‘Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania’: David Dastmalchian on Bringing the Oozy Veb to Life
"Veb is life. Veb is love."
Veb Fever is sweeping through the Quantum Realm and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s oozy, he’s squishy, he doesn’t have any holes (but is fascinated by them), and he’s everyone’s new favorite creature from the Quantum Realm — even star Kathryn Newton agrees.
“Veb is this little jelly creature guy — thing, person, I don't know what you would call him!” She tells Marvel.com. “He's so cute. It’s the kind of character that I love Marvel movies for. These weird alien things just take you to this magical fairyland.”
But who — or better yet, what — is Veb? Introduced in the Quantum Realm in Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, Veb’s part of the freedom fighters resisting Kang’s rule, appearing alongside the likes of Jentorra and Quaz. You’ve also got to drink his ooze to understand what everyone’s saying down there, naturally. And while he might be a little oozy pink blob of a being, if Veb sounds familiar it’s because he’s actually played by a long-time member of the Ant-Man films, David Dastmalchian. While Dastmalchian has played X-Con Kurt for the last two films, this time he’s hanging up his uniform and instead donning a motion-capture suit to bring Veb to life.
As producer Stephen Broussard explains, the creative team knew that Dastmalchian is a chameleon and could jump into any role — either human or oozy-being.
“We knew there was an opportunity to ask David to join us in a different role if we didn’t see his face,” Broussard explains. “As we developed the characters and the people we meet once we get into the Quantum Realm, the idea of these fully CG organisms that we meet in the Freedom Fighter village came up. We have this character named Veb who’s overly curious, doesn’t really know boundaries, sort of fascinated by humans and people that come from above started to take shape and it felt like a forum for David to come in and do a totally different thing, to totally embody a different character.”
Veb originally started off as a completely different character for the movie that was eventually cut, but writer Jeff Loveness kept coming back to some of these ooze jokes.
“I thought it would be a funnier twist if he actually was fascinated, what if he actually really liked humans and thought they were cute in the way that we thought a jellyfish was cute?” He explains. “That opened up the character and made him joyful. I'm like, oh, that's kind of a way you should be in life. You should be open and curious and joyful about people's identities and the differences and be curious about the holes of another, I suppose. Be open to the world.”
Dastmalchian jumped into the role feet first, even impressing the other actors alongside him in scenes considering what he was pulling off as Veb.
“David, he's a tall man and he did the whole thing basically crouched down,” Co-star William Jackson Harper laughs. “He was being a team player about the whole thing. He's really talented, really funny, and really invested, and a big old enthusiastic nerd for this stuff, just like I am. I loved getting to work with him because I've been watching him for years. To see how game he was, how many ideas he had, and how excited he was to do everything. It was really heartwarming to see him that way.”
And now it’s one thing for everyone to sing Dastmalchian’s praise as Veb, and another to actually talk to him. Marvel.com jumped on a video chat with the actor to talk all things Marvel, the Quantum Realm, Kurt, Veb, and beyond.
MARVEL.COM: We're going to talk about Veb. Because—
DAVID DASTMALCHIAN: Because Veb is life.
DAVID DASTMALCHIAN: Veb is love.
MARVEL.COM: Veb is the best. I am assuming you have seen by now that Veb is, by far, one of the new fan-favorite characters from the movie. What is it like to be embodying?
DAVID DASTMALCHIAN: It is such a joy for so many reasons. First and foremost, I know that the Veb that we created, the Veb that came out of those weeks of shooting and doing the mocap work and playing and improvising and experiencing the creative process with Peyton [Reed] helped us get to the ultimate Veb that exists in the film today, which was what Peyton wanted.
I truly believe that Peyton got what he wanted with this character. To me, that's the most satisfying feeling as an actor — when you feel like you've helped bring the vision that the director and the writer had for a character to life, and hopefully, even showed them some things that they didn't see coming.
