Corey Stoll on Playing the Villain

The actor talked to Maxim about getting framed for murder in the dark boxing drama, Glass Chin, and his upcoming role as Ant-Man’s nemesis.

You might recognize Corey Stoll from his tenure as Peter Russo, the damaged and emotionally conflicted politician who somehow managed to steal the show from Kevin Spacey’s nefarious Francis Underwood during the first season ofHouse of Cards. Since then, he’s landed on another critically acclaimed drama, The Strain, but what we’re most excited about are the two films he has coming down the pipeline. Out tomorrow is Glass Chin, a quiet indie in which Stoll masterfully plays Bud Gordon, a floundering former boxing champion who gets framed for murder. Later this summer, he’s trying his hand at playing a real villain in Ant-Man, where he’ll go head-to-head against Paul Rudd’s eponymous character as the evil Yellowjacket. Stoll talked to Maxim about his love for comic books growing up and why he loves playing the bad guy.

I just watched Glass Chin and was pretty fascinated by Bud’s character. What initially drew you to the role?

When he thinks that he’s hit bottom he keeps going. He thinks that he deserves status and success, but he’s not necessarily entitled to it. As the movie goes on, through his own own actions, he pulls himself further and further down. It was a really good rake through the conventional character, and in the context of this, it’s really not what you expect.

Did you have to do much boxing prep beforehand?

I’m supposed to be out of shape and out of practice, so I did a fair amount of drinking beer. I did spend a few weeks at Gleason’s Gym with Malcolm Xavier, who plays Kid Sunshine. We trained together, and I just wanted to get some sort of sense of the feel, sound, and smells of the boxing life. Also, I wanted to really bond with Malcolm, who really took his job seriously.

You’re in Ant-Man later this summer. Were you a fan of the comic books growing up?

Yeah, very much so. Ant-Man itself, I was aware of him, but I was not very well-versed in the back story. But comic books in general, I was really into them.

Oh yeah, which ones?

Well I just started probably being really into all the off shoots of X-Men, then I discovered Darkman and Watchmen. This opened up this whole world of comics. I even made a few pretty terrible comic books in high school. I loved that world, and I would go to Comic Con in New York back when it was much, much, much smaller than what it is now.

What would be your dream comic book character book character to play—besides Yellow Jacket of course?

[Laughs.] There was a lot of wish fulfillment involved in playing Darren Cross, and getting the license to be as theatrical as I’ve wanted to be. They did a comic book movie adaptation of The Shadow not too long ago, and I don’t think it really worked. There was a character that I always really loved, and I loved the old radio thing. I was serving the original millionaire playboy during the day and crime fighter vigilante by night.

Awesome. In Ant-Man you get to play a straight-up villain, instead of anti-hero. How did it feel to have to channel the bad guy for the whole film?

Oh, It’s great, that’s what I wanted to do. I had a general meeting with Marvel years ago, and I made it very clear that I wanted to play the villain. It is a license to be theatrical and make up space as a villain. It is really fun and addictive.

What are some of your favorite on-screen comic book villains?

Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor because he was clearly having a lot of fun, and also, of course Jack Nicholson [as the Joker]. There is darkness and playfulness that you can have. With Darren Cross, I was really given the chance to play a lot of different colors along that spectrum. He has to be scary or else Ant-Man isn’t heroic, but there is vulnerability and a depth in there.

Photos by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival