Feature Story by Brad Balfour
Finally, an honest costumed crime fighter film. In Kick-Ass, the supposed heroes, from naive teenager Dave Lizewski/ Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson) to Damon McCready aka Big Daddy (Nic Cage) to his daughter Hit-Girl -- Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz) -- crime fighting is risky business especially when the super-powers are absent. It's best to be supplanted with weapons that can deliver injurious if not fatal, results.
None of that smarmy "hey aren't we smarter than the fans" shit or this "Above it all NYTimes crit" stuff permeates Kick-Ass. This is a comic book fan's movie, one for those who used to draw their own stories in grade school.
Based on the cheeky graphic story series by writer Mark Millar and artist John Romita Jr., this film, as directed by smart Anglo Matthew Vaughn, employs action as a style statement. Of the actors in the film, Nic Cage and Mark Strong maybe the most recognizable, but it's really the kids as teen avengers that makes it a sweaty and dirty-mouthed masterstroke.
Within the context, comes the deliciously inept and insidiously flawed Red Mist who might have been Kick-Ass's real buddy had he not been such a narcissistic jerk-off. Beaten down by his Mafioso capo father, Frank D'Amico (Strong) he hungers to please, so to gain his father's respect and love he does something that -- as a comic book fan he normally couldn't imagine doing -- becomes a costumed turncoat and lures his costumed cohorts into an ambush.
The conflicted nature of Kick-Ass, Red Mist's betrayal, the violence and the nuanced 21st century twists and turns (Kick-Ass becomes famous through MySpace) make this movie not a dim-witted parody but a twisted psycho drama.
And while Moretz may be the real action figure, and Johnson, the potential heartthrob, Mintz-Plasse plays the un-crime fighter with all the pent-up angst and sexual awkwardness that effectively connects him and his character to his fanbase. Whether as McLovin (the iconic role he played in his cinematic debut, Superbad) or as Red Mist, M-P nails the overwroughtness of teenhood. And his gangly angularity just enhances this role whether intentional or not.
Having already established one iconic character in a career with a remarkably scant resume, M-P is a scene stealer with a hang-dog face. Mintz-Plasse turns out to be a real actor, one who yearns to get beyond his own caricatures.
Nonetheless, when he saunters into this small roundtable a little late, he explains with a characteristically McLovin swagger that he was down the hall "doing coke and having sex with whores." We are not fazed. So to get down to business...
Q: Were you familiar with Millar's work and comic books in general?
CM-P: I wasn't too familiar. My dad has been a huge comic book fan since the '70s; he's got [more than a] thousand in our garage and by the toilet something to read when he's going number two, and by his chair.
He's a massive Mark Millar fan and I know I've read some of his comics back in the day but I can't quite remember. Once I got the movie my dad was so excited. He flew to London to hang out with Mark actually for a couple of days. He was very excited for that.
Q: In the comic he's quite a bit different. How did you get to be Red Mist?
CM-P: He's tougher, more the bad boy. I think Matthew [Vaughn, the director] wanted to change that because he wanted my father to be the main bad guy, so he wanted me to be kind of the son that's never the son his father wanted him to be, and he always wants to be in the family business but then he created Red Mist. He's smarter; he creates it to lure Kick-Ass to him. I think it's very genius.
Q: Given your father [fan-boy] proclivities, did you get John Romita Jr. to do any drawings or artwork for him?
CM-P: Of course. The funny thing is that, 10 years ago, actually more like 12 years ago, my dad... he can kind of draw, and my brother is a huge Iron Man fan so he painted a mural of Iron Man on my brother's wall. It was actually Johnny Romita's Iron Man that he copied. So he took a picture of it, printed it out, brought it to the set, Johnny signed it, and then my dad also brought like 50 comics for Mark to sign. I felt really bad. But he was really excited about that.
Q: I heard that someone thought that Red Mist is sort of like Adam Lambert.
