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Kick-Ass – Tarquin Pack interview

Kick-Ass

Interview by Rob Carnevale

TARQUIN Pack talks about some of the challenges of producing Kick-Ass, working with director Matthew Vaughn and casting Chloe Moretz as Hit-Girl. He also discusses, albeit briefly, a Kick-Ass sequel and X-Men: First Class.

Q. Thanks for talking to us… Kick Ass is undoubtedly one of the movies of the year. So, how does it feel to be sitting here now with that in mind, given how hard you had to work to get it made outside of the studio system?
Tarquin Pack: Amazing… it’s incredible. You feel a tremendous sense of vindication, I guess. Everybody told us ‘no’ and that we couldn’t do it, but we didn’t listen. And we were right. I guess it would have felt really shit if they had been right. But one of my favourite things to have achieved, as well, is just how broad the movie plays to audiences. It was always kind of obvious to us that we’d get a young male audience, but one of the things we managed to achieve is that it also plays really well to women.

That’s another of the things that makes me so proud about it. It has a much broader range than people give it credit for. I mean, the one-Iine pitch is a bunch of kids pretending to be superheroes, including an 11-year-old girl who has knives and swears. Taken on that level, it’s not the type of film you’d take your mum to go and see. But I took my mum and she absolutely loved it. And when I asked if she was just saying that because of my involvement, she insisted that she really did love it and told all of her friends to go and see it [laughs].

Q. So, with hindsight, was that the best thing that could have happened to the film… making it outside of the studio system?
Tarquin Pack: Yeah, without a doubt. We might have been able to make it with a studio but it wouldn’t have been the film you see today. It’s just one of those weird things, though… by the time we completed the movie and they all saw it, everyone loved it. But these were the same people who didn’t love it before-hand. And, in particular, they didn’t like Hit-Girl. It wasn’t even so much the morality thing… all they cared about was whether or not people would go and see the movie. They were absolutely adamant that the key audience would not go and see a movie in which a 12-year-old girl is killing people… that young boys wouldn’t think it was cool. But I’m not an entirely ancient male and it wasn’t that long ago I was a part of that demographic, and I’m pretty sure I would have thought it was cool back then. I think it’s really cool. They suggested making her 18 and doing it, but we said ‘no’ because that would be a totally different movie. Not, sure enough, they’re saying things like: “You should have had more Hit Girl…” Or: “Can we have a Hit Girl spin off?” [Laughs]

Q. So just how easy was it getting Hit Girl right? I mean, you can see the concerns. Hollywood needs to take more risks, but there were many ways in which this could have gone wrong?
Tarquin Pack: Luckily, my job isn’t to put that level of nuance into the movie, I guess that’s testament to the job that Matthew [Vaughn] did as director. Tonally, this film had to tread such a fine line – one degree either way and we could have gone wrong. If it was a little bit softer, then the studios would have been right and it wouldn’t have appealed to the hardcore male audience… they would have turned their backs. If we’d gone harder, it would have been uncomfortable for the vast majority of people. But Matthew managed to get the tone spot on. I’m not saying it’s perfect, and there will be bits people like and don’t like about it, but somehow he managed to persuade the vast majority, and I still don’t know quite how, that something that’s really, really wrong can be so right and really enjoyable too.

Q. So how is your relationship with Matthew progressing now that you’ve worked on so many movies together?
Tarquin Pack: Well, I’ve been working with him for a while now. I worked on a couple of his producing projects and then he asked me to come and work with him on Layer Cake as his assistant kind of person. I was doing everything then, though, because we had no money. I’d pick him up, etc, and worked all day… Then he got X-Men 3 and he asked me to come and work with him on that. So, it built from there. For some reason, he thought he could trust me to watch his back and to help make sure that everything got done on time and in budget. For me, the key role of a producer is to make sure the director gets what they want and to protect his stand point. There will always come a point when you have to step in and say something can’t be done, usually because we can’t afford it. But the key thing is to back the director’s vision and to try and get him what he needs. I guess I’ve been doing that well enough over the years for him to want to continue working with me.

Q. So, does the success of Kick-Ass, and the way you achieved it, give you more power moving forward. Will you have more wriggle room going into X-Men: First Class to bring your own ideas and take some risks?
Tarquin Pack: For me as a producer, probably not… but for Matthew as a director, that’s the reason Fox signed on. Obviously, we’re not making an extreme X-Men movie; it’s not going to be a Kick-Ass version of X-Men. But Fox obviously saw what kind of sensibility we brought to the movie and want us to bring that to this one. But I think it’s the same with all of Matthew’s films… as you start off, you look at the film and think that it’s clearly going to go left… but then he turns right or at least jinks left, and then turns right. I think that’s what makes his films interesting. He has a quirky sensibility and a different way of approaching things. And I think you’ll see that same approach with X-Men: First Class.

Q. Will you also be involved in the Kick-Ass sequel?
Tarquin Pack: If the story is right and we can see a way of doing it brilliantly, then yes. We’re certainly talking to Mark Millar about it all the time. But Mark’s so unbelievably talented that I’m sure he’ll come up with something equally appealing.

Q. So, what’s the most pleasing and/or surprising reaction you’ve had to Kick-Ass?
Tarquin Pack: To be honest, the moment that I will always treasure, came while we were in the United States, when we were taking the film to Comic-Con. We were shown the schedule and we were on after Avatar and we just thought: “Fuck… game over, man. We may as well go and drink some lager and cross our fingers and hope for the best…” But then two really funny things happened. We did the run through and we weren’t happy with the set up of the projection. We were told that James Cameron had just checked it and that it was OK, but we said it was wrong.

Matthew is obsessed with technical perfection, and he’d noticed a very, very slight flicker, so our guy disappeared off round back and liaised with everyone… I mean the whole of Dolby were there with all their technical experts. But we insisted and Eddie disappeared off and eventually got it re-wired. It turned out they had the cables crossed over! So, we made Avatar’s screening better for them! So, then Avatar screened and the crowd went wild and, again, we thought we were in so much trouble. But the response was amazing. I mean, there’s something like 15,000 people there, so to sit there and watch them basically just completely lose their minds… they went mental. We got a standing ovation, people were cheering and we were like: “Oh right, they like it.”

But then you get so blind-sided when making a movie because it’s such an introspective process. You can become obsessed with what you’re doing and it’s easy to disappear up your own arse. But there comes a point where you have to show it to other people… we thought what we’d done was good, but we could have been wrong. So, to get that response and know that we were all drinking the same Cool-Aid was just fucking amazing.

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