Interview: Matthew Vaughn On Independently Kicking Ass

Matthew Vaughn Kick-Ass

Seeing a movie like Kick-Ass is a treat. You think you know what is about to be dished out, but in a very real way the film grabs you and takes you on an adventure through pitch-black comedy and bloody, badass action. Trust me when I say that you have no idea what you are in for. Along with all of the praise that Kick-Ass has been receiving though, there has also been some criticism and controversy in the mix. After talking to director Matthew Vaughn though, I think that’s just the way he likes it.

Being able to talk with Vaughn, in a way, is even more of a treat. You can tell he is a movie lover, and wanted to make a film for movie lovers. I also have a lot of respect for the guy in that Kick-Ass, which a lot of people still don’t know, is sort of a independent feature. Vaughn funded much of the film himself, and in the process made this almost anti-Hollywood action film that shows that you don’t need a bunch of bankable names to make a great film. Kick-Ass shows that one of the most important things is that you start with great writers and a great director…and Vaughn is both.

Later comes the brave part, choosing the right people for the roles…instead of the most popular people. Which the film, in the end, kind of ends up flipping that whole idea on it’s side…because everyone in this film is sure to become more popular because of their role. Don’t know who Aaron Johnson or Chloe Moretz is? Well, you will. Think Nic Cage is a sore spot for the movie? Go see it first, because great actors thrive under a great director.

Kick-Ass is the first great movie of 2010. Go see it …but read this interview first.

Film School Rejects: Thank you for sitting with us today. We really appreciate it.

Matthew Vaughn:  Oh, it’s my pleasure.  I like the name of your website.

Do you? Are you a film school reject or did you go to film school?

I’m a rejected film school apply-ee. I didn’t even get that far.

[Laughs] Well it’s a good thing that you did make it because a lot of our rejects did see Kick-Ass. And, like I said, we all loved it.  I was there at South By Southwest and it was just a great screening.

Great audience, shitty screening though. Fucking projection was shit. The sound was all over the place. Did you know it was missing a speaker on the left? So a whole lot of the jokes weren’t working because you couldn’t hear them. I was freaking out. But I think that people liked it still, so I couldn’t complain too hard.

So after seeing an audience reaction like that at South By, how has the process been since?

Well, it’s really weird because I should have been spoiled. You know, the first audience I was showing this movie to was actually in Austin at the Butt-Numb-A-Thon, you know, the Harry Knowles thing, and the reaction was incredible. And then South By Southwest was great.

But they are the sort of people…It’s a weird thing, because the audience I made this movie for, that was them. So them liking it made me feel unbelievably proud, and happy, and relieved. And then, it’s also been odd now showing it to a more general wide audience, and, to my amazement, they’ve been liking it just as much.

I am going to ask you not to be humble here, because I kind of see Kick-Ass as a game changer for the comic book movies.  So for audiences, how do you think a film like Kick-Ass stacks up to like the stock Fantastic Four’s and Spider-Man’s?

Well, for me, it is really a loaded question. One of the main reasons I did Kick-Ass was I was just like, you know, the comic movies, the superhero films I’ve been watching, the superheroes are old! You know, Batman is from the ‘30s, and Superman ‘30s, and Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, they are from the ‘60s, watched them in the ‘80s. And I just thought, “Gosh. Where is our modern-day superhero film? Where is our sort of post-modern look at all the movies that we all love?” I just felt too many of these films were regurgitating the same idea, so they are just not relevant to modern life in any shape or form. So I wanted to make a movie that I think kids are going to related to.

And we had unbelievably great reviews in England. And the harshest critic — I was terrified to read his reviews — said the thing that made me…I’ve never been so proud of a review because he described the movie as being the Clockwork Orange for this generation. And when I heard that, I was just like, “Cool.” That’s exactly what I wanted.

I just felt like, “Where have the edgy, cool movies gone?” You know, what happened? I think the film industry has just grounded them out of the environment. I thought District 9 was brilliant and one of the few films which I really, really enjoyed last year. And I said, “Look, I want to continue that vibe.”

I have to admit, when I first saw the trailer, I was expecting one kind of movie.  But then when I saw it, it just kind of punched me in the face and I fell in love with it. Do you find yourself having a lot of these conversations lately?

Yeah, well I think this is an incredibly hard movie to cut a trailer from because the really cool stuff you can’t show in the trailer. And I’m actually quite proud to say that the movie…I think that of the people that will go watch this movie, I don’t think anyone is coming out saying, like most films, “Well, the trailer was better than the film”. So I’d rather always make films better than the trailer.

I read somewhere that you’ve been having to defend the film a lot, like could you explain that a little bit?

It’s a huge amount of controversy about the fact that Hit-Girl, everyone says she…what makes you laugh is that a lot of people go, “It’s just disgusting how much she swears!” I go, “You know, she swears twice in the film.” They’re like,  “Oh, really?”

“Yeah, she swears twice.” And they’re like, “Oh, OK.” And it’s just amazing how people…the whole controversy is 99 cents and people who haven’t seen the movie. And those people…A lot people who have complained about it and then see the film, and then they just put down that knives because they sort of enjoyed it and realized that it’s a bit of a fun ride.

We’re not trying to change the world with this movie and we’re not trying to inspire kids to swear and kill people.We’re just saying, “Hey, go and have a laugh. It’s a movie for God’s sake.”

