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In the movie Ant-Man (2015), Hank Pym tells his daughter that he thinks he found a guy to take on the Ant-Man persona. He then apparently sets up an elaborate scheme to get Scott Lang to break into his house and steal his suit.

Forgetting the ludicrousness of that whole scenario, why did Hank Pym choose Scott Lang, a small-time crook? What was it about Scott that Hank thought would make him a good Ant-Man? And how was Hank even aware of Scott?

I'll accept answers based on the originating comic, assuming the movie follows a similar origin as the comic, if there is no answer based on the movie alone.

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Hank Pym had a job that required a very specific set of skills that aren't very common.

  • He needed someone skilled at breaking in to things. Someone who knew how to get around without being noticed. Someone who could plan ahead, but improvise when things went south. Perhaps someone who could hold their own in a fight. In other words, he needed a thief.
  • He needed someone technical. The Ant Man suit is a highly advanced piece of machinery. He needed someone who could at least basically understand the technology behind the Ant Man suit. On top of that, the security systems at Pym Technologies is highly advanced, so he would need someone with a lot of technical ability to get through it.
  • He needed someone willing to help. This job was dangerous and, to put it lightly, unconventional. Not many people would be willing to take on the task.
  • Expendable. Hope could have easily have done this, but after losing his wife, Hank was not about to send her on a dangerous mission.
  • Honest. He had to be sure that whoever he was giving this tech to was not going to turn it around and use it for nefarious reasons. After all, the whole point of the mission was for his tech to not fall in the wrong hands.

Meet Scott Lang:

  • He was an experienced thief: Check
  • He has a masters in Electrical Engineering (at Stanford?): Check
  • He was working at Baskin Robins and desperate to get his good name back so he could see his daughter: Check
  • Hank doesn't really care about Scott: Check
  • Generally a good guy. He was a sort of Robin Hood who burgled for good. He also took great care to make sure he did not hurt anybody during his burglaries. Check.

While it's not shown in the movie, it's not a hard stretch to assume that Hank had a few candidates in mind. He was probably observing all of them over time. We do know that Hank was watching Scott already based off this quote (found by Johnny Bones in the comments):

Scott, I've been watching you for a while. Ever since you robbed Vistacorp. Oh, excuse me, burgled Vistacorp. Vista's security system is one of the most advanced in the business, it's supposed to be unbeatable but you beat it.

Vistacorp most likely has very similar security measures as Pym Technologies. From that, it's safe to assume that Scott has gotten further than anyone before.

Hank set up the break in on his house as a sort of final job interview to see if Scott could pull it off. It was also a convenient excuse to get Scott to him so they could meet.

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    Scott was also a good guy - he did not burgle VistaCorp to get money for himself, but to return illicitly obtained funds to their owners.
    – user9103
    Commented Sep 5, 2018 at 17:11
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    This answer misses one key point: Hank Pym did everything he did to ensure that the Pym Particle would not be weaponised, and Scott Lang was very particular about never hurting people during his burglary. Note how he always corrected people about the difference between robbery and burglary. Scott wasn't just reliable, or smart, or a good thief. He was also a good man who would take pains to avoid harming people wherever possible, which meshed with Pym's pacifist ideals. Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 10:03
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    That is another important feature which has been added.
    – DeeV
    Commented Sep 6, 2018 at 12:34
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Scott is not a crook, he is a vigilante. This is important, because despite being expendable he needed to be trustworthy. Hank Pym is giving him access to some of the most valuable technology on the planet, not excluding alien or wakanda tech. If he turns around and kills Hank and Hope in order to get exclusive access, then that’s not a good thing.

He needs to not only be willing to attempt the mission, he needs to believe in it and be willing to commit to it.

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Scott Lang was the perfect candidate to be Ant-Man. Hank Pym had done his research on Scott and found out that Scott was not only a brilliant thief, but also highly skilled in electronics. He also knew that Scott had hit rock bottom and had nothing left to lose. Scott had lost his job prospects, his reputation, and his family. Hank “tested” Scott by enticing him to steal the Ant-Man suit from Hank's highly formidable safe. Since Scott succeeded, Hank chose him to be Ant-Man.

But how did Hank know about Scott in the first place? Well, Scott’s crime and conviction were not exactly a secret. Even Baskin-Robbins found out about it. (Baskin-Robbins don't play.) Anyone with access to the internet could learn about his daring heist of VistaCorp, where he hacked into VistaCorp's system.

Scott himself tells the story of how he inherited the Ant-Man mantle from Hank in the introductory chapter of his book, Look Out For The Little Guy! (emphasis added):

And outside of the Super Hero game, Hank started a serious R&D operation known as Pym Technologies. But a few years ago, Pym Tech fell into the unscrupulous hands of people who wanted to exploit his discoveries for use on the battlefield—and to sell the resulting technology to folks we really do not want to be in battle with! By then, Hank had been pushed out of the company that literally had his last name on the door. But he knew what was being planned with his invention, and that it had to be stopped. So he…let’s say “hired” me to recover his creations from Pym Tech.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, Scott! is probably what you’re saying right now. How did we jump from custody disputes to biotech espionage? Well, right about the time I was stumbling out of prison, trying to find myself, Hank Pym—whom I didn’t know at the time—found me. Hank had done his research on me and knew I was skilled at both electronics and thievery. And most importantly, he knew that I had nothing left to lose. Unbeknownst to me, he “tested” me by enticing me to steal the Ant-Man suit from his highly formidable safe. Once I succeeded at that, Hank and his daughter, Hope Van Dyne, kinda “stole” me from police custody, offered me the gig (as if I had a choice!), and then trained me to pull off one of the craziest high-tech heists ever.

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