“So, tell me, Jeff, what’s it like to work with Jim Carrey?” I might as well just have started off with that question when interviewing Kick-Ass 2 ‘s writer and director, Jeff Wadlow. After seeing the film, how do you not ask about Carrey’s performance? He’s made fans with his more kid-driven pictures, which is fine, but in the past nine years, his only genuinely great performance to speak of is I Love You Phillip Morris.
Now with Kick-Ass 2, Carrey has another new performance that can stand amongst his finest work.
So discussing Wadlow’s collaboration with Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes is a given. He’s not the Big Daddy of the sequel; it’s a whole different burst of energy. The whole film feels that way. Wadlow kept in touch with the first film’s sensibility, but he takes certain elements to new extremes.
Keep reading to see what else Wadlow had to say about the Kick-Ass 2:
This film goes very big. How do you reach those extremes while maintaining that “real world” approach?
That’s what Kick-Ass is. You want real authentic emotion, but you also want them doing crazy shit. You want people to say, “I can’t believe that just happened.” [Laughs] Fortunately, most of those moments come from Mark, because he’s so fucking nuts. I really followed his lead. The scenes I came up with that aren’t in the comic was channeling Mark. The sick stick scene wasn’t in the comic, and that came out of what would be the most extreme way of Mindy to get these girls back, without breaking her own code of committing a crime.
Adapting his work, did you notice any elements that don’t translate well from comic to film?
Yeah, there’s a hotly discussed rape scene from the comic book, and that’s a perfect example. It was Mark who came to me and said, “You gotta make your movie. We all know comic books and movies are different mediums.” That’s an obvious thing to say, but you have to know a movie deals with real people and a comic book is a representation of people. They’re drawings of people, so you’re already further removed, no matter how lifelike or brilliant they are.
Mark told me not to be slavish. We all know which comic book movies suffered from being slavish, so he just said make a great movie, which will serve the comic book better than any literal adaptation. The rape scene is a perfect example of that. I got where Mark was going in conveying Chris is trying to embody pure evil, but in this film it’s someone trying to be this heightened idea of something, but the real world comes crashing in.
Casting Jim Carrey, was it a deliberate choice having an actor who has a history with an audience?
Yes. From the very beginning, I wanted an actor who could be intense but also have fun. There’s very few actors who can do that; it’s rare to find actors who can do both. Jim was at the top of my list. I’m really proud of his performance and it’s something we figured out together. In many instances I’d let him do his thing, and then I was pulling out the highlights in post-production and putting it together. All of it was great.
What’s the process like with him? Was there lengthy discussions over character?
There certainly was in the beginning. At first, he had an idea that was not quite right for the Colonel. We had some longer conversations and figured out the Colonel. I talked to him about his arc and how it’s similar to Rocky Balboa in the first film, going around collecting. I saw the Colonel as that kind of mobster, as opposed to some high-level gangster. We started talking about the character in that sense.
Jim sort of clicked into it. He created this voice, and I could hear him on the phone figuring it out. It was his idea to do the prosthetics, as well. Once we started shooting, we’d be talking about lines, tweaking lines, and going back and forth. Sometimes when we were rolling he’d say or do things we hadn’t discussed at all [Laughs]. Some of it is brilliant, which made it into the movie, and some of it was him trying things out that didn’t necessarily work, but that’s filmmaking.
May I ask what his initial idea was?
Well, it’s probably not fair for me to get into specifics and be candid, because that’s just the artistic process. When I’m writing the script I’m doing hundreds, if not thousands, of drafts before it finally gets shot. It’s not about thinking about what didn’t make it or what got cutout because a producer didn’t like something, because that’s just the process.
I understand. Without spoiling anything, there’s a scene where you see the Colonel take off his mask, and it’s a reminder that it’s a human being under that costume. Was that in the comic, your script, or something Carrey brought to that scene?
Actually, that’s a very good example of what I was talking about: that’s 100% Jim. He said he wanted to take his mask off at one point in the movie, and he was adamant about it. At first I was unsure, but when I thought about it, if it’s important for Jim and the character, it has be him letting his guard down and seeing that vulnerability. It is powerful, and it reminded me of when you see Nic Cage put the black makeup around his eyes. You see him in and out of the costume the whole time, but it’s the first time you see the two identities merging together. With The Colonel you never see him without his mask, and then to see him take it off, it’s really powerful and I give 100% credit to Jim.
It really shows he’s this old, beaten down guy.
Yeah, right. He’s not a superhero.
Wrapping the film up, there’s no hint at what’s to come. Did you ever consider having a sequel flag?
I was really adamant we not talk about Kick-Ass 3 when we were developing the script and making it. For me, that gives the filmmakers position to make the movie open-ended and not let you resolve it in a satisfying way. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted a movie that had a definitive ending. I wanted the journey to end on a note where everything was changed and nothing was going to be the way it was. To do that, you can’t allow yourself to think about what’s next. You have to end on a period.
Now, would you consider a third movie?
Because of that mentality, I haven’t really thought about it. I know that seems disingenuouss, but that’s truth to it. You can’t allow yourself to do that. In a weird way, it’s like asking someone who just got married about what their next wife will be like [Laughs]. You’re very focused on making what you have the best it can be.
Because it probably took over two years of your life, right?
Oh yeah. I live in Los Angeles and I went to London for a whole year. I just walked away from my family and friends. It’s a British film and I’m the only American that worked on. It’s tough a job because the nature of it is always: what didn’t we get? You’ll be there with those actors on that lit set, but two months from then when I’m editing the movie, I’m not going to be able to go back and get what I want. I can maybe get a pickup shot, but you have to think about everything you need or can’t imagine what you need. There’s so many shots in the movie that were, “Ah, we probably won’t need it, but let’s get it anyway.” [Laughs] You just don’t know. Making a movie is like trying to find your way through the woods with a blindfold on.
Kick-Ass 2 is now in theaters.