In terms of this year's most highly-anticipated comic book-themed movies, there are few that rank higher than Kick-Ass. Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.'s comic book of the same name is at once a satire and a tribute to funny books, brought to life by a cast that includes Nicolas Cage, Mark Strong, Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.
Cinematical attended a press conference featuring director Matthew Vaughn, actors Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and comic creators Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. In addition to talking about those tough challenges getting the film made and then distributed, Moretz offered insights about bonding with her on-screen daddy, played by Nicolas Cage, and Vaughn and Millar examined the film's storytelling structure, which focuses on the ensemble rather than simply staying with the title character.
You went through some considerable challenges securing financing for Kick-Ass. How emboldened were you after the Comic-Con preview was so well-received?
Matthew Vaughn: Yeah, it was a scary time and we hadn't shown anything to anyone. We were very much the underdogs and to go on after Avatar was like suicide. But it played great and we all believed in the movie. When we made Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels we had exactly the same journey. We couldn't anyone to finance it. We made the film and we couldn't get any distribution, even when it was finished. Luckily we didn't' have that problem on this film but we believed in it. We knew we'd made something special. Just every day of filming was unique. All the people on this table, there was no ulterior motive apart from making a good film. No one was stalking us, no one was interfering. More movies should be made like that. A lot of the films that we all have to watch and sadly are pretty crap would have probably been much better if a filmmaker was allowed just to get on and do it.
Did you have a full cut assembled at the time you previewed footage at Comic-con?
Vaughn: Yeah, we screened a cut two days later and then got distribution.
Chloe, can you talk about developing a relationship with Nicolas?
Chloe Moretz: It was kind of just very natural, you know? He's such a cool, nice guy and from the moment I met him I was so starstruck to meet him because, well, he's an Oscar winner and he's Nicolas Cage! Every actor looks up to him, and just being able to work with him, and being able to have a relationship like that with him, father and daughter, is amazing, and it just came so naturally.
Each action scene has its own personality. What specifically did you want to convey with each of them?
Vaughn: How many times have you seen the film? You seem to know it better than me (laughs). But you're correct. I think action is being shot - dare I say it? I think most modern action movies become really dull and boring, the way that when I'm watching them on DVD, I start fast forwarding action scenes. Before I used to fast forward dialogue scenes. I think it's because the style of quick editing, shaking the camera around and trying to put fake energy into an action scene is boring. Also there's no narrative. So I decided I wanted to do action in which you knew what was going on - you set up geography, you set up characters so you related to what was happening and cared whether someone won or lost. More importantly, I wanted to make each action scene unique because I think it gets a bit boring. If Aaron had a different fighting style to Chloe to wanting her to be like a video game one time, making it more Hong Kong style in the corridor sequence or when we're shooting Nic Cage doing it all in one take. I thought let's just try and make each action scene get better and more interesting.
Why did you choose The Spirit 3 for the marquee at the movie theater the characters visit?
Vaughn: Lionsgate is fast tracking it at the moment (laughs). Originally we did have Spider-Man 10 or 12 or something, and Sony weren't happy about that. So we were working with a studio who's got a bit more liberal minded open point of view.
Mark Millar: Do you remember we were talking about having a trailer inside the film and the idea was going to be that whatever studio got it, we'd get exclusive footage and have the guys watching that. I thought that would've been really cool. I just remembered that right night.
Vaughn: You're right. We did think that. Whoever bought the movie, we assumed would have a superhero film so we thought we have a scene where all the different characters are in the same cinema watching a superhero movie. So you have the goons looking bored or Frank or Mark Strong looking bored while Red Mist, everyone's just sitting in different areas in the cinema all interacting to a superhero film, but the studios weren't interested in the movie, let alone giving us footage.
Was the 3-D comic book 'Big Daddy' sequence always part of the plan of the design of the film?
John Romita Jr.: This is where being Sicilian comes into play. You threaten enough people and you get things done. Matthew's idea to do an homage to the comic in the literal sense is what started it. Then he just said do a strip that we'll animate. That was pretty much it. They picked out the spot that they wanted and it sounded simple. It took a long time to get it to where Matthew liked.
Vaughn: It took way too long, didn't it? Jesus, f*ck. We thought it would be finished a year ago. I was trying to make it look good in the sense of the idea of bringing a comic to life is a lot harder than we thought it was.
Romita Jr.: I think the problem was animating a two dimensional drawing. It ended up being a little more difficult than anybody expected. What it should have been was three dimensional from beginning to end and it got to be a difficult task even for these experienced animators.
Vaughn: And also, originally the idea was it was just too expensive to start trying to make Nic look young and finding a young girl and stuff. I hate having different actors play the role so we thought it'd be a cool idea. I think it paid off. We only finished that about two-three weeks ago.
Can you talk about figuring out the structure of the movie? Because even though Kick-Ass is obviously the focus of the story, it feels like his arc is resolved at a certain point, and then the rest opens up sort of exponentially about the world that his decision to become a hero creates.
Vaughn: Well, his arc's not really resolved until the end because the movie starts with him saying, "why does nobody help people," and halfway through he realizes that people don't help people because if you help someone, you have something to lose. And then in the end, he says, well, I have something to lose but I still want to go and help someone, and that's his arc. But he's more like Luke Skywalker in the sense that he's a nerd who gets trained up and then has to go off and do the final mission. So that's – wouldn't you say that's your arc?
Millar: I know what you mean, though, because something we talked about, remember, when we were settling in the edits and in a normal movie you're with Luke all of the way from Tatooine to the blowing up the Death Star. I wish I didn't know these names, but it's true (laughs). You're with Luke for his entire journey, but there's like five minutes or 10 minutes where you don't see him [Kick-Ass] when Dave goes off screen, and I suppose we were struggling with that a little because it's a chapter like the way a comic is done more like a book where you may not see the lead character for a chapter and then he comes back, so the introduction of Hit Girl and Big Daddy is the way we do that seamlessly. The hospital just seemed like the best time to kind of close Dave off for a moment and then go back to him later.
Vaughn: Yeah, but I think he's saying halfway through the. I think also it's a multi-character film. I mean, look at the poster, and that sort of sums it up.
Millar: It is an ensemble, isn't it?
Vaughn: Yeah, and I think it's more interesting to have more than one central character.