Evangeline Lilly never set out to be an actress, booking her first gigs as a means of paying her college tuition. But after working as an uncredited extra on shows like Smallville and Tru Calling, she found a calling of her own, and a legion of fans, after being cast as fugitive- turned- heroine Kate Austen; a role she played through all six seasons of TV’s phenomenally successful Lost. After taking some time off to have a baby, Lilly saw her big- screen career blossom with her turn opposite Hugh Jackman in Real Steel and as elf warrior Tauriel in director Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies. A newcomer to the world of comic books, Lilly joins the Marvel Universe with this summer’s Ant- Man, in which she plays Hope van Dyne, the daughter of Henry Pym and Janet van Dyne – best known to fans as the original Ant- Man and Wasp. Hope van Dyne isn’t quite as well known as some of the other characters in the Marvel Universe. Was the chance to develop something new part of the role’s appeal?
Yeah, definitely. What I really took my cue from was [ original director] Edgar Wright. Of course Hope van Dyne has roots in the comics world, but she wasn’t a fully f leshed- out character. Edgar had a very specific vision for her. I really liked the idea of this female character who was very serious, very cold and detached, but capable of anything. There’s a bit of ambiguity to her. Is she a good person? Is she a bad person? There’s a lot of questions that surround her. I love the challenge of trying to play that ambiguity. I hope like hell I pull it off [ laughs]. OCCUPATION: Actress BORN: 3 August 1979 FROM: Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, Canada
G REATEST H ITS: The Hurt Locker, Lost, Real Steel, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
R ANDOM FACT: Lilly’s first book, the children’s fantasy The Squickerwonkers, was published last year. The debut volume in a new series, it’s illustrated by Weta Workshop’s Johnny Fraser- Allen. Did Hope change once Edgar left the project and Peyton Reed took the helm?
When the split happened, I was just starting to work with Edgar, saying, “Okay, what about her heart? What about her emotions? What about the baggage she’s been carrying around her whole life having been raised by these two crazy superheroes?” Because I was working through some of those issues hadn’t signed my contract. I was very honest with Marvel that I would not sign if I didn’t feel comfortable with the next person that they brought on board to replace Edgar. So when Peyton came on, he and I had a very fast and furious conversation up front. I said, “It’s really important to me that she be very three- dimensional and that we not get stuck in a kind of comicbook prototype of a woman. How do we find room in this already very jam- packed script to bring out those moments?” The things he was able to offer were meaningful. Peyton was a really great director to work for as a woman and work with on my female character. Hope’s a unique heroine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in that she begins by training Scott Lang to become a superhero.
Yeah, I was excited by the concept of the role when I first read it because of that aspect. She really is a reluctant mentor. She’s a bitter, angry woman; who, despite herself, is working to help someone who she thinks is an idiot [ laughs] come into himself and figure out how to rise to the challenge that is before him and become Ant- Man. I love that reluctance. Often I think I’ve played characters who were tough but they’re very gentle and caring. It was actually fun for me to try on a character who was actually very cold and often impatient and kind of rude [ laughs]. She’s an original to the Marvel Universe, and of course I’m thrilled to be in good company with Scarlett Johansson as one of the kick- ass females in this universe. And I’ve heard the reactions that have come back from test groups, that women walk away from watching this movie and there’s sort of this wonderful satisfaction where they’re saying, “Well, it’s about time,” that they feel represented. I’m honoured to be able to play a role where women, their authenticity and their strength, are being represented in the superhero universe. Would you like to see Hope eventually take on the mantle of the Wasp and join the Avengers?
I would love to see that… Hope’s a very, very capable, intelligent, and, to a certain extent, lethal woman; even in her own right, without any superhero powers. There is that element that she is the Wasp’s daughter, and a chance to create that is fun. As far as the plans for her going forward… I think everyone who signs on with Marvel has to sign a multi- picture deal. I’m just crossing my fingers that that turns into something, that they ask me back and that I have to do
more movies [ laughs]. Were you exposed to much of the Marvel Universe when you were growing up?
None at all. I had no interest in comic books growing up. Because it just didn’t seem like my kind of thing. But one of the things I’m learning through my career is that often things that don’t seem like my kind of thing turn out to be my kind of thing. What I recognised is that... When I was a little girl I was really into fantasy, but I don’t think I ever identified with that. Some kids in school wear that as a badge – it’s within their identity, they’re sci- fi/ fantasy nerds. I was never that kind. But looking back on the things that I loved, I loved fantasy. So it is really fun for me to get involved with projects where I get a chance to slip into worlds where the rules
of normal human living don’t apply [ laughs].
Ant- Man opens on Friday 17 July.