the Quantum Realm. And man, we made some magic.

Veb is a positive spirit whose heart 'beats pure and true'

I love the look of Veb. What's the best way you can describe him? He's pink, gooey, translucent, and ...?

My 5-year-old daughter described Veb as a "pink pickle jar full of goo." Veb is devoid of traditional appendages and organs the way that our human bodies [have], and Veb is an endlessly fascinated individual. Veb is a creature of the Quantum Realm who is as curious as they come. The things that Veb is curious about are quite perplexing to those of us who are used to having things like nostrils or ears or a mouth. He doesn't understand what that hole is — where does it go? Where does it lead to? What comes out of it? These are the things that really perplex Veb's mind. Living within that big pink swirling jar of goo is this beautiful beating heart. Veb is a dear friend.

Friendship means more to Veb than anything. He has no family in the Quantum Realm besides his friends. He is part of a group of people who've been oppressed by a ruthless warlord and overlord [Kang, played by Jonathan Majors], and Veb bonds together with his friends. They're trying to survive and trying to take care of one another, and his heart beats pure and true. I loved that, because I was in such a sad, dark place where I was feeling sad about film and family and loss and death, and getting to take on this character who has this bright light of love inside of him was healing for me.

Dastmalchian says Gunn's passion for the characters will make the DCU successful

James Gunn is in a different place than the last time we talked, with him and Peter Safran taking over DC Universe. Being that you were in the previous iteration of the DC movies with Polka-Dot Man in James' "The Suicide Squad," has he shared with you how the new DCU will differ from what you've seen before?

Honestly, he hasn't. James is the busiest person I know in Hollywood. He is finishing "Guardians [of the Galaxy: Vol.] 3." He's running a studio for DC. He is writing epic features. The last time I got to spend time with James was at his wedding this past fall to Jennifer [Holland], who is, as we all know, the amazing Harcourt on "Peacemaker" and in the DCU.

Here's all I know. All I can say is that there are no better hands for the future of DC to be resting in than the hands of James Gunn and Peter Safran. James Gunn has, since he was a child, had the passion for these characters — the true, devoted love for them, and the vision for them as a storyteller to give audiences what we've been yearning for so long. The next years and years of storytelling that we're going to get from the DC Universe is going to be some of the most fun a lot of us have ever had going to the movies.

I can't wait, because James Gunn brings magic to everything that he touches.

I agree, and he's also an incredible human being. He's the friend that is there for me when I lose my parent or I'm in a dark space. He's a very wise person. He has a heart of gold, and that's what brings so much of the beating heart to the stories that he tells. He's a master of the visuals, the visual world, and his cinematic storytelling is so eye-popping, but that only goes so far. You get burned out if you don't have this pulsing heart underneath all of it. That's what James puts into every line of every piece of dialogue he ever scripts.

Dastmalchian would jump at the chance to make an appearance in the DCU

I don't want to put you on the spot, David, but there are 10 projects coming up with him and Peter announcing five films and five TV series — if you had your druthers and there's a particular character you'd like to play in the new DCU, is there anything that comes to mind that you'd like to play?

I am always thinking about characters that I would love to play in the superhero realm, but there isn't somebody right now, when they laid out their slate of characters, that ... Honestly, any of them. I would be grateful to play any of them. I've been spoiled with the number of characters I've been able to play. I have played a Joker's henchman, Abner Krill the Polka-Dot Man, Kurt, Veb. I played an acolyte of the Joker in "Gotham." I played Abra Kadabra on "The Flash." I recently played Calendar Man in "The Long Halloween" for the DC animated feature. And coming out soon is a new feature, "The Doom [That] Came to Gotham," in which I play Mr. Freeze.

I wish I could tell you, man. There's so many incredible characters in the pantheon of DC. I love Red Tornado. I always loved Firestorm. I love so many guys that I know. But I don't know. I'm grateful that in the world of James Gunn's comic book storytelling, the fact that I got to have that moment as Polka-Dot Man will go down in the rest of my career as definitely one of the bright polka-dot-colored highlights, for sure.

"Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" is new in theaters, while "Count Crowley: Amateur Monster Hunter, Vol. 2" will be in comic shops and available online March 14. Dastmalchian's upcoming films include the Hulu release "The Boston Strangler" on March 17, and the theatrical releases "The Boogeyman" on June 2 and "Oppenheimer" on July 21.

This interview was edited for clarity.