In the aftermath of his actions in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, Scott Lang [Paul Rudd] grapples with the consequences of his choices as both a Superhero and a father. As he struggles to rebalance his home life with his responsibilities as Ant-Man, he’s confronted by Hope Van Dyne/Wasp [Evangeline Lilly] and her father Dr. Hank Pym [Michael Douglas] with an urgent new mission. Scott must once again put on the suit and learn to fight alongside the Wasp as the team works together to uncover secrets from the past.
Teamwork really is the best, as Set Decorator Gene Serdena SDSA International pointed out in our Film Decor article SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING. The set decorator and his team have the hyphenated superhero worlds down – realistic and loving modest home-environments juxtaposed with sci-fi tech and labs of all sorts, cityscapes and involved/layered interiors as well. Serdena’s longtime crew has their own set creation choreography – it’s a dance of equally creative and committed artists that know how to include fun and whimsy, along with timing and resourceful problem solving...after all, they’re world-building in a superhero universe!
We again asked Serdena to share some insider info and insight, and he generously replied with some fascinating details...
...from Set Decorator Gene Serdena SDSA International...
Pym Lab... Hank Pym, who with daughter, Hope Van Dyne has been on the run since the end of the first Ant-Man film, has devised a brilliant scheme to mask the new laboratory he’s constructed since the destruction of the first lab. From a workbench, he’s built a miniature lab that’s housed inside a non-descript, mid-century office building.
The technology he’s developed with the use of the “Pym particle” enables him to both shrink and grow the lab to full size.
Inside of the building facade (which traveled to locations such as a San Francisco parking lot and deep into the forest of neighboring Muir Woods), is a derelict elevator lobby. The notion is that the building is so nondescript from both the outside and the entry that one might not recognize its sudden appearance. Or disappearance!
Pym Lab, Control Room...
One emerges from the drab elevator environment to a gutted office building interior, which houses the mighty laboratory. The elevator opens directly into the Control Room, a symphony of light and reflective surfaces. Production Designer Shepherd Frankel wanted the shift in atmospheres to be sudden and dramatic. With the help of Gang Boss Josh Moceri, who oversaw the massive 6-week dress of the Lab, specialty props by Set Dresser extraordinaire, Mike Garcia, plus a team of highly skilled dressers and prop makers, I think we were able to satisfy that goal.
Pym Lab, Quantum Gate Experiment...
Shepherd wanted all of the background dressing to have purpose, and for the aesthetic to be driven by Hank Pym’s hands-on mechanical and engineering know-how. Shepherd would make rough sketches of “events” to populate the massive floor space, and my dressers and I would interpret and develop these designs into beautiful, curious sculptures that all related to the Quantum Gate focal point of the Lab.
A photo above features a machine from LCW rentals that we married to another found by my fabulously talented Assistant Decorator, Katie Childs. I would work with Mike Garcia from sketches we both made. The ribs of the machine were manufactured by our Fabrication Team, presided over by Special Effects Coordinator Dan Sudick and Fabrication Foreman Jeff Ogg. So much talent and friendly collaboration went into the construction of these beautiful oddities.
Pym Lab, Audio Array...
In the story, Hank Pym’s wife, Janet Van Dyne, has disappeared into a sub-atomic space known as the Quantum Realm, when on a world-saving mission. The point of Hank creating this Lab and the Quantum Gateway is to try to locate and retrieve Janet. One end of the lab features a huge array of panels that incorporate both digital and analog technologies to employ high frequency pings that can pinpoint Janet’s location.
One of the really fun aspects of this job, with which we were tasked, was to develop a set that played with different kinds of scale. The notion that Hank, who is on the run, is limited to certain objects he can acquire without drawing too much attention to himself in the world of technological acquisitions meant that he would draw heavily from household items (paper clips, clothespins), old technologies (such as radio dials, transistors) and construction toys (Erector sets and Legos).
