Already this week we’ve heard from Kick-Ass 2 comic book Writer Mark Miller and the main three cast in the Kick-Ass movie sequel Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Chloe Moretz but now it’s the turn of the newest member of the bunch – writer/director Jeff Wadlow. Wadlow has previously directed Never Back Down and Cry Wolf, but this is arguably his biggest challenge. Although the film is a studio movie, producer Matthew Vaughn (director of the first movie) still maintains control of the property and it would appear that Wadlow has seriously impressed him!
After the first movie was complete the ever-growing fan-base wanted a second film, and it was seemingly a chance encounter or script which Wadlow wrote and sent into Vaughn which changed the fate of Kick-Ass. Four years since the first movie, Wadlow’s script was not only well recieved by Vaughn, but he was given the directing reigns and asked to sail the Kick-Ass ship into the next chapter.
We sit down with Jeff Wadlow on set and he talked to us about what we can expect from Kick-Ass 2, and even hinted at where things may go in Kick-Ass 3.
Does it take a lot of energy, mentally and physically, looking after so much?
It’s such an odd hybrid of your left and right brain for me. You have to be so tactical, analytical and mercenary about the resources at your disposal, but at the same time, you have to allow yourself to be utterly intuitive. You have to be in the moment, be in it and feel it and think about what you’d want to see in the movie, “What am I feeling right now?”
I think it’s such a difficult job because you’ve got all these people on this side saying “You’ve got this amount of time and this amount of money.” They want to budget and plan everything down to the micro detail and you have to engage in that exercise because that’s your job as a director. At the same time, I have to be willing to turn to them and say “it doesn’t matter, it’s not right, we have to do it this way, the way we planned it isn’t working. I’m not feeling it, the actors aren’t feeling it.” You have to allow yourself to be completely intuitive and creative in that moment.
Then you’ve got the actors on the other side of the equation saying “I’m not sure my character would do this right now” or “I’m not feeling this”, so you have to engage in a purely creative conversation, too. It really is that balancing act which defines my job.
How does this movie differ from the first?
When I approach everything in film, whether it’s the fights, the photography, the performances, I try to approach in a way that was so true in the first film, but at the same time, embrace the idea that this is a new movie. Take it to new places and that we have to try different things.
I think the first film was incredibly visceral, had great action and we all loved the fights but we wanted more people fighting in this movie, so it’s about seeing a larger group of superheroes. I think what was so fun about the first movie was that Hit Girl had a very specific fighting style which was i think very influenced by Hong Kong fighting, wirework and that kind of vibe. When you see all these other real people fighting they can’t fight that way, they’ve got to real people so really embrace more of a brawler like a street fight.
What did you have to do to get Matthew Vaughn to trust you to take on this second movie?
It transpired in a very interesting way. Basically I wrote a spec based on a Valiant comic character named Bloodshot. Actually, it was just a pitch, and I pitched it to Matthew and he really liked it. I went away and wrote it and sent it to Matthew and he said “Whoa, you wrote what you pitched”! He said “I’ve haven’t worked with many people who do what they say they’re gonna do!”. I said that was the way I worked and he asked me if I wanted to write Kick-Ass 2. I said ‘no’ and he said how about you write and directing it? I said I might be interested.
Nothing happened for a couple of months and we talked a little bit but he got really busy with X-Men. I was thinking about how much I loved the first movie. I think the first issue of the comic had come out but I got sent Mark’s scripts for subsequent issues and I got really excited about, not only Mark’s ideas and some ideas I had for the movie so I just wrote it! I didn’t have a deal or a contract or anything at that point. I sent it to him and he was like “Wow, you wrote it, I thought you’d do an outline or wait until we had a contract”. I said “I had six weeks on the holidays so I just took a stab at it.” He said “It’s really good, we should make it.” I got a contract and here we are.
Who’s idea was it to cast Jim Carrey?
I don’t remember specifically whose idea it was. He was definitely at the top of my wish list but I didn’t think it would happen in a million years. What Matthew said to me was that Nic Cage really elevated Big Daddy in his opinion and brought all these interesting ideas, with the Adam West reading of the dialogue and from the very beginning we both agreed that we find someone who could do something similar.
You read the script and think that it should be a ‘Clint Eastwood 15 years ago kinda guy. Sort of a gruff, cowboy type of character but that’s the obvious choice for Colonel Star and Stripes. I’ve always thought Jim Carey is a fantastic actor, not just for his comedic timing but he’s the sort of guy you want for Colonel Star and Stripes. he has a gun but it’s not loaded but he’ll beat you over the head with an axe handle and has a belief system that’s very strong. What was so amazing about Jim wasn’t just the performance that he brings but one of the first phone calls with him, he’d written this creed, it’s not in the script anywhere but he’d written it for Justice Forever. I turned it into a whole scene as part of a montage where they’re chanting the creed around the table, and making their weapons and getting their headquarters in shape. The fact that he understood the story and the character on that level and brought so many ideas to it just made him the perfect choice. I’m glad he was at the top of our list and thrilled he accepted.
What’s it like shooting on sound stages since your other movies were done on location?
I was really sceptical about shooting for eight weeks on a studio lot. As exciting as I am about shooting at Pinewood for all the film-geek reasons, I was not that excited about being in film stages. I thought it would feel very theatrical and that it wouldn’t have the texture that a real space has and the reason I like shooting in real locations is the depth and detail, but Russell [De Rozario - Production Design] has given me all that in spades.
How hands on is Matthew Vaughn?
Matthew and I talk every day. Creatively I’d say he’s very hands on but I would say from a practical standpoint he’s very hands off. I think that’s to his credit, he could be very controlling because let’s be honest, he’s the producer. It’s an independent film that he’s pulled the finances for even though Universal are going to release it. He’s a filmmaker at his heart and he understands that he’s brought a filmmaker in to make this movie and there wouldn’t really be any point in micromanaging my part in this because then he can do it himself. Truthfully I think because I wrote the scrip and that he liked it so much I think he was inspired by my enthusiasm and I think he has returned the courtesy by allowing me to make the movie.
We talk a lot about story, where the characters have come from in the first film, where they’re going in the second film and where they’ll go in the third film. We have very lively debates often too because I’m approaching the film even though it’s a second chapter in a story I think it’s very important to not take for granted that people will see this film who might not remember the first film, or didn’t see the first film.
How did you go about adapting the movie from the comic book?
I was making a sequel to a film but adapting a comic book that was a sequel to comic book where the movie had already taken some departures. I had to find a way to make a cross section between the first movie and the second series of the comic book that would be the second movie. So I took Mark’s [Miller] scripts and turned them into a screenplay. I just adapted the comic book and ignored the movie. Then what I did was sit down and watch the original movie fives times, back-to-back over two days and absorbed it, watched scenes over and over again. Then took that script and did a page one rewrite on it as a sequel to the movie. That was the draft I sent Matthew.
So that just happened organically as I thought about what the sequels should be but then it happened more as I spoke to Mark and Matthew about it because Mark was the first person to say “You’ve got to make the best movie possible, don’t adapt it literally”. There are changes because of that, changes because of production (Times Square) and things change when people are in front of you. You can have the most gory splash page in a comic book and think “oh cool”, but when you see that kind of explicit violence on camera, it can take you out of the movie because it can be so over the top.
I think some of the most powerful violence happens off-camera like Reservoir Dogs with the ear cutting scene out of the frame, and it’s much more chilling than if you sat there and meditated on it. You can’t do that in a comic book so it’s just about making the best movie you can make.
Kick-Ass 2 hits UK cinemas 14th August.