Was there ever a time in the process where you knew exactly that Hit-Girl is going to steal the movie?

When we were writing the script. I always knew that she was the Hans Solo of our film. And when once we cast Chloe, I knew that we had a very, very powerful secret weapon.

You mentioned that you weren’t able to put a lot of the great stuff that’s in the movie, obviously, in the trailer. Do you see the R rating as a strength or a weakness for the type of film that Kick-Ass is?

Well, I feel it’s a necessity. I mean, there’s no point in making Kick-Ass and doing like all the Hollywood version. Then it would have ended up being no reason to watch or make the film as far as I’m concerned. So I just wanted to make the version of the movie with the script I wrote, and I was told, “You’re going to get an R if you make this film.”  I was like, “So be it.”

I didn’t really think about the rating. I just thought about what the film I want to make is.  And whatever rating I was given, so be it.

That’s awesome. So you mentioned casting. It seems like a guy like Mark Strong hasn’t been really found by American audiences yet, but a lot of the directors in the UK seem to love him. Where did Mark Strong come from in the process?

I worked with Mark on Stardust. I can genuinely say he is one of the greatest. This is how acclaimed Mark is by the actor’s community, is when Ian McKellen came in to do the voiceover, do the narration, on “Stardust” and he watched the movie and I said I just couldn’t believe he agreed to do it. It’s a pretty big thing to get Ian to just come in and do your narration for the hell of it.

He goes, “I’ve always wanted to work with Mark Strong. He’s the greatest living actor England has.” I was like, “Wow.” That’s from Ian McKellen saying that? and I think Kick-Ass is going to do for Mark what Reservoir Dogs did for Tim Roth because, you know, well, the Americans were going, “Wow! who’s this new actor?” after Reservoir Dogs, because, you know, it was the first time he did the American accent.

And I think this is going to be the birth of Mark. Well, we’re already going to be seeing a lot more of Mark regardless of Kick-Ass because there are a lot of other movies coming out. But I think he’s going to be more in this, like, appreciation from now on.

You talked about Chloe and we just talked about Mark. I think you guys did an amazing job with casting. But if there were an alternate reality, could you have seen anybody else playing the parts?

Which characters?

Of any. I mean, I had a talk with Mark Millar and he was talking about fighting with the Scott Pilgrim guys over Michael Cera.

What was he saying about them?

He was saying that you guys were kind of fighting with the Scott Pilgrim guys to get Michael Cera for Aaron’s part.

Well, they filmed later than us. Mark’s…No, Mark’s wrong about that. We weren’t fighting over anyone like that. We were just… Mark was more keen on Michael Cera than I was and I…  People say I’m nuts, but I like to go for as much as an unknown character playing the lead role as I can, because I really feel, then, that that character is born and no one is like saying, “Oh, wow. That’s Michael Cera doing a great job.”

It’s just like that is Kick-Ass, or the guy who’s playing Kick-Ass. And the only… It’s funny. It’s hard to answer that question. I got all the actors I wanted. So literally, I think this is why the movie works because we cast people who were right for the role and not for what we thought…The studios cast whoever they think is right for box office and poster, not realizing most of the time and this is Will Smith. If they’re not right for the role then there’s no box office. I just cast whoever was right for the role. I’m pretty proud of what they did.

Speaking of Mark, do you guys find yourselves racing each other for a sequel?

So now I’ve got an idea that the film is going to work. So if the film’s a big hit, I mean I had so much fun making the movie that I had some ideas for a sequel. But my problem is, like others in the industry, I don’t want to make the sequel unless I think the films going to be good, if not better, than the first one. If I do a sequel, I want to do Godfather II of Kick-Ass. I want to do the Godfather III of Kick-Ass.

I’m really…Let’s see how it does this weekend and if the public wants a sequel I’d love to make one, but I’d have to figure out a way of doing a good film. It’s like car maintenance.

You talked about the Hollywood process earlier and, you know, like if you don’t cross the line then you’re not really doing what you want to do. Was there anything that you really wanted to squeeze into the film but in the end it just didn’t fit?

No. There’s a split scene that they cut out for pacing-wise, which I’m sure one day we’ll do an extended cut. It’s a really funny scene of Red Mist and Kick-Ass having sex with groupies in the Mist Mobile. And is really, really funny, but it wasn’t quite right for the…

The hardest thing about this movie was keeping the tone right. You know, keeping that balance between comedy, drama, and action. It was tough.  And so there was a few…There were two or three really, really cool things that I had to cut out because I just had to make sure the tone was right.

Obviously with this past few weeks of crazy press for you, is there anything that you haven’t had a chance to talk about or anything that you just want to get out there for the audience?

I want to expand on the Theory of Relativity but no one wants to listen. [Laughs]

Well, we’re here.

No, I’m being sarcastic. No, not really. I think I wanted to get the message out that it’s an independent movie that’s taken on the system.  And therefore, if the kids support us so that we are a hit, then more people will get to do that and I think movies will be better.

I think if you liked District  9 you will like this movie. I think you want to get the message out there it’s not just…  I think a lot of people are thinking it’s a kids’ movie and I’m like, “Jesus Christ! This ain’t a kids’ movie.”

And I love District 9 and I make movies in the sense for the audience which is me. So I’m convinced anyone who liked District 9 or Pulp Fiction or Kill Bill or Superbad, all the movies I love, they’re going to like this.

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