When director Matthew Vaughn presented scenes from his upcoming film, “Kick Ass,” at Comic-Con International this year, it’s true to say the movie really lived up to its name. The clips were given a standing ovation, and the seven thousand-plus fans in the audience demanded that the footage be shown again.
“Kick-Ass” is based on the popular Icon Comics series created by superstar writer Mark Millar and legendary artist John Romita Jr., about an ordinary teenager with no superpowers who decides to put on a costume and fight crime. The movie, which was made by Vaughn with no studio backing, was recently picked up by Lionsgate and will be released sometime next year. “Kick-Ass” stars Aaron Johnson as David Lizewski (a.k.a. Kick-Ass) and features Christopher Mintz-Plasse (“Superbad”) as his sidekick, The Red Mist; Nicolas Cage (“Ghost Rider”) as Big Daddy; and Chloe Moretz (“The Amityville Horror”) as the deadly Hit-Girl.
Vaughn is no stranger to comic book films, having directed the live-action adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “Stardust,” which he co-wrote with “Kick-Ass” screenwriter Jane Goldman.
CBR News had the opportunity to sit down with Vaughn and Goldman at last month’s Comic-Con International in San Diego. The two spoke honestly about “Kick-Ass,” collaborating with Mark Millar, what it’s like to make a movie without a studio’s assistance, the future of comic book films, and when fans might be able to read the final issues of the comic book.
CBR: Matthew, you made “Kick-Ass” without any outside financial backing. How did you pull that off?
MATTHEW VAUGHN: I keep a few things under my mattress. No, I raised the money. Every studio turned it down and that really pissed me off. I’m like, “Guys, this is a really good script and its going to make a good film.” They weren’t interested. I had the same experience when I was producing “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.” Everybody said no and that they weren’t interested. So I said, you know what, I’m going to try it again.
We made this for probably half the money a studio would have made this for. Which is good, though, because it makes you think out of the box. There are a lot of things I wanted to do which we couldn’t afford and then you come up with better ideas and how to actually execute it. I’m lucky enough that I’ve made a lot of money so I don’t have to work anymore. “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Snatch” made us enough money that I am in a privileged position so that I can choose what is right for me.
I think that making a movie has got to be a labor of love. Every film I’ve done has been and I think that’s why they’ve been successful, because I did it because I wanted to make the film and not because I wanted to make money doing it. I wanted to make money but that wasn’t my driving [motivation]. I’ll do this for free! I did do it for free!
What was the genesis of the “Kick-Ass” film? Were you writing the script while Mark Millar was writing the comic book?
MV: Yes. We wrote the script and the comic at the same time so it was a very sort of collaborative, organic process. I met him at the premiere of “Stardust.” We got on really well. I knew who he was and what he had done but I didn’t know him. He pitched me the idea. I said, “That’s great!” He then wrote a synopsis. I went, “That’s great, let’s go do it now! You write the comic, I’ll write the script.” And we just kept in contact and we got it done. He’ll probably say something absolutely different but that is the truth.
Jane, is it difficult adapting another writer’s work, as apposed to writing something completely original?
JANE GOLDMAN: No, I love working on adaptations. It was a really interesting challenge and it was something I really loved doing. This was a unique one because Mark hadn’t finished it when we started, but he was unbelievably generous as long as we didn’t kill off anyone he wanted to write into the next volume. He was incredibly collaborative and I’m so grateful for that. But obviously it was awesome because the guy’s a legend.
It’s unusual for a film to be in production before the first arc of the book is fully released. Will the final issues of “Kick-Ass” be published before the film is out?
JG: Yeah, I think it’s mainly two issues left but it may possibly be after [the film comes out] because John Romita, Jr. has been working on the animated sequence that has been taking up a lot of his time. Mark’s done, obviously, but yeah, the comic’s not out yet.
Are there and major differences between the end of the screenplay and the end of the first arc of the comic book?
JG: I haven’t seen the last issue but as I gather from Mark, it’s pretty close.
Matthew, as a director, your name has been thrown around a lot of comic book properties over the years. “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “Thor,” for example, and obviously “Stardust” and now this. How do you feel about the comic book medium and what attracts you to it?
MV: I like comic books. I knew I wanted to make movies that I wanted to go watch and I’ve always loved superhero comic book movies. So, you aren’t going to see me doing “Schindler’s List” or something like that.
What are some of your favorite comic book movies?
MV: I’ve got to say Tim Burton’s “Batman” totally transformed the way I looked at [comic book movies]. The original “Superman” Recently I liked “Iron Man” a lot. I really liked “The Dark Knight.” I really thought “The Dark Knight” was good. There’s a lot of crap I’ve had to watch as well.
Do you feel that Hollywood is over saturating the superhero genre, that the bubble is going to burst on comic book movies or do you think that comic book films are here to stay?
MV: I think comic book movies are, but remember “Road to Perdition” was a comic book movie so there’s a wide genre. I think the superhero films that Hollywood has been churning out have had their day and I think “Iron Man,” “The Dark Knight,” “Watchmen” and now “Kick-Ass” are moving it away from, “Hey, I’m a superhero. I’m going to save the world, and … some Hollywood crap.” I think the genre is changing and it has to change. The studios will either realize that and if they don’t then there won’t be comic book movies because they haven’t adapted to what the audience wants.
“Kick-Ass” hits theatres in 2010.