CM-P: I was going for the David Bowie look and then some asshole was like, "Hey you look like Adam Lambert," and I'm like, "You ruined it all for me, man." I don't want that; that's not what I think.
Q: What was your inspiration for playing that character?
CMP: The Chris D'Amico part is very tame and low-key; he's always looking for his father's acceptance. Then when he created Red Mist he allows his alter ego to come out; free-er, smoking weed, blasting music and dancing with Kick-Ass. That more party side to him is what I was going for.
Q: One interesting thing about Kick-Ass is that it is about regular guys or kids. You spend a lot of time in that costume. So did you have some kind of training.
CM-P: I didn't have to do too much training. Chloe did a lot of training for this movie. But I hated that costume; it was awful. The first day it was amazing because I look so cool in it, and then after that you wear it for 12 hours a day and sweat non-stop, so you've got to just keep hydrated. Then the cape was tied very tight around my arms and it would cut and I would get bruises and weird rashes in places. It was very, very uncomfortable.
Q: Aaron has discussed the jock strap problem to the costumes.
CM-P: Yes. And he had a one-piece-r too so it was very hard for him to go to the bathroom.
Q: Was there just one costume?
CM-P: They had two or three of them. They had one just regular and then they had one dirty one for the warehouse scene, when it burns down and [the uniform] gets all smoky and dirty. And they had two regular ones.
Q: Do you have any regrets that you didn't get to be massively trained by all the wonderful stunt people?
CM-P: There's always that. But then four months into it I'm just sitting there eating a sandwich and drinking a coke while [Chloe's] stressing out and working so hard; I was just kind of kicking back. But if there is a sequel -- knock on wood -- if there is one, I think I would train for that one and do some pretty cool stuff.
Q: Is it interesting to do an action movie where you might not usually be considered for that kind of role?
CM-P: Yeah, that's why I got excited when they sent me the script. And then I read it and I was like oh, my part doesn't even do any action. But to be a part of something like this is amazing because these are my favorite kind of movies; very well done action movies.
Q: Do you ever worry about getting typed?
CM-P: Not yet. In Superbad I was kind of a nerdy character and Role Models was kind of a nerdy character but polar opposites. The cloven character was very confident and in Role Models he just had no friends. In Kick-Ass, he's not really a nerd or anything so I'm not too worried yet.
Q: Was there any concern that the amount of X-rated language and violence was going to limit the audience?
CM-P: In my opinion, if I heard people complaining about a movie having too much violence I'd be like, "Fuck yeah, that's good, I want to go see that movie even more."
Q: But in terms of the ratings.
CMP: I don't know. I don't listen to that kind of stuff because whoever it is that's complaining, they haven't seen the movie.
Q: In the UK, where it's out, there's been a lot of controversy.
CMP: Really? Who's doing it?
Q: One of the critics was saying...
CMP: Oh is it the Daily Mail? They bash on everything though. Fuck that magazine. You can quote me on that -- "I don't care, man."
I just have to say, it's a comic book movie, it's all taken from the comic; if you have a problem with the movie then you have a problem with the comic. There's nothing we can do about it. That's your fault for not enjoying the movie.
Q: Do you worry about kids imitating it?
CMP: You'd have to be pretty stupid to imitate what happens in this movie. There aren't going to be any 11 year old girls going out and trying to murder people. I know that. Or maybe there will be.
Q: The swearing wasn't really bothersome; it was more the violence.
CM-P: See that's the thing. People are always like, ["Oh you swear," and I'm like what about the violence? I'm glad you say that because people are always worried about the swearing but she murders people.
Q: Was it weird to see her on set doing that stuff?
CM-P: It was awesome. It was so cool to witness it backstage and happening right there. It was very cool, very exciting for her.
Q: But 16 year old vigilantes. You can see this little girl going after Mafiosos.
CM-P: I guess so. Do it at your own risk. I'm not promoting it, I don't want people to do it, but if they do it there's nothing I can do.
