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Kick-Ass – Mark Millar interview

Mark Millar

Interview by Rob Carnevale

MARK Millar talks to us about some of the challenges of getting Kick-Ass made, and why he feels that working outside of the studio system was the best thing that could have happened to the film.

He also discusses some ideas about Kick-Ass 2: Balls To The Wall and why he’s so excited about X-Men: First Class and the new Avengers movie – both of which he has a hand in! Kick-Ass is released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday, September 6.

Q. Kick-Ass had to be financed independently, away from the studio system. I would imagine that’s the best thing that could have happened to it?
Mark Millar: Oh god yeah… if this had been made the way my agent wanted it, it wouldn’t have turned out the way you see it today. He wanted me to go down the usual route – sell the movie rights, find studio funding, and get a director who does what the studio tells them to do. It would have come out and it would have been shit! When I looked at the notes they had, everything you could have imagined would have gone wrong. They didn’t want any of the violence, there were no deaths, no guns, no swearing, none of the sexual references and none of the masturbation scenes. It was Spider-Man but with no super-powers!

Fortunately, Matthew [Vaughn] said he’d find the financing himself. If I’d done that, I would probably have struggled to make £250 but he was able to raise $28 million – and he had Nicolas Cage on set weeks later! It was crazy. But I guess that’s what comes from having a good private education… that mad inner confidence [laughs].

Q. And you must be delighted with the results?
Mark Millar: It’s funny, when I was watching it at the premiere for the 300th time I thought how lucky it was that it all worked out in the way that it did. So many things could have gone wrong. But for a $28 million investment we got $100 million. Matthew got most of the profits, too, which is as it should be.

Q. Will the sequel be made in the same way?
Mark Millar: It will definitely be made in the same way – that’s the only way to make it because the sequel will be in eve worse taste [Laughs]!

Q. How much worse taste can you get?
Mark Millar: Well, it’s called Kick Ass 2: Balls To The Wall, so that pretty much sets the tone [laughs]! I’m writing it just now, in fact. But it’s funny, what I consider to be acceptable, other people would probably baulk at. But I write the kind of stuff that I want to see on the screen or in comic books… I start where other people tend to draw the line. So, with regards to the sequel… if the first movie was all about a boy becoming a super-hero; then the sequel is about Red Mist going from hero to super-villain and influencing a generation of super-villains. It’s gonna be like the Manson family or A Clockwork Orange!

Q. How hands-on and involved were you in the production of Kick-Ass?
Mark Millar: Oh, from start to finish Matthew was incredibly generous and collaborative. He said to me when we first started that he would have me involved every step of way and he was true to his word. I was involved in everything, from being consulted on every costume design, to set designs… he sent me audition tapes to look at and offer input and advice. So, in terms of being a producer on the movie I was very much a part of the creative process.

Q. Was Nicolas Cage always a first choice for Big Daddy?
Mark Millar: That was one that kind of wasn’t on my radar. Big Daddy wasn’t originally such a huge presence in the film. I was more concerned with Kick-Ass, Hit-Girl and Red Mist but, at the same time, we needed a big name. Nic brought so much of the coolness you now see. Prior to that, he was much more of a generic action hero. But Nicolas Cage brought that Adam West-type madness to it. A lot of the costume design and physical features came from Nic’s input… so much so that now I can’t imagine anyone but him playing that role. We actually went to Nicolas Cage first but he couldn’t do it at that time because he had so many projects he was already committed to. So, we then talked to Mark Wahlberg and Matthew McConaughey and eventually came back to him. I turned out, he’d been thinking about it in the meantime and was now interested.

Q. And of course he’s a huge comic book fan himself…
Mark Millar: I remember being on set the first day… there was myself, Matthew, Jane Goldman [Jonathan Ross’ wife] and Nicolas Cage and I turned to Nic and said: “I’m a huge fanboy, you own action comics.. it doesn’t get much more geeky than this!” But that’s what works about the film, in my opinion. It smacks of sincerity because everybody loves the genre and the source material. So, it was done with genuine respect and appreciation for what we were trying to achieve.

