But getting the Wasp suit to a place she felt comfortable with, in terms of its coziness and practicality and of the way it presented her as the in-the-flesh representation of Marvel’s storied comic book character, took months of painstaking — and occasionally painful — adjustments by the film’s costume and wardrobe teams.
“I was nervous about the suit because of two reasons,” Lilly told Yahoo Entertainment on a soundstage at the Pinewood Atlanta Studios set. “One, they’re obviously restrictive and uncomfortable. But two,” Lilly paused, then took a deep breath: “Living up to the comic book images of female superhero characters, who all are even more outstanding-looking than Barbie, even more impossible to mimic than Barbie, they have, like, 12-inch waists and 45-inch busts and legs as long as me from head to toe. It was a nerve-wracking thing to consider.
“Sure, when it’s a digital version of me, they can make her look however they want. But I actually have to stand in front of a camera in that suit and somehow live up to all of the girls’ and boys’ fantasies about what Wasp should look like.”
The Wasp has been one of Marvel’s most beloved characters since she was introduced by Stan Lee, Ernie Hart, and Jack Kirby in 1963. In 2013, Marvel.com ranked her the fifth-greatest Avenger of all time, behind only Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, and Captain America.
Lilly, the 38-year-old alum of Lost and the Hobbit trilogy, originated the role of Hope van Dyne in 2015’s Ant-Man. She was far more of a corporate suit than superhero, managing Pym Technologies, the company founded by her estranged father, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), while Paul Rudd’s eponymous supe owned the bulk of the film’s heroics.
As the title implies, Rudd and Lilly share equal billing in Ant-Man and the Wasp, and when the film picks up, Hope is already two years deep into her new gig as a size-shifting future Avenger. “She’s accustomed to being in the suit, she’s accustomed to being a superhero, and to just doing it,” Lilly said. “It’s part of her life now.”
Behind the scenes, Lilly fought her own battle to perfect the suit. “I worked long and hard for months with the team, adjusting and tweaking and adjusting and tweaking until I felt like I would not feel like a sham walking on set,” she said. “And now I walk on set in that suit and I feel like a superhero, I feel like the Wasp, and I feel damn sexy.”
The adjustments were copious, and the candid and congenial actress broke down a handful (or should we say buttload?) for us.
“The first iteration of the suit completely flattened my butt. Totally intolerable,” Lilly laughed. “One of the iterations of the suit did not show any definition of my arms. Totally intolerable.
“We always had the question of, how large or small [do we] make the bust? Because typically comic book characters have unusually large chests. And I do not have an unusually large chest. So I really wanted to represent a more authentic version of me and not have the suit suddenly morph me into a fantasy that I am not. But you still want the right shapes, you want the right curves, you want that slightly curvaceous appeal. So finding that balance was tricky.”
Then there was that pain in the neck.
“At first they wanted the neck to come really, really high because it’s a containment suit,” she recalled, referencing the fact that the suit has to be sealed in order for the Pym particles to shrink her. “So when I put on the helmet, the helmet and the neck have to meet. But with the neck coming right up to my jaw, I could barely move, and it would choke me all the time. It would sort of push up my chin, and it was chafing my skin and leaving little bloody sores. It wasn’t working.”
Ultimately, Lilly found both comfort and her own Right Said Fred mojo.
Ant-Man and the Wasp opens July 6. Come back for more scoop from the set.
Watch an exclusive clip of the Wasp in action:
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