Updated January 15, 2017: "An an-i-mated film" is the correct quote, not "an Ant-Man film."
Deadline has since publication of this story changed the quote in question to read "we have an animated film we’re going to announce in the next few days."
Don Handfield explained the snafu to Bleeding Cool.
"I corrected that with the reporter of Deadline. It was a misquote. I said ANIMATED FILM, not Ant-Man film. In the reporters defense it was a phone call and I have a Virginia accent. The project I was referring to is this, which was announced a few days later: Imaginary Friend. Would love to one day produce a Marvel film but Kevin Fiege and his amazing team are doing pretty darn good without us."
In other words, nothing to see here.
Original story January 14, 2017: Somewhat buried towards the end of a recent Deadline interview with Jeremy Renner and his The Combine producing partner Don Handfield about the Avengers actor’s burgeoning other role as a director and producer was a surprising reference to what if taken literally is a future Marvel Studios film.
Here is the full quote by Handfield, in response to Deadline writer Matt Grobar’s question to Renner, “What are your future ambitions, on both sides of the camera?”
"Jeremy gets in these big franchises and he disappears for six to nine months. We started this company to be able to make movies together, so as he gets out of Avengers, we’re excited to really do what we always intended to do with the company," Handfield responded after Renner replied. "We have a couple other things coming out, a TV series for the History Channel that’s coming out called Knightfall, we have an Ant-Man film we’re going to announce in the next few days, in a partnership with two other companies."
Grobar confirmed for Newsarama Handfield’s remarks were reported accurately. So the question becomes what did Handfield mean by “we have an Ant-Man film we’re going to announce in the next few days.”
The first and perhaps most logical interpretation is he meant a humorous, action heist film in the vein or spirit of Marvel’s Ant-Man, though that’d be something of an esoteric reference, as despite being well-received Ant-Man doesn’t enjoy a high profile imprint on Hollywood as an example of the genre, not to mention the oddity of the choice of reference considering Renner’s relationship with the MCU.
The second explanation is Renner’s The Combine is co-producing the next Ant-Man film, 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp directed by Peyton Reed (reportedly to begin production in June), or is co-producing a future other Ant-Man film.
While of course all Marvel Studios films have multiple producers, no MCU actor including A-listers Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson or Benedict Cumberbatch have received a producer’s credit. Only Jon Favreau, who directed Iron Man 1 & 2 and is credited as a producer of the Avengers films, has acted in an MCU movie and given a producer’s credit.
Newsarama also cannot find a history of Marvel Studios taking on independent production company partners in the same way Warner Bros.'s DC films do.
That all said, the reference does coincide with comments Renner and Ant-Man co-star Michael Douglas have made about wanting to appear together in a Marvel film.
"One of the joys of being in the Marvel family is they find ways of transitioning your character into other Marvel films, so hopefully there will be a moment in the future where Jeremy and I have the chance to be in the same Marvel film together… The Marvel family is pretty extraordinary,” Douglas reportedly said.
The comments have been noticed enough for Renner to be listed as ‘rumored’ castmember of Ant-Man and the Wasp on the film’s IMDB page.
Renner’s Hawkeye and Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang also share a common trait in the MCU – they are the only active superheroes with children. And as per the final moments of Captain America: Civil War, they’re in similar predicaments – both seemingly fugitives from federal law enforcement after being sprung from the Raft by Captain America.
Original Avenger Hawkeye/Renner has also yet to get the meaty co-starring role Johansson received in The Winter Solider and Mark Ruffalo's the Hulk is getting in this year’s Thor: Ragnarok.
In other words, a Hawkeye-Ant-Man team-up makes sense on a number of MCU-levels.
So could Ant-Man and the Wasp be breaking new Marvel Studios ground, giving a producer’s credit to a starring actor and/or taking on independent production partners? Or could a second, yet-announced Ant-Man sequel do that?
Or was just a case of a couple of poorly chosen words?
Newsarama has been unable to reach Handfield for clarification and Disney has so far declined to comment on the Deadline interview. Either way, as per the original comment, we should all know in a couple of days.