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Rail-thin Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his nonconformist gal pal Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz) don’t fight alone. As the bone-crunching sequel Kick-Ass 2 finds its grooves, several new crime fighters take to the dirty streets in homemade costumes to help put waves of criminals in their place. Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), Doctor Gravity (Donald Faison) and Battle Guy (Clark Duke) are just three of the new faces Kick-Ass fans can see on the screen.
Off screen, however, director Jeff Wadlow is the new “kid” on the block. Wadlow replaced departing director Matthew Vaughn, impressing Kick-Ass co-creators Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. enough to win the sequel gig. Wadlow’s film went on to earn a decent $13.5 million over its opening weekend, and the director took time to open up to us about his comic-book roots, writing for his bad guys, and why real life hurts … even when you’re a pretend superhero:
Who was your favorite comic-book hero growing up? Who did you read religiously?
I was pretty down the middle. I read Marvel’s stuff, but I was also collecting, during that crazy time in the 1990s, the books from Valiant and Image. I have all of those Image variant covers, which aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on anymore. But it was a fun time. Unfortunately, financially, it burned me out. When I finished college, and I’d just graduated and was broke, I stopped cold turkey because I couldn’t afford it. So I really enjoyed, over the past few years, reading older issues that I missed during that window. And I read them on my iPad. I love Marvel’s app, comiXology … I think they are so much fun and easy. I do miss the collectability of buying the individual issues. But it’s a great way to quickly catch up what is going on.
With regards to Kick-Ass 2, you took over from Matthew Vaughn, and had input from Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. At one point did you finally start to feel like these characters you were writing and directing actually belonged to you?
Well, as both the writer and director, I feel that it happened in two ways. There were two phases to it. In the writing, I had to get to a place where I felt that I was at least in their heads. I had to get their voices. Once you do that, you’re really quite connected to them. I especially enjoyed writing Chris [Mintz-Plasse]. I kept thinking, “Isn’t it fun being bad? Who really wants to be a hero?” [Laughs] There’s a line that I wrote very early on, and it’s still in the movie, where his character goes, “What’s the point of wearing a mask if you can’t do what you want?” And I thought, “Yeah! That’s right!”
So I got in their heads pretty quickly, because you have to. Once I had my initial meetings with Chris and Aaron and Chloe, it was still very much their thing, or very much Matthew Vaughn’s thing. Once we started rehearsing, or maybe the first time that they got into costume and we started talking about what we wanted to do with this movie … that’s when we came together and finally felt like this is our time.
Is one of the differences the fact that Aaron’s character, Dave, has more confidence in the suit?
You know, that’s interesting, because marketing materials are very funny. There are these images in the trailers and posters that show Aaron with his shirt off, and he looks so buff. All I heard was, “Oh, they turned Kick-Ass into an action hero!” But what they don’t understand is that that’s the last shot in the movie. His journey in this film is literally, still, going from zero to hero. By the end of this movie, he really is the real deal.
It’s interesting because, in these second chapters, we often see our hero suddenly cocky, and a little drunk on their powers and abilities. But they all get torn down. It’s inevitable. Does Kick--Ass get torn down in this movie?
Oh yeah. I promise you, there’s not other superhero movie that is as hard on its characters as we are. We put them through the wringer.
OK, tell me … why?
I think that’s what Kick-Ass does. It wants to be truthful. It wants to create authentic moments. That’s where the humor comes from. That’s where the intense action comes from. This isn’t PG, safe action. If you are going to get into a fight, you are going to get home. And in the real world, you lose people who you care about. There are no rules. There’s no karma, no Robert McKee story structure paradigm that’s being placed on your life. Bad shit happens, and it hurts. It breaks your heart. And we do that to our characters.
It’s a weird thing, though, to talk about realism with this movie, you know? Because this movie is not realistic! Like, at all. But what we are saying is, “If you were a superhero in the real world, it wouldn’t play out the way you think it would. People aren’t playing by superhero rules, just because you want to play superhero.” And then we follow that idea to absurd extremes.
Jeff Wadlow’s Kick-Ass 2 currently is in theaters.