Interview: Mark Millar & Jeff Wadlow Talk ‘Kick-Ass 2′, Jim Carrey Controversy, Upcoming Projects and More
Posted on Thursday, July 25th, 2013 by Peter Sciretta
When I sat down to do my Kick-Ass 2 interview at Comic-Con, I was only expecting to talk to director Jeff Wadlow. But when I looked up from hitting the record button on my recorder, I was surprised to see Kick-Ass creator/writer Mark Millar also sitting at the table.
Mark Millar: Hi, I’m Mark.
Peter Sciretta: Mark! Hi, I didn’t know you were going to be here.
MM: I didn’t plan to actually, it was very last minute.
Slash Film: Cool. So are you guys having a good time at Comic Con?
MM: It’s actually been really nice, yeah. Is this your first Comic Con?
Jeff Wadlow: No, this will be my seventh one.
MM: Are you serious?
JW: Yeah. No I was down here one year as a fan and I made my first movie and I got the call from Universal that they were going to release it theatrically. I was on the convention floor when I got the call, then the next year I did a panel in Hall H for that movie and I was up there on that panel with the cast and I said “A year ago I was out there with you guys and a year later here I am with my movie” and I thought all of the questions would be for the cast and literally every question was some version of “Can you tell me exactly what got you there and do not skip any steps. I’m taking notes.”
Slash Film: It’s very cool that you have been coming here, before… It seems like a lot of the talent here only comes here to promote a project and doesn’t see or understand whats going outside of that stage….
JW: Even for this Universal is like “Don’t worry, you only have to be there on Friday.” I was like “So you’re going to pay for my hotel room from Wednesday to Sunday?” They were like “Yeah.” “Then I will be there from Wednesday to Sunday!”
Slash Film: So I guess we should start from the beginning. How different is this from your book, the sequel?
MM: I’d say as much as the first film. Where it could be improved it gets improved.
JW: I think “improved” is the wrong word. I think it’s a disservice to your book. What Mark said to me, and my hats off to you Mark as it shows what a humble guy he is. He said, “Look, you’ve got to make your movie.” I thought what he said was really smart. He said “Comic books and movies are different mediums” and certainly as a filmmaker… I mean it seems obvious to say, but yeah I have access to music and real people where Mark is dealing with representations of real people and so Mark and John have to do things to create emotional responses in the reader and they have to use different tools than I would have to use to create the same emotional response, because I have different tools.
MM: I think comics are limited to roughly four panels a page on average, so it has to be impactful all the time, like you don’t have a chance to have a quiet moment. I know you can, but not in the same way. So I think the book has two moments whereas in the movie there’s… because that person’s paid fifteen bucks and they are staying there for the full duration, but if you reading it then you have to bombard them with cool and exciting things all of the time. So I think he probably streamlined that a bit with the movie where you could just relax and let it flow at its own pace a little more.
Slash Film: And you appear in the film along with John, right?
MM: Actually I didn’t. I was dressed up as a ninja, but I got a call that I had to take and I think when you were coming up with the… You see my legs actually.
JW: You get very mixed messages from Mark. Mark is like “I don’t do cameos in my movies.” Then he’s there and I’m like “You want to be in it?” He puts on a costume, then it comes time to shoot his shot and he’s outside on the phone. I’m like… I still couldn’t tell if he wanted to be in the movie or not.
MM: When I go see a movie and I know someone who is in the film and I see them it ruins the movie for me a little bit. I know it sounds silly, but it pulls me out of the magic of the film. You’re watching the film and thinking “Here’s a part of a universe I’m getting a glimpse of” but then it’s “What are they doing here?” It throws you out of the movie a little bit and I know that sounds ridiculous, right. I know my family would have the movie ruined for them if I were in it. They’d be like “Hang on. This is a Hollywood film, what are you doing in it and I think it destroy the… So what I always try to do is get my name in it instead. This is my lame cameo, but with this one I have my name at the very end on a little plaque on a door at the end of the movie. In Kick-Ass you saw the close up of the comic as it pans past and then in Kick-Ass 2 there’s the most insane subliminal advertising where we’ve got all of my books all over the movie. When you watch the movie you will be shocked. It’s shameless, like every book I’ve ever done is on a wall in somebody’s bedroom or in an alley or something, places you would never get…
JW: The funny thing about that is it’s not shameless promotion, those are the only images we could afford to get.