And secondly, for all of the fans and all of the people I've gotten to watch this film with so far and to hear the joy and the emotional reaction that they have to Veb. To walk out of the theater with my two kids and have them tell me that Veb is now their favorite — is just one of those gifts that you just savor.
MARVEL.COM: Going back to before Veb's creation, you played Kurt in the previous two Ant-Man movies. We've seen Kurt now throughout the MCU. Do you remember the initial conversation when it was pitched that you're going to come back, but you're not going to be Kurt anymore, now you're going to be Veb?
DAVID DASTMALCHIAN: I didn't know I was going to be Veb. All I knew was that because of the story that Peyton needed to tell with Quantumania, there wasn't room to give proper service to the previous characters in this new film. But he said, you're coming back. I didn't know what that meant. When he was ready, he sent me this character. I started immediately saying the lines out loud.
I found Veb's voice immediately. I started to just walk… I was in a hotel, and I started doing Veb's wiggle walk, and I started moving around, and I shared that with Peyton, who shared it with Jeff, and they said, this is exactly where we want to go with this character.
It was the most joyful experience I've had in acting. The freedom of just being in a motion-capture suit, where everything that my body was doing and experiencing was in my imagination, was really powerful.
MARVEL.COM: The first cut I saw of the movie was unfinished. Veb was actually fully done, except for the one scene where Veb is running across the bridge, and he gets shot. That was you before the CGI had been done. Could you talk about what it was like actually filming some of these scenes, and just doing all sorts of crazy things?
DAVID DASTMALCHIAN: It was so liberating. It reminded me of my days in Black Box Theater in Chicago, doing plays where you have no budget for sets or costumes. You're just using your imagination to tell a story. Now, the difference is, we're on this incredible, massive set, where they've built the Quantum Realm that I'm running across the bridge on. But it's still my body, and what Veb is doing is in my imagination.
Running the way that Veb runs, experiencing time and space the way that Veb experiences time and space, being shot the way that Veb would be shot — I'm not going to lie, it was physically demanding. It was hard. But it was so beneficial to try to understand the voice, the character that was Veb.
[The production team] created a blue little stool because being crouched down like that and wiggling my butt all the time was hard on my legs and my back. They created a little stool whenever I would get to a landing point, where I would stop running or something, and I could sit for a minute on the stool. But during the getting-shot sequence, which is so tragic and so sad, and then followed by this great moment of comedy and triumph, I knew we had to stick that landing. I knew what an important moment that was, and I was so honored that I'd been entrusted with a moment that was that significant for that part of the film. I gave it all I had.
MARVEL.COM: I talked to William Jackson Harper, and he commented that he was very impressed that you're a tall guy, and you were just wiggling around on the floor as Veb. What was it like now interacting with others in a scene doing all of that?
DAVID DASTMALCHIAN: With Will, who I love and is so great, looking up at him from the perspective of Veb's height, moving the way Veb moves, being a character who is so curious and so heart-forward, in such a dark and scary place — it was really informative to the performance.
And the love that Veb feels for Jentorra, their hero, the person who watches out for them — is very important. Then, here comes Scott Lang and Cassie Lang, these people who look so different than what Veb is used to, and yet, Veb just knows there's something special about them and that they can help them.
And so, it was really neat for me to be in that odd physical positioning, and finding the way that my body would relate to others, and trying to make contact, trying to connect with them. As always, the most important tool I think you have in acting, even beyond your voice, is your eyes.
And being able to be there on set at Pinewood, with Peyton and the cast, and be able to use my eyes to connect with them, was, I think, really helpful for me. Hopefully, it was helpful to them as well.
MARVEL.COM: Now, this will be a very broad question, but do you have a favorite moment from filming?
DAVID DASTMALCHIAN: Yes. I think my favorite moment was when at one point, I was up near Paul's face when it's, like, right at the beginning of us filming the sequence at the camp. And we've poured the ooze into his mouth, and I'm so curious if the ooze worked, and I'm kind of sniffing around by his face and making these weird little noises.
