/Film Interview: Mark Millar, Writer/Producer Of Kick-Ass

Mark Millar is one of the most exciting people working in the entertainment industry today. Millar's Wanted was made into an action film that grossed over $300 million worldwide and his upcoming film Kick Ass (based on a comic book that he wrote, which was then adapted for the screen by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman) is one of my favorite films of the year so far.

I had the chance to speak with Millar recently, and while I've always had a mental image of him as a wildly outspoken comic book writer, loaded with enthusiasm and hyperbole, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was soft-spoken and absolutely charming. We chatted about how movie studios hated the script for Kick Ass, his thoughts on Christopher Nolan's work on recent superhero films, his aversion to violence and obscenity, why he doesn't think his work will ever be adapted to TV, and what it's like to make a film outside the studio system.  You can listen to our interview below, or hit the jump to read some highlights.

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[Thanks to /Filmcast listener Justin for helping me to put this interview together.  Photo above by Flickr user vee.]

On how the film got funding:

Normally studios take a little while to procrastinate over things, but they knew pretty much right away they hated [the script]. So I felt, "Well, I suppose that's the end of that then." And Matthew said, "No no, I really believe in the material. I'd like to make it independently." And he said he felt quite empowered by the fact that all the studios hated it...he said he felt he was onto something new then...So, he really put his money where his mouth was. He borrowed $40 million from friends and made the movie outside the system, which was an incredible risk at the time. I don't think I really appreciated what a risk that was or how big a compliment it was to the material. Because one studio said, "If you're prepared to make millions of changes, we'll fund it." And Matthew said, "No, I want it to stay as-is." It was a very gutsy move.

In Kick Ass, a 12-year old Chloe Moretz puts in a phenomenal performance as Hit Girl, laying waste to a host of bad guys in some brutal ways. Check out the following Youtube clip for a taste of her performance, although note that some people would argue this is SPOILER-Y:

I asked Millar about the predicted backlash to the violence in Kick Ass:

It's funny because, to me, a child like that doing that kind of stuff is not unusual growing up in Scotland...That's just a typical afternoon in Scotland, you know? You know, the way I look at it though is, it's funny, I'm actually quite easily offended, which is quite shocking. I remember being on a train once with my daughter, and somebody was wearing a t-shirt that had a curse word on it, and they were sitting across from me. And she was reading it. She was just at the age where – I could see her reading it. And I told the guy to put a jacket on, because I didn't want her seeing the word. A lot of people would be quite surprised to hear that from me. But, the difference is, I hate things like that that are in your face, and you haven't chosen. Whereas if you pay $10 to see a movie, you're going in with some expectation...there's going to be some amount of violence and bad language. You can tell from any of the trailers. People shouldn't really be that surprised. Whereas I find it much more offensive when these things are in your face and out there in the public. So, that's my justification to myself, that as long as people know what they're getting, it's a free country and that's okay. But you just don't have this stuff freely available to everyone.

On the notes that he got from the studios:

It feels so vindicating, the idea that everything the studios hated...is what everyone likes. Every studio said we had to lose Hit Girl if we were going to move forward with this thing, and Hit Girl is by far the most popular thing in this movie. And some of the notes we had were like "If you are going to keep Hit Girl, make her 25 years old, cause you can't have a child doing this stuff, no bad language, and don't have her kill anyone. And if she kills anyone, she must regret it later." Just stupid notes.

On how he hopes the film will affect Hollywood:

George Lucas said a few years back that he thinks the future of the summer blockbuster is $40 million and people making this stuff independently. I remember thinking at the time that was nuts, but Matthew's done it with this. And if this makes a ton of dough, like if you can imagine the Sam Raimis and the Chris Nolans and so on thinking "What are we doing working for a salary and maybe a percentage if you're lucky, when what we could be doing is making it without anyone looking over our shoulders"...so I think cinema is heading in a very interesting direction here, and I hope this movie plays a part...

For more from Mark Millar,  listen to the entire interview!