JW: So we are like “We need something here. Does Mark have any more books?”
Slash Film: That’s great. I have to bring up how Jim Carrey publicly withdrew his support from the film. Did he read the script?
JW: Here’s the thing about Jim and here’s why he is a big movie star and why I loved working with him, you never know what that guy is going to do or say. That’s why we love him and I have incredible respect for him, but you never know what he’s going to do or say and for that reason he is fantastic in the movie and I encourage everyone to see the movie and see how great he is in it and you know, decide for themselves.
MM: I would say he almost steals the movie. I mean he’s so good. You realize why these guys were getting like twenty million dollars a movie. Same with Nic Cage in the first one. I was on set every day and you would see the actors doing their thing and they were great and then Nic Cage comes in and does the Adam West routine completely out of nowhere, no one knows this is coming, and you’re like “Holy shit” where he delivers something you’re not expecting. It’s the same whenever Jim Carrey is on as well. We were sitting in the edit suite looking at it after you had been shooting. Even the raw stuff looked incredible like “This guy is amazing,” and weirdly I think he’s done us the most amazing favor. This is the thing nobody is saying, but…
Slash Film: He’s getting you a lot of publicity.
MM: This is a thirty million dollar movie that’s had more exposure in the last two months after everything. I mean we’ve been on Good Morning America and in the UK, the middle of nowhere where I live, people are like “There’s an eight minute slot where they just talked about Kick-Ass 2 on BBC Breakfast Time in the Morning.” I mean the bean counters at Universal reckon this has been about five million dollars worth of publicity this has given us, which is awesome. That’s the whole PR budget essentially. So I’m going to disassociate myself from the next movie I do.
Slash Film: It’s interesting, because Kick-Ass was such a great film and I feel like everybody I know enjoyed the film and then it came out and it didn’t do as well as everybody thought it was going to. And no one thought that the sequel was actually going to happen, but now it’s here. How did it all happen?
MM: We knew it was happening. Being a noobie, I mean I’m completely new to all of this. I mean you guys are all fans, but I have my comics and I really stumbled into films with some adapting, but Mathew and I obviously were talking about sequels like in 2010, way back. Mathew says “I found the guy for the sequel,” so I knew there was a sequel and when people would interview me I knew… Mathew was like “You can’t go and tell people we are doing the sequel now.” I said “Why not?” He says, “You build the audience up and pretend you’re not doing it and then you get your deal from the studio and you have them think you’re not going to do it, because if you say you’re going to do it then the studio won’t give you as good a deal.”
I didn’t know this was the game, same with Jon Favreau and Iron Man. So it’s like “Of course you’re doing a sequel to that. It just made seven hundred million dollars” and the same thing with Batman as well, they pretend they’re not doing it and then you surprise everyone with a great announcement. I was an idiot like “Of course, we were talking about it last night…”
Slash Film: How did you get involved?
JW: I got involved because I had a pitch for another property.
Slash Film: What film was that?
JW: It’s called Bloodshot. Then Mathew went to go do X-Men, so I wrote the script and he loved the script and called me up. He said “The script is great. Are you going to do what you say you’re going to do?” “Yeah.” “You want to do Kick-Ass 2?” “Yeah.” Even without a deal I just wrote it and took a big leap of faith. So I wrote the Kick-Ass 2 script on spec after having a bunch of conversations with Mathew. I think he was surprised, but I just wanted to grab the bull by the horns.
Slash Film: People don’t usually do that in Holylwood.
MM: You never told me you did it on spec. That’s hilarious.
JW: And Mathew liked it and Mark liked it and so we were off to the races.