I'm not going to say that I got Paul to break, but I will say that Paul may have cracked a smile and started laughing at one point, which, to me, is like, oh, gosh, I don't know, having LeBron James tell you just shot a good basket or something. It's like, getting Paul to see that he was responding that way was a big moment for me because I was having a really tricky time.
You know, I'd been working really hard. I was really tired. I was kind of in a bit of battling some depression. Getting to be around these people I love and getting to create in that space, getting to have that Marvel magic, which I always love talking about — it's the Marvel magic is that they create an atmosphere and a space for you as an actor where you can let your imagination go wild.
And instead of them saying, oh, no, that's not the way it's supposed to go, they go, oh, yes, that's a plus. That plus is this moment. Like, how can we support and facilitate what your imagination is saying, and take it to the next level?
So, whenever you make a little discovery, instead of them going, oh, we can't do that, they run in, and Peyton comes, and he goes, ooh, I like that! What can we do with that?
MARVEL.COM: Speaking of this ooze, are you prepared for people to yell "drink the ooze" at you until the end of time?
DAVID DASTMALCHIAN: I'm waiting for it. I'm excited. I want it. I'm ready, you guys. I think we should start ooze-drinking parties all over the place. I think there's a whole thing.
MARVEL.COM: And now, speaking of holes — I love the Ant-Man movies, I should have said that upfront. They're my favorite Marvel movies. So, I listen to the Ant-Man soundtracks a lot. I couldn't help but notice that you have a song on the Ant-Man soundtrack singing about holes?
DAVID DASTMALCHIAN: I think it's an important thing for people to note when they're considering the Grammy's, and you're thinking about — or maybe for the Oscars for Best Song. There's a song that I think is really powerful and important. Now, Christophe Beck — what an amazing composer, what an incredible artist.
The score of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, just like his previous scores — well worth the purchase. You've got to listen to this album from beginning to end. But I will tell you, there is a nugget, a little bonus track. A golden feature at the end of this, you've never heard before.
(SINGING) Holes are where the food does pass. The other end, it comes out gas. Holes are dandy, and that's the scoop. Holes for hearing and holes for poop.
That's just a little sample. It's a little taste of Veb's musicality. And I don't know where Veb lives in the future of the MCU, but if I was Kevin Feige, I'd be queuing up Veb: The Musical, headlined by the smash single, "Holes," by Veb.
MARVEL.COM: How did this song come about? I immediately emailed people about it, but no one had any answers for me. I'm hoping I could go straight to the source.
DAVID DASTMALCHIAN: I was doing ADR in January. I had to throw a couple more lines into ADR. I think we added "revolution," a bunch of grunts and groans, and a couple of other lines. And they said, OK, thanks for coming in. It was great to see you.
And Peyton was there. I said, Peyton, can you just give me, like, two minutes, and then I'll get out of your hair? He was like, yeah, what's up? I was like, I have something I want to share with you.
And they're like, OK, what is it? And I said — (SINGING) "Holes must be so very nice. Holes for smiles and breaks the ice. Holes for laughing, holes for tears, holes for milking, holes for ears." And then, I continued all the way through the song, and that was it.
And then, they go — [LAUGHS] "OK, thank you." And so, it was just something I came out of my imagination, and I thought Veb has a lot more Veb wants to say about holes, so here's a song about it. Interestingly, if you go back and listen to the Ant-Man and the Wasp score, soundtrack, there's a song called, "Baba Yaga Lullaby," that Kurt did for that.
(SINGING) Baba Yaga come at night. Little children sleepy tight. So, lots of musical numbers that David Dastmalchian brings to the MCU. He may not be the most buff, the best-looking, the tallest, the best actor, but damn, that guy can make a song.
Hopefully, there's more Marvel [in my future], but I'll always be there cheering for Marvel, and celebrating my Marvel family. It's just such a gift to all of us cinema lovers in the world, and it's such a gift to those of us who have families that love to enjoy movies together. Being a part of the Marvel family has been one of the greatest gifts of my career. I'm really lucky.
BIG and small things await! Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania is now playing in theaters.
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