Corey Stoll could have slipped into any number of supervillain-appropriate costumes on his first day as the bad guy Yellowjacket in Ant-Man, the big-screen adaptation of the Marvel comic. Instead, he ended up hanging from the ceiling, wearing a skintight polka-dot one-piece.
“We did motion capture on my very first day,” the 39-year-old actor explains with a laugh, “and I was in this big room in a unitard with dots all over it. I was going over all of my character’s different motions, being strung up on wires and working through each little piece of stunt work.”
For the lifelong comics fan, kicking off filming with a taste of high-end special effects was a thrill—but soon enough, he’d have to learn to play it cool. “I had to stop myself from getting so excited by all the toys,” Stoll says. “I had to force myself to pay attention to my script.”
Luckily, focusing on scripts is something the New York native—who got his big break, and a Golden Globe nomination, care of the first season of House of Cards—has had plenty of experience doing lately. In the coming months, in addition to his role as Yellowjacket, Stoll will play a man jailed for murdering his family in Dark Places, a policeman investigating Whitey Bulger in Black Mass and a vampire hunter on the second season of his FX series The Strain. It’s a disparate group of characters, but Stoll says it’s the range of these roles that appeals to him.
“Variety excites me, and I’ve been lucky so far in that I don’t feel that typecast,” Stoll explains. “I’m being invited to go from something that feels naturalistic and close to myself to playing this supervillain who requires such theatricality, and that’s been really fun and challenging.”
Versatility is also what he’s best at. “Corey is my favorite kind of actor: smart, emotional, brave and level-headed,” says Ant-Man director Peyton Reed. “He’s incredibly exciting to watch on camera.”
Stoll’s co-stars seem to feel similarly—even the ones who’ve been famous longer than he’s been alive. “I remember shooting a crucial scene between Corey and Michael Douglas and feeling like Corey was so intimidating,” Reed recalls. “When we finished the scene, Michael came up and whispered to me, ‘Holy shit, this guy’s good.’ ”