MM: It was great. It was pretty much right out of the gate perfect, which is funny because we thought “An American…” The first one was four years before the movie came out where Mathew came to me. He likes to start things and then move on to the next and we were talking… We thought Kick-Ass was a super hero movie with a British accent, but you totally nailed it just coming in right away. It just felt like part 2, better and better. It didn’t feel like suddenly there was a…
JW: I think it’s more of an attitude than a cultural point of view, because look you’re a Scot and he’s a Brit, I’m an American, but I think it’s just an attitude that we all share a point of view where you want to go for the emotion. It’s not a complete parody. It’s not a complete satire. It has authentic emotion and authentic stakes, but at the same time we are taking the piss out of the genre and I think all three of us share that sensibility where we want to feel something real. We want to have sincere moments, but we also want to under cut them when we can.
MM: But Tarantino does that so brilliantly. To me he is my favorite filmmaker just in the sense that you will be laughing and then suddenly… hits the back of a car and you’re like… To never let the audience laugh is the trick, isn’t it? I remember with our first comic in 2007 I remember thinking “How would Tarrantino do a superhero comic?” That was my little thing in my head for when I was doing it, so that you never got comfortable. When it’s funny, it’s funny, and then when it’s scary he’s getting his legs broken in the first act… Jeff carried that seamlessly. You haven’t seen the movie yet, have you?
Slash Film: No I haven’t. I haven’t even seen the trailer yet that they’ve debuted. I’ve been running around doing interviews, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far. All these people must have seen it and liked it, because you’re attached to a bunch of stuff. People are talking X-Force and now this Go Fast?
JW: I’ve been really fortunate in the last couple of weeks. I was away in London for a year making the movie. So to come back to Hollywood and back to Los Angeles and have the community really excited about the film and excited about other movies I’m excited about was really rewarding, but the truth is I owe a lot of it to Mark. X-Force is something I’m incredibly passionate about and without his support it wouldn’t be happening.
Slash Film: I just ran into Rob on the street on the way over here. That’s a book that I’ve read for years and it’s never been super heavy on storytelling, but the imagery has always been there and Ii feel very cinematic.
JW: Oh yeah. I love the current incarnation, Uncanny X-Force. I love what Rob did in the nineties. I remember buying X-Force #1 and what I’ve really loved about the announcement that we are working on the movie is how excited people are by the potential, but also how curious they are like “What’s the line up?” What’s interesting with X-Men, I mean they have an iconic lineup, so you know who is going to be in that movie. But X-Force it’s like “Who is it going to be?” I love that people are guessing.
MM: People are going to be dissecting every name as it gets released, so it’s will be so cool when you have your five.
Slash Film: So who’s in the line up?
Slash Film: And Go Fast, what is that?
JW: I’m not writing that, I’m writing X-Force. Go Fast is a project I’m attached to direct. It’s about the boats that take cocaine from Colombia to the Dominican Republic and they travel like a hundred miles per hour. They are invisible to radar and they are filled with three hundred million dollars worth of cocaine and fuel. They basically go for forty-eight hours straight to make the trip and the DEA can’t stop them, because they are invisible to radar, because they are moving so fast and are so small. This is true.
They brought in a special task force, Foreign Deployed Assisted Support Team, so they call it a “FAST Team” and I’m like “That’s too good to be true.” They are taking the war on drugs to the source and this is a real organization. They do things like go to Afghanistan and burn down opium fields. They are pretty hardcore, so it’s just a fun way to tell an action movie in the Dominican republic with guns and boats. I mean one thing I loved about Fast Five is The Rock, right? I’m interested in him and the team he has. I’m kind of over the criminals who have to be convinced to be the good guys again, I’m like “Tell me the story about the good guys” and that’s what Go Fast has.
Slash Film: That’s cool, and you’re attached to… I mean if I had a list of stuff it would go on forever.
MM: It’s kind of weird. Whenever I write something and somebody comes along and picks it up and is going to make it at some point… I’m lucky. I don’t have any sort of contacts. I’ve only been in LA three times in my life.
Slash Film: Really?
MM: Yeah, I hate travelling. I like being at home and I do most of my stuff by phone and everything. I’m just lucky I guess that if I do something it tends to be commercial. Who knows, I mean what’s the difference between a script with a…
JW: This is Mark creating the appearance of false humility again. I got to jump in. As a filmmaker, the reason why everything Mark does gets set up or someone wants to turn it into a movie is because his voice is just incredible and his work just leaps off the page. You read it and you’re like “Oh, this is a movie.” Any idiot can look at his stuff and see the potential to tell a massive cinematic story.