Early in prep, we acquired some vintage Erector Sets, Legos, radios and an assortment of household hardware and began to play with the pieces to see how we might incorporate large-scale versions of them into the actual set. The kinds of things we settled on: A paperclip, a plastic bread-clip, clothespins, radio dials, a small flashlight bulb, auto fuses, a shock absorber, Legos, various pieces from the Erector Sets. These were then 3D-scanned by Dan Sudick’s manufacturing unit, followed by Jeff Ogg breaking things down into their constituent components to determine exactly how to build these objects on an enlarged scale. This movie had the most manufactured elements of any I’ve done, and Dan and Jeff were very patient collaborators who handled design adjustments and last-minute requests with aplomb and artistry. There’s a photo above of Pym Lab Gang Boss Josh Moceri with a meticulously rendered giant paper clip.
The task of acquiring various bits of technology that we could modify and incorporate into this environment fell on my Assistant Decorator, Katie Childs, and Atlanta Buyer, Jenn Sandel. These women are extraordinarily resourceful, and are great at looking at an illustration and finding analogous components to help me create the “picture.”
We worked closely with a team of Prop Painters, lead by Frika Gray and Ben Woodruff, who would thoughtfully examine and photograph these miniature pieces, and then try to preserve the integrity of their varied and complicated surfaces writ large. One of the pitfalls of large-scale manufacturing we strived to avoid was the problem of homogeneity - a sort of orange peel textured effect that often occurs with large manufactured surfaces. These painters amaze me.
All of the machines and technology on a Marvel film require sources of illumination. We work in concert with a dedicated team of technicians, called the Fixtures Crew. Their job is to incorporate interactive lighting, that can change in accordance with cues delivered by the Chief Lighting Technician, Rafael Sanchez, who is truly a wizard with light. The Fixtures team can generally be located by looking down, and under things, and surrounded by masses of cable. They’re good folks, and they make an important contribution to the beauty of moving pictures.
The character of Ghost, played by Hannah John-Kamen, has a condition that causes her to “phase” in and out of solid matter. This enables her to penetrate walls, buildings, even people. The character is largely shrouded in mystery, so creating a space that represents a home for her is challenging. Ghost teams up with Hank Pym’s sometime colleague, sometimes rival, Dr. Bill Foster [Laurence Fishburne], who builds a chamber in which Ghost can rest, and which is meant to rehabilitate her from her advancing condition.
The Ghost Chamber was overseen by Gang Boss Mark Kwiatkowski, who acquired all the hardware and technological “gak”, which he then applied to the interior and exterior of the chamber.
The Ghost Lair interior, which was based on an oddball 1980s Brutalist fantasy that was found in the woods outside Atlanta—a home that featured an indoor swimming pool under a massive skylight. Our interpretation of that architectural shell was actually built on stage at Pinewood Atlanta, and the dressing was overseen by Gang Boss Bob Smith.
Sometimes when you’re working on an interior, you need one perfect piece that tells a story that not only gives you an insight into character, but also becomes a kind of mascot for the remaining pieces. I wanted something that could fit into this peculiar, Brutalist environment but could harken to a ‘70s notion of comfort and luxury. We found this sofa, and with the help of our skilled prop painter Frika Gray, gave it a patina that spoke to the aspirations of the Ghost character’s long-dead scientist parents. It made me want to give them an abandoned library that had gone derelict and collapsed.
The condition of Ghost being between both the material and the immaterial world, and being between times: the past (with her loving parents) and the present (what remains after their tragic deaths) suffused the set with a kind of sadness. I wanted to preserve that feeling, so we used a somber palette and tried to create a feeling of a place that had once been a source of great comfort, but had ultimately become a “ghost” of its former self.
Black market tech and weapons dealer Sonny Burch [Walt Goggins] uses his high-end restaurant as his negotiating and hand-off space. This is where Wasp meets Ghost, and wow! Gang Boss Ken Bryant, oversaw the dressing of the big Restaurant Kitchen set, which features one of the most dynamic action sequences of the film. In preparation, we researched the details of a lot of restaurant kitchens, to try to determine which elements would best serve the action beats. Since so much of the action took place with a miniature Wasp doing battle against the bad guys, we had to shoot everything twice...with sections of the dressing cut apart to accommodate a Macro Photography Unit.
