[This story contains spoilers for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania]
From Ulysses to Macbeth, Corey Stoll has been doing Shakespearean work for the entirety of his acting career, and despite the outlandish exterior, his MCU return as MODOK in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania doesn’t fall far from the tree. In Ant-Man (2015), Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang banished Stoll’s villain, Darren Cross/Yellowjacket, to the Quantum Realm, where Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) transformed him into MODOK, a Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing.
At the end of Quantumania, Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton) delivered a personal appeal to whatever was left of Darren inside MODOK, which inspired him to turn on Kang in favor of the Lang, Pym and van Dyne family. As a result, Darren/MODOK met their end in one of the film’s most amusing scenes, and for Stoll, the scene takes inspiration from one of Shakespeare’s most famous works.
“That death scene, in MODOK’s mind, he’s lying there with Horatio. It’s Hamlet’s death right there. So it’s funny from the outside, but from the inside, it’s all real,” Stoll tells .
The Internet, as it’s known to do, has debated the unusual appearance of MODOK to no end, and even Stoll himself had a twofold reaction to his character’s design at first.
“I laughed hysterically, but it’s also deeply disturbing. If you ever get the chance to see your face warped and placed inside a little rocket wheelchair, you’ll know how I feel,” Stoll says.
Below, in a recent spoiler conversation with THR, Stoll also looks back on being cast by Ant-Man’s original director, Edgar Wright, and the changes made to the character once Peyton Reed took the reins of the film.
Corey Stoll, congratulations on becoming the newest Avenger.
(Laughs.) Thank you.
So, Ulysses, Marcus Brutus, Iago, Macbeth and now MODOK. Has it all been leading to this moment?
Exactly. They’re all building blocks. You couldn’t play one without the other. That death scene, in MODOK’s mind, he’s lying there with Horatio. It’s Hamlet’s death right there. So it’s funny from the outside, but from the inside, it’s all real.
How many times did they have to explain to you who and what MODOK is? Was it a tough sell?
No, they didn’t have to say anything. I got a call from my manager saying, “Peyton wants to talk to you about possibly coming back in the next movie and possibly coming back in a different form,” and I didn’t know what that meant. For the days that I was waiting between knowing I had the call and talking to Peyton, my mind went into all these crazy ideas about what I could be playing, and with the multiverse, anything could happen. But I did not think of MODOK. And then I talked to Peyton, and he said, “Do you know a character named MODOK?” And I said, “The guy with the big head?” So I quickly googled him to remind myself of who that guy was, and yes, it was the guy that I thought of.
But there was no selling going on. I think Peyton thought he was going to have to convince me, because he called me before they actually wrote it. They had this idea to transform Darren into MODOK, but they wanted to make sure that I was on board to play him before they wrote it. And I was a hundred percent on board. I know you were joking by comparing him to [my] Shakespearean roles, but the roles that scare you are the ones that you need to do. And this role was so crazy. You’re putting so much faith into the hands of the filmmakers to complete your performance, and it’s so broad. But there was no way I could not do it.
How was MODOK captured on the day?
It was really cool, and it actually felt closer to developing a new play where I was there right before they started principal photography. So everybody was in town, and the whole cast and Peyton and Jeff [Loveness] were in the room. And I had the dots on my face, and there was a camera for performance capture. And then we went through all of my scenes, and they could throw out some alternate lines or change things around. We could do the scene in a million ways without having to wait for camera and lights or anything. And so it really just felt like we were playing. It was really fun, and if that could be the way I film everything for the rest of my career, I would be happy.
And what was your first reaction when you saw a version of your face inside MODOK’s apparatus?
I laughed hysterically, but it’s also deeply disturbing. If you ever get the chance to see your face warped and placed inside a little rocket wheelchair, you’ll know how I feel. (Laughs.) It’s pretty weird.
What was your impression of Jonathan Majors? His performance was quite menacing.
Yeah, but he is a really sweet guy. We actually bonded over having the same acting teacher, Ron Van Lieu, in grad school. We went to different grad schools, but the teacher moved. So despite how very different our characters are, we’re coming from a similar place in terms of how we approach our work. And despite his menace, he has a playfulness, which is why he’s such perfect casting for this series of characters under the umbrella of Kang, who could all be so very different. He has an incredible presence and gravitas and ability to hold space and hold stillness, but he also has this incredible goofy side. So we really had a lot of fun.
So I feel like enough time has passed that we can now talk about this, but you were first cast in Ant-Man (2015) by Edgar Wright, right?
Did Darren Cross change a great deal as the creative team changed? Or was he always a slippery CEO?
It really was a while ago, so it’s a little hard to remember, but I seem to recall that the part didn’t change that much between scripts. What Peyton, Paul [Rudd] and I tried to do — on top of the great script that Edgar had written — was give a little bit more of the sense that Darren was motivated by a desire for approval, primarily from Hank [Michael Douglas] and really wanting this father figure. And continuing with that is another thing that’s satisfying about me being able to come back as MODOK. A lot of his dysfunctional relationship with Kang is about wanting this father figure, and unfortunately, Kang is an even more abusive father than Hank was.
Darren Cross cheated death once already to become MODOK. Can he do it again after meeting his end in Quantumania as well?
I don’t see why not. With the introduction of the multiverse, anything is possible, but it’s out of my hands.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is now playing in movie theaters. This interview was edited for length and clarity.