As Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania heads toward the $400 million milestone at the global box office, we recently caught up with beloved character-actor David Dastmalchian (The Suicide Squad; The Dark Knight) to talk about his scene-stealing role as Veb.
Dastmalchian, of course, appeared in both of the previous Ant-Man films as Kurt, but with no room for the X-Con Security Consultants in the threequel, he didn't expect to come back until he received a very nice phone call from director Peyton Reed one day telling him about an all-new character that he thought Dastmalchian would be perfect for.
After reading the part, he felt a deep connection to Veb and knew he needed to breathe life into this wholly unique character. In our informative conversation, he tells me all about how the role was one of "most joyful experiences" and how it proved cathartic during a very dark time in his life following his father's passing.
Read on for our full interview with David Dastmalchian and please remember to SUBSCRIBE to my channel for more exclusive content!
ROHAN: Veb is obviously a very different kind of character than Kurt. What was Peyton's initial pitch to you for the movie, especially when he asked you to return to the Ant-Man world, but not as Kurt?
DAVID: It couldn't have come at a better time, to be quite honest. I was in the midst of a very demanding and exhaustive shoot, I was going through a difficult time where my father was dying. I knew that they were making Quantumania, and I knew that Peyton had already told me that there really wasn't a place for the previous characters in this new story that they were trying to tell that he had tried really hard, but they needed to be selective about the story that they were telling.
So, I was happy for him and everybody that they were going to make this film, but there was a part of me that yearned to at least go visit and, you know, say hi. I was hurting, I was in a dark place, and I missed my friends. And Peyton called me, and he said, ‘David, there's a character that we're working on, and I swear, I think he's you. I want you to read this. Let me know what you think.’
I read it, I go. I am Veb, Veb is me. I immediately started walking around in my hotel room, and I created the walk and the voice, and I started sending videos to Peyton, who shared them with Jeff. They started to really dive in, Steven Broussard, who I've become friends with over the years on the films called me and was like, ‘We want you to do this.’
There was a conversation about whether or not I would just record a voice in the booth after they'd filmed the movie, and I said, ‘Please, guys, is there any way I can come be on set?’ I'd never done anything like that before, but I said, ‘I really feel like I'm going to make discoveries, and I want to be there with the other actors performing with them so that we can figure out more layers to this character and his relationships.’ And they said, ‘Are you sure?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I'm in.’
So I went, and it was one of the great gifts I've been given in my journey as an actor, honestly, playing Veb was one of the most joyful experiences I’ve ever had. It lifted me out of a dark place, and Marvel, Peyton, Steven, everybody gave me complete creative carte blanche to just go as weird or as far as I needed to go with Veb. So, it was really great experience.
ROHAN: Even though you're playing a different character, you're still one of the original members of the Ant-Man family and are one of the veterans in a cast that has a lot of Marvel newcomers. What was your sort of role on set amongst your castmates?
DAVID: My role amongst the castmates was what I think it's always been to just try to do my best to be my most authentic self, to bring as much energy and creativity to the day as I can, and then just be ready. Peyton is so brilliant and so wonderful, and such a great leader on set, and he creates a space where Paul is able to just do the things that Paul does, which are pretty magical. He just creates every day, every moment, he's always creating.
So, I try to be there to just catch the balls that he's throwing, right? I try to just be there, to be present, be receptive. With a character like Veb, that was really easy, because he's like a sponge for stimulation, and all of a sudden, here's this new group of other actors with Will and Katy and Kathryn and all of them were playing at that exact same level.
So, it was really special for me, and I gotta say, my first day was us when we're getting Paul to drink the ooze, and I'm surrounded by all of these incredible background actors in makeup and costumes and stuff. I felt like I was finally living my dream of getting to be a part of some galaxy far, far away, except it was a galaxy deep, deep within.
ROHAN: Speaking of the ooze, what exactly was that substance?
DAVID: They had a prop with a gel in it and then they use makeup on Paul, but they definitely as well utilized some CG I think. But I remember the makeup artist pouring this blop on Paul and Kathryn and, and me. It was me, let's be honest, I'm method, I just took parts of me and I just threw them at everybody.
ROHAN: Since Veb is an original character, did you know exactly what he was or could become when he got himself some holes? I mean I'm sure you saw some concept art, but was there anything else to build from or were you able to just make the performance your own?
DAVID: They had some concept art, of course, and ideas about what they wanted Veb to look like, and were working with an incredibly gifted team of VFX artists to help construct that. But, all that to say, once my feet were on the ground, in the Quantum Realm, and I was exploring how to move and how to use my, you know, knowing that that my body was going to be so unique. They really let me go to town with - they basically were like, the sky's the limit, like what do you think Veb can do? How do you think Veb moves? They really wanted my input because I was there interacting with the space and the other people in that space.
With the big attack moment, when I have holes. We tried a bunch of different things, and it was so cool. This idea that when Veb is charged up enough or when he's pushed to his limit - I even guess I should stop referring to him as he, I feel like Veb is non-gender. He's like when they, when it is doing its thing. It's like I was just trying all this stuff with my imagination, and it was so cool because Peyton and the cinematographer and all the artists off-set, off-camera were just like, ‘Do what you want, just go for it. Just use your imagination, see where it takes you.’
That's what Marvel does. That's why these movies are so dynamic, and that's why they're so special. It's why it's such a gift when you're an actor to get to go play in the Marvel sandbox. They just say what is your imagination inspired to do? What is your impulse telling you to do? We will figure out how to help make it happen. Peyton just kept giving me the green light and the thumbs up every step of the way, and Paul was really encouraging of what I was doing with Veb. He was really supportive of me because like I said, it was a dark time, I lost my father right when we started filming, and he was just so great lifting my spirits.
And I was watching Kathryn, and I know you've clocked this and I hope that you include this in your story, as a veteran character actor now, somebody who's been doing this for twelve years, maybe since The Dark Knight, I don't know how long it’s been, maybe it's been longer, fourteen years? I've seen a lot of really talented people and people who can embody that world of genre, while still having grounded and amazing characters. And I feel like I am grateful to be at the beginning of what is going to be a pretty incredible journey for her. You get that immediate sense of this is a real superhero and a star in the making.
ROHAN: This has been really great, and I also loved your performance in The Suicide Squad, in case I don't have another chance to tell you that, but you were really great, and you're so great in this too. Always enjoy seeing you show up in a movie.
DAVID: Thanks man! Movies, yes! The Suicide Squad! Quantumania! Ah, what a joy! I get to go from Polka Dot Man to Veb, wow! I'm so lucky man. I'm living in nerd-vana. I am so grateful.
Super-Hero partners Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) return to continue their adventures as Ant-Man and the Wasp. Together, with Hope’s parents Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and Scott’s daughter Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton), the family finds themselves exploring the Quantum Realm, interacting with strange new creatures and embarking on an adventure that will push them beyond the limits of what they thought possible.
Directed by Peyton Reed and produced by Kevin Feige, p.g.a. and Stephen Broussard, p.g.a., “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania” also stars Jonathan Majors as Kang, David Dastmalchian as Veb, Katy O'Brian as Jentorra, William Jackson Harper as Quaz and Bill Murray as Lord Krylar. The sci-fi adventure opens in theaters on Feb. 17, 2023.