One of the most exciting people working in the entertainment industry, Mark Millar, has a job that many of us only dream of. This multi-faceted writer (and soon-to-be director) spends his days creating exciting new worlds, heart-pounding storylines and breathes life into larger-than-life characters. His talents have thrilled fans worldwide and made him a one of the hottest names in the comics industry. It is no surprise that Hollywood quickly took notice and started to bring his creations to the silver screen. ‘Wanted’ and Kick-Ass’ were hits with critics and fans alike and serve as just a taste of things to come from this incredible talent. With ‘Kick-Ass’ ready to explode onto DVD and Blu-Ray on August 3rd, Icon Vs. Icon’s Jason Price recently caught up with Millar to discuss the process of taking ‘Kick-Ass’ from the printed page to the silver screen, the challenges involved and what lies in store for him in the months to come!
For those who may not know, what inspired the story of ‘Kick-Ass’?
‘Kick-Ass’ is really my autobiography in a weird way because it came into my life as something that I almost did when I was 14 or 15, which was to make a costume and go out and try to be a superhero in Scotland. My best friend and I planned to do it. We trained for six months and everything. We didn’t end up doing it in the end but ‘Kick-Ass’ is the story of what would have happened next, I think.
How did you initially get hooked up with director Matthew Vaughn?
Matthew Vaughn and I have a mutual friend. He thought that we would really get along and was always saying that we should hook up sometime. He invited me along to the ‘Stardust’ after-party. I met Matthew there. After that, we spoke on the phone a lot and he had just had the ‘Thor’ project fall apart on him. He was looking for a new comic book property to work on and asked me if I had anything. I said “I have two!” I sent him both. ‘Kick-Ass’ was the one that he liked the best. It was very informal and within four or five months, we were suddenly standing on the set with Nicholas Cage in full costume! It all happened very, very quickly.
How difficult was it in making the jump from the printed page to the big screen?
It is so incredibly hard when you actually think about how every studio hated the script. The movie was made independently with money Matthew borrowed from friends. It was incredibly difficult and there were many times when it felt like it definitely wasn’t going to happen. We knew that we had something that people liked. The comic came out and had a great response. The ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘X-Men’ films had come out and done very well. We just thought, “This is going to find an audience,” even though it could be a long process and all that borrowed money might never be paid back. The film only cost $22 million and it made $100 million back. It had a happy ending.
How important was it to keep the integrity of the characters intact as it headed to the big screen?
[laughs] It is funny you say that because that is the big thing. I remember that we handed the script to everyone and they hated it. They hated the characters, the dialog, everything. One studio said that they would make the film if we took out Hit-Girl, took out all the swearing and took out all the killing. Basically, it killed the film when you took out all of those elements. Matthew, much to his credit, said “No way! I want it exactly as is!”
Looking back on bringing the entire project full circle, from the written form to the feature film, what are your fondest memories of ‘Kick-Ass’?
I think that there is something very cool at looking at a piece of paper that you had done some doodles on. I had written down the name ‘Kick-Ass’ and another potential title, I had drawn Hit-Girl and done a little doodle of the original idea I had for Kick-Ass, I still have that piece of paper. To have done that in a railway station and then two-and-a-half years later to be standing, all dressed up, on the red carpet in London with Brad Pitt — it felt quite surreal to make that jump. That is a really cool memory that I have to put it all in perspective and realize how lucky I have been.
How difficult was it to find the right mix of actors to make your creations come to life?
Yes! It’s funny because we knew we had Hit-Girl right away but we were talking about people for the other roles. Eventually, we discussed putting all of the money into a big lead for Kick-Ass himself or do we save the money and spend it on Big Daddy or the gangster, ya know? It was pretty interesting. We talked about maybe using Robert DeNiro as the gangster, we talked about Zac Efron as The Red Mist, we talked about Matthew McConaughey and Mark Wahlberg as Big Daddy. Every one of those guys would have brought their own thing to it and the movie would have been very, very different if we had used different people. For example, we even discussed Shia LaBeouf for Kick-Ass but we were very happy with the cast we ended up with!
I know you have been working on the comic book form of ‘Kick Ass 2’. What can you tell us about the status of that project?
I am about a fourth of the way into the comic right now. The comic starts in about four weeks time. It is called ‘Kick-Ass 2: Balls To The Walls’. It starts at the end of August. Matthew is working on ‘X-Men First Class’ right now. As soon as he finishes that, we will get going on the ‘Kick-Ass’ movie by getting the script together and hopefully start shooting. We can’t waste too much time because the actors are all quite young, so we don’t want them to suddenly look 45 or something! [laughs] I think next April we will sit down and start working on the film sequel of the film.
I know you have said that you were planning to go behind the camera this summer for a superhero flick based out of Scotland. What can you tell us about that project?
Yes. I start shooting that in two weeks time here in Scotland. It is a low budget movie. It is a superhero film but it is going to be unlike any superhero movie that anyone has done before. It is going to have an atmosphere very much of its own. Setting it in Scotland immediately makes it quite different. I have never directed anything before so it will be quite interesting to see how it all works out but, luckily, it is a low budget movie and it is the kind of thing that I want to cut my teeth on. Hopefully a lot of people will see it.
Do you have a title for that project yet?
It does but I can’t release it yet because I have a planned marketing campaign where I want it to go out in secret! I will probably be offering a preview of it early next year.
I know you deal with a lot of superheroes in your line of work. Is there a genre that you haven’t tackled yet that you would like to take on in the near future?
Well, I also love horror. I really love horror! I have five movies in development at the moment and they are all superhero movies but I would like to do some horror stuff too. I have a project about Jesus coming to the modern world, a piece called ‘American Jesus’ that I did a couple of years ago. I’d like to get that up and running as a movie. I’ve got a good vampire flick idea as well. So yeah, I would love to tackle that genre!
What advice would you give to someone who was looking to carve out a career path for themselves similar to what you have done in comics?
Well, it took me a very long time actually. I was originally planning to be a doctor. I dropped out of University and had no idea of what I was going to do but I loved comics. Through years and years and years of writing, just because I loved it, it all worked out for me quite nicely. I think that’s the thing. Find something that you absolutely love doing. Say it is writing, focus on that. Never, ever write for the check. Only do it because you love it. I wrote for the check for the first few years of my career and nothing ever quite worked out. Once I started writing the kind of stories that I wanted to read, it all worked out for me!
Thank you for your time, Mark. Anything that you would like to say to your fans before I let you go?
Drive carefully! [laughs] Thanks for your time! Bye now!
Visit the official site for Kick-Ass at www.kickass-themovie.com and pick up a copy when it hits DVD and Blu-Ray on August 3rd. 2010!