Q. How easy was it to find Chloe Moretz?
Mark Millar: Well, Matthew sent me up a bunch of links to different actresses he’d seen but I think Chloe was the first girl he saw and he knew he had her straight away. Matthew has such a great eye for casting. I remember the exact thing he said to me about her was that she was something akin to discovering Jodie Foster in 1976. He knew right away he was onto something special.

Kick-Ass

Q. Give the high quote of violence and swearing, what’s the most surprising reaction you had to Kick-Ass? Was there anything you didn’t expect?
Mark Millar: I would say that I actually expected it to be much worse! But I think it was shot in such a charming way, it’s almost impossible to take offence. The performances are so charming. Nevertheless, we still have a tiny little girl saying “c**t” [laughs]. And yet still we had so many insanely good reviews – except the Daily Mail, of course, which described it as ‘evil’ ad gave it no stars. But we expected that – and I’m a Daily Mail reader myself. In the US, there was Roger Ebert who came out against us, too, but he belongs to a different generation, I guess, so fair enough.

Q. Do you think the success of Kick-Ass will now prompt many pale imitators?
Mark Millar: I think so, yeah, because anytime something becomes a success in this way you always get imitators. I’m an imitator of the guys I love. I imitate people like Frank Miller, who is a huge inspiration to me. And Kick-Ass owes a lot to Batman: Year One.

Q. Given that you have fingers in so many pies, you must be incredibly busy at the moment! Do you ever find time to rest?
Mark Millar: I kind of am, aren’t I [Laughs]? And yet I’m always on Twitter, or updating my web page, so I kind of feel like a slacker sometimes. But my mind’s always on it. I love it so much. In fact, I’ve only recently realised that I haven’t been paid for four months. I just get caught up in it all because I love it so much.

Q. So, what’s the latest with X-Men: First Class? How involved are you with that?
Mark Millar: I’m only really involved with X-Men: First Class as Matthew’s mate. They start filming in August. I’m going to jump right into Kick-Ass 2. But I also have a book called Superior coming out and another of my comics, Nemesis, is being turned into a film at the end of the year. Matthew is going to do Superior or Kick-Ass 2 next. He will produce one and direct the other; although I think Kick-Ass 2 will take precedence because we want to get the actor’s while they’re still young.

Q. Are you involved with The Avengers movie?
Mark Millar: Only in the sense that I know they’re using some of my stuff from the Ultimate Avengers. I know there’s a lot of my stuff being used in the Captain America movie too, which is cool. There’s a Marvel brain trust, in which they have writers go and chat to producers, directors and filmmakers about various things. But I’ve been too busy to go to any of that stuff at the moment.

Q. Comic book movie adaptations are thriving at the moment… what’s exciting you looking forward?
Mark Millar: Well, I have to be honest and say that this summer feels a bit to me like 2007, when I was looking forward to a lot of stuff that hasn’t actually been that good. 2008, however, was an awesome year because we had The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and The Dark Knight. And I think 2010 is shaping up to be the same as 2008. There are 10 films I can’t wait to see.

Q. Which are?
Mark Millar: I’m really excited about X-Men: First Class. I know a lot of details that haven’t been released and it sounds brilliant. I think The Green Lantern will also be good, especially with Mark Strong playing Sinestro. I’m also optimistic for Captain America. It’s a harder sell, but I’m curious to see what they do. There are so many things next year. And the following year there’s Batman 3, the Spider-Man reboot, The Avengers movie. It’s a great time to be a geek! I cannot believe how lucky we are to be living in this time. My brain would have exploded if this had been happening when I was 16!

Q. What makes comic books so enduring? And why are they so strong at the moment?
Mark Millar: I just think it’s because they’re so good: I mean, would you rather see a super soldier battling Nazis or something more serious? Or lesbians down a coal mine? Generally, the films are engaging in the same way as the comics are. It’s no coincidence that the biggest movies of the last 10 years are genre-related, whether it’s Lord of the Rings or comic books. It offers a mine of ideas that I don’t feel cinema does generally. People bemoan 1977 and the dawn of the blockbuster with Jaws. But I celebrate it. If a film costs $200 million to make and I can see and enjoy it for £10, I consider that a worthwhile investment, particularly as a Scotsman [laughs].

Kick-Ass is released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday, 6 September through Universal Pictures.