MM: I’ve never understood the difference between mine and the other creator owned things, because they all have the same three act structure and all of that.
JW: You have bigger ideas. It all comes down to ideas.
MM: Maybe it’s the simplicity.
Slash Film: You have high concept ideas, but you always have a different take on it. I’ve never seen something like Kick-Ass 2…
MM: I guess that’s because I come at it from a different place, because I’m not an American maybe. Yeah, it’s weird. I mean it’s good, I’m not complaining. I’m delighted.
Slash Film: So what’s next for you then?
MM: Well Mathew and I have Secret Service with Jane Goldman coming back, which is really exciting.
Slash Film: I like her a lot.
MM: She is such a great writer. Working with her where she is writing the screenplay is kind of like being on a football team and lacing up the boots where you think “She’s going to knock…” So she and Mathew have done it. It’s all written now and they start shooting in five weeks or something. All the cast is done. Michael Caine is the head of this spy organization. Colin Firth is the senior guy and a new young guy coming in who’s [unintelligible]. So it’s My Fair Lady meets James Bond. It’s… I don’t know what Americans would call it, but a chav, the street kids, somebody who’s a kind of hoodie or something. It’s a scummy kid who’s being trained to be a British gentleman spy.
And then there’s also Superior as well, it’s about a kid who has multiple sclerosis who gets a magic wish and his magic wish is to be his favorite big screen super hero, so that’s like a magic wish Spielberg-y adventure with a Richard Donner-y vibe to it.
Slash Film: That is cool.
MM: And the book came out about two years ago or something. Mathew got the rights about three years ago. Mathew, when he gets these deals is incredible. He’s like “I’ll have that one and that one” and the cash doesn’t come out until the movies…
Slash Film: I’ll go check that out, because that sounds Last Action Hero-ish and I feel like that concept had so much more potential than what it did on screen.
MM: I think everyone felt that as we were waiting for that movie, but weirdly enough I think we both were inspired by the same thing, which is Purple Rose of Cairo, so it’s the idea of the guy stepping out of the screen. I think Last Action Hero, time-wise, was perfect for people who hadn’t seen Purple Rose of Cairo.
JW: Big I would say is a big influence on that.
MM: It’s like being Superman, you’re right, because the kid gets the chance to become an adult.
Slash Film: It’s a great movie. So those are the major things.
MM: I think over the next year there should be about three I think all roughly at the same time. Wanted 2 seem to be back, which is interesting. They don’t like the original screenwriter, but there’s a screenplay that everybody likes, so fingers crossed and Timur is fantastic. He is such a great action director.
Slash Film: The one last question I have is you keep on creating stuff in addition to all of these adaptions. So now when you are creating stuff are you thinking about the eventual movie? Is that now becoming a part of your structure?
MM: You’d imagine it would be, because there’s been a really nice amount of things that have been adapted, but I think when you start thinking like that you’re going to freeze it up, because then you just become another movie. If you thinking about it, the main character in Kick-Ass is masturbating to African tribeswomen in the opening scene, that’s like the opposite of if you’re trying to write a movie. So I’m just trying to do something that’s interesting to me, like NPH… There’s a Hispanic lead and people say “Are you upset that they changed his ethnicity?” I’m like “I like him being Hispanic” and that may be enough to hit the buffers with the movie, because there’s not many teenage Hispanic kids with a massive tentpole movie, but I don’t care. That’s somebody else’s problem.
Slash Film: Mathew can get the money for that.
Slash Film: Well thank you guys so much. I appreciate it.
MM: Not at all. About the… I could not be happy with this. I keep saying to people that I’m the harshest judge if you think about it, like nobody wants this to be better than I do. I’m not a filmmaker, so I see it from the audience, but having been the comic guy I’m quite precious about it. I want it to be good and I could not be happier about this movie. That’s why I was pushing Jeff to these Fox guys, because everybody is going to jump on this guy after this movie and once Kick-Ass 2 comes out “You won’t be able to get him.” So they smartly came in and got you, just before people started seeing this movie. I mean we won’t even be able to talk to you at the next Comic Con. (Laughs)
Slash Film: Well congratulations.
JW: Thank you very much.