Q: So who do you think is going to see Kick-Ass? You've got the kids' faces everywhere but it's an R-rated movie.
CMP: I'm hoping we get the teenagers. Teenage boys are going to love it. My dad loves it; comic book fans are going to love it. We just did a screening in London, an all-girls screening, and they loved it.
Q: How old were they?
CM-P: Different ages; 20 to like 40 or 50. Aaron's a very cute guy so I'm hoping girls will want to go see him [as well].
Q: Did you actually get to drive the Mistmobile?
CM-P: Yeah. That sucked because it was a stick shift and I'd never driven a stick shift. So I had to learn on that car and it was like a $200,000 car. And if I wrecked it I'd have to pay for it. I'm getting all nervous and clammy right now just thinking about it.
Q: They didn't have insurance on it?
CM-P: They did. But Matthew [Vaughn] threatened me anyway.
Q: You didn't get to borrow it and take it out on a date?
CM-P: I didn't want to. I didn't want to touch that thing; I didn't want that on my hands.
Q: Were there a lot of pranks played on the set while you were making this movie?
CM-P: There were more pranks on Role Models. There weren't any pranks on the set.
Q: What was the vibe?
CM-P: Very relaxed, very fun. The thing is with Matthew, he has the same crew that he worked with from Stardust and Layer Cake. He always works with the same people so you come in there and it's already a family, and they just accepted me right away and Chloe and Aaron; it was amazing.
Q: What about working with such a firece character actor as Mark Strong?
CM-P: He's amazing; he always plays the villain in the movie but you come in and he's just the sweetest, most down-to-earth guy. He's always got his family on set -- his two little kids and his wife. But actually, not on the violent days; he wouldn't have them be there. He didn't want them to see him beat the shit out of a girl. A very amazing, talented actor. I was excited to work with him.
Q: Did you take any notes from him?
CM-P: You just kind of watch. He's a different actor than I am; it's hard to take what he's doing because he's got his own thing and I've got my own thing. But we improved a little bit off each other and you just kind of watch his facial expressions and learn from that.
Q: Were you free to improvise?
CM-P: A little bit. It's not like in Superbad and Role Models [where we] improv-ed every scene pretty much. This movie was very straight to the script because action movies, you've got to keep them going. You can't improv an action scene; that won't work. But there were scenes when Aaron and I were driving in the Mistmobile and they let us do a little improv in there.
Q: Did you have a favorite gun? Would you want to take one home?
CM-P: I like the Barretta 50-caliber or whatever it's called. It's like a sniper gun. If I could have one of those I would be unstoppable.
Q: Not the bazooka?
CMP: No, that would blow me away. That would push me back like 15 feet.
Q: I heard your dancing in that one scene was improvised.
CM-P: It was, yeah. There was no choreography; if there was choreography I would have been embarrassed. Matthew just put on 15 minutes of music. Gnarls Barkley... I was actually dating a girl out there that was in a band and he would kind of fuck with me and throw her band on while we were trying to dance, so that was fun. And then a bunch of other music and we just kind of grooved and danced.
Q: So we heard you're going to be a mother fucker?
CMP: It's way too far in the future to know. I know that Mark is writing Kick-Ass 2 in a couple of weeks and he wants to change Red Mist's name to the Mother Fucker, which I think is hilarious.
If they make the movie that will be very uncomfortable because people will be like, "Aren't you that Mother Fucker?" I'll be like, "Those are fighting words, man. Don't be doing that." So we'll see what happens.
Q: I heard that the premise for the name change is just so that people can stop calling you McLovin.
CM-P: That's Mark, man; he's a genius like that.
Q: Will you be glad to not be called McLovin?
CM-P: Oh it doesn't matter to me. For the rest of my life people are going to remember me [for that]... Hopefully they remember me for that character because that was my first movie ever, it put me on the map.
I got to do Kick-Ass and Role Models and all these movies I've worked on, so I'm always forever grateful for that.
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