The Director and the Visual FX team meticulously plan the action beats, which we view in an animated pre-viz format. This enables us to satisfy the beats with authentic dressing and props. Property Master Andy Siegel and his team supplied us with lots of great stuff. In the photos above, you can see Andy’s brilliant miniature of the Pym Lab, which becomes the central “football” that’s fumbled between competing parties for its possession.
Scott’s San Francisco Apartment...
Gang Boss Bob Smith oversaw the dressing of Scott’s San Francisco Apartment, which Scott shares with former cellmate, now housemate and business partner, Luis [Michael Peña]. We see more of him at home in this film since he’s under house arrest for his participation in the battle between the Avengers, having taken the side of Captain America...but that’s a whole other story. The set was built on stages at Pinewood Studios, Atlanta. We tied the architecture into an apartment building in San Francisco, where we shot exterior scenes. The attic of the house features a bedroom/playroom that Scott has set up for his daughter, Cassie, for when she visits.
One of my favorite features was this big plush throw constructed of conjoined stuffed animals. I’d had the idea for a while and had described it to my Drapery/ Upholstery Foreman, Jory Alvarado, who likes a good challenge. Jory bought the large assortment of toy animals, removed a portion of the stuffing to help flatten the overall surface, and then worked with a seamstress to join all the pieces together.
Don’t be surprised if we come out with a line of plushy furnishings somewhere down the road!
One additional note: I’d be remiss if I didn’t emphasize the central role that my Leadman, Grant Samson, plays in coordinating the entire team. It’s an often-thankless job, but Grant truly has mastered the role. He hires the team, makes determinations about peoples’ skill levels and where they’ll be best placed to utilize their assets. He understands the importance of relationship building with other departments. He has a keen eye, and the benefit of our long-standing professional relationship is that he often anticipates my likes and dislikes. The Leadperson is really the vertebrae of the Set Dressing Department, and I’d like to give a shout out to all the Leads out there, and all the fine work they do.
Pym lab, Quantum gate ribs…
“PD Shepherd Frankel would make rough sketches of ‘events’ to populate the massive floor space, and we would interpret and develop these designs into beautiful, curious sculptures that all related to the Quantum Gate focal point of the Lab. This piece features a machine from LCW rentals that we married to another found by my fabulously talented Assistant Decorator, Katie Childs. I would work with Mike Garcia from sketches we both made. The ribs of the machine were manufactured by our Fabrication Team, presided over by Special Effects Coordinator Dan Sudick and Fabrication Foreman Jeff Ogg. So much talent and friendly collaboration went into the construction of these beautiful oddities.”
Ghost lair set,
”All of the machines and technology on a Marvel film require sources of illumination. We work in concert with a dedicated team of technicians, called the Fixtures Crew. Their job is to incorporate interactive lighting, that can change in accordance with cues delivered by the Chief Lighting Technician, Rafael Sanchez, who is truly a wizard with light. The Fixtures team can generally be located by looking down, and under things, and surrounded by masses of cable. They’re good folks, and they make an important contribution to the beauty of moving pictures...”
“One of my favorite features was this big plush throw constructed of conjoined stuffed animals. I’d had the idea for a while and had described it to my Drapery/ Upholstery Foreman, Jory Alvarado, who likes a good challenge. Jory bought the large assortment of toy animals, removed a portion of the stuffing to help flatten the overall surface, and then worked with a seamstress to join all the pieces together.
Don’t be surprised if we come out with a line of plushy furnishings somewhere down the road!”
Scott’s backyard was interesting...
We had to match, in part, the San Francisco location where we shot street exteriors. The backyard set was built on the edge of a wooded zone, on the perimeter of the Pinewood Studio Lot. My team went to great lengths to authentically replicate the plumbing and electrical supplies that fed into the home.
The seamlessness with which studio craftspersons (Dressers, Propmakers, Painters) can achieve such things requires a level of artistry I often describe as “sublimely banal.” It’s a task that all insiders have familiarity with, and I always marvel when it’s done successfully.”