As Marvel superhero the Wasp, she was told by producers of the latest comic book blockbuster to make her kick-ass character fight like a “dude”.
But Ant-Man And The Wasp marks the first time a female superhero has had her name in the title of a Marvel film, and she told them to buzz off. Fearing the plan was a misguided effort to create “equality” with co-star Paul Rudd, she insisted her character remain ladylike.
Evangeline, 39, said: “I came in, watched mock-ups of the fights and was horrified. I just said, ‘That cannot be the Wasp, she can’t fight like that’. And they said, ‘Why not?’
“‘Because she looks like a dude, she’s moving like a guy, she’s a woman. What’s the point of having a woman superhero if we’re just going to make her a man? Like, no. She can be feminine, she can be elegant and graceful, It doesn’t make her weak.”
The actress, whose breakthrough role came as Kate Austen in hit series Lost, plays Hope van Dyne, the estranged daughter of Michael Douglas’s human-shrinking scientist Hank Pym and the on-off lover of Ant-Man.
She first appeared as Hope in 2015’s Ant-Man but the new Certificate 12A film — released today — is the first time she has suited up as the Wasp. Before taking on any villains, though, her first showdown was with the film’s bosses, who she wanted to ensure would not desexualise her character.
She continued: “I said, ‘Listen, I think you guys are so afraid of creating a sexualised stereotype like you see in comic books, that degrades women, that you’re going so far in the other direction you’re actually disrespecting her femininity — and I really want to honour that she’s a woman.
“‘I want there to be a clear distinction between the man in the movie and the woman in the movie and I think that’s OK. If we can show her being elegant and feminine and she’s way more bad-ass than the dude — now you’re teaching people the right lesson’.”
As her inspiration, Evangeline turned to Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman from 1992’s Batman Returns. Coincidentally, Michelle also stars in the new film. But just because the Wasp is sexy, it does not mean she is not powerful — and the movie sees her insist that the microscopic Ant-Man “follow my lead”.
At odds with campaigns for equal pay in Hollywood, Evangeline — who has also starred in 2008’s The Hurt Locker and two Hobbit films — insists she has no interest in whether her wage packet matched that of co-star Paul. She says: “I don’t usually look at comparison to gauge if I’m satisfied.”
Looking back on her early life, she recalls having “no female friends” and has even objected to the term “feminist” in the past. Now, she says: “Feminism is about equality. That is the bottom line. I have decided to stop saying I’m not a feminist.”
No wonder then that Evangeline thinks this film is a big deal — despite the fact that, on recent form, female superhero films are box office hits. Last year, DC’s Wonder Woman made £630million at the box office worldwide. In her opinion more blockbusters need women driving the action.
Evangeline says: “You can be as loving and tender and respectful to a woman as you want, but if you put her in the back seat it’s sending a message.”
While she has never experienced the kind of “casting couch” abuses of power that have come to light in the past year, the Canadian beauty says that she has “had men touch me in ways I don’t want to be touched — I have had sexual experiences that were traumatising and unhealthy”.
Starring in Lost for all six seasons turned her into an emotional wreck, with the intensity of her character Kate seeping into her personal life. At one stage she found working in Hollywood so tough that she planned to quit acting in 2011 after the birth of her son, Kahekili. Evangeline, who never went to drama school, recalls: “It really f***ed me up.
“I’m a really happy person but I spent six years doing a show where, for 12 hours a day, six to nine months a year, I was in angst, crying, screaming. I was running from a Smoke Monster, I was blowing up my father . . . it was nothing but horrible feelings, horrible emotions. I am not a trained actor so I don’t have a tool bag of tricks.
“I just go there. I have to feel it. So if my character is really in agony, I go there and I am in agony.”
Living on Hawaii, where Lost was shot, and away from her friends, meant she “drank a lot to get through it”.
Longing to be happy again, she promised herself that “I’m done. I’m never acting again” after finishing Lost and the 2011 Hugh Jackman robot movie Real Steel. Evangeline, who got into acting after being spotted by a New York model agency, says: “I went off, had a baby and started writing scripts and books, which is my first passion.”
She had been married to ice hockey player Murray Hone for a year, before falling for Lost co-star Dominic Monaghan during filming. She divorced childhood sweetheart Murray in 2004 and dated Brit Dominic for three years. Over the past eight years she has been in a settled relationship with Lost assistant producer Norman Kali, who has become a stay-at-home dad to Kahekili, seven, and their two-year-old daughter, whose name has not been made public.
The couple have a very relaxed attitude about sex, not minding if Kahekili walks in on them in the throes of passion. Evangeline says: “I’ve told him ‘Mummy and Daddy make love, and this is how you were made’.”
Laid up in bed during her first month of motherhood, she was told that Hobbit director Peter Jackson desperately wanted to cast her as an elf in the second and third instalments of the fantasy movies.
Having been a fan of JRR Tolkien’s books since she was 13, and with Lord Of The Rings actor Dominic urging her to work with Peter, Evangeline put her retirement from acting on hold.
She says: “I had fantasised night after night after night about being a woodland elf, specifically. So I took the job. When my first-born was three months old, I was in New Zealand stunt training for the movie. In my mind at the time I said, ‘I will do this one job and retire again’.”
But when Marvel came knocking with Ant-Man, Evangeline again found she could not resist the temptation to get back in front of camera.
The original Ant-Man earned £400million at the box office in 2015, and the sequel has already raked in £300million globally. Evangeline’s equal billing with co-star Paul is certain to make her an even more sought-after actress.
Next year she will appear as the Wasp in the second part of the Avengers: Infinity War blockbuster. That means thoughts of “retirement” will have to be put off. Again.
She says: “I either need to make my peace with it and find a way to embrace the opportunities I have and the life that I’m living. Or I need to draw a line in the sand right now and walk away and say no, and just be done.”
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