Kick-Ass Interview: Jane Goldman And The Prepubescent Antihero

By  · Published on April 17th, 2010

When you first meet Jane Goldman there are two things you notice almost immediately. Well maybe you wouldn’t notice them right away, I don’t know. People are attracted to different things aren’t they, so what draws my eyes may go unnoticed by yours. Our differences of opinion and taste are what make us unique after all. One person’s talentless twat is another person’s Justin Bieber. But for me walking into the room, and meeting the lovely Miss Goldman for the first time, I couldn’t help but stare. She was sitting at a table but slowly rose to greet me, and I was transfixed. We shook hands and I had to force myself to look her in the eyes, but all I could think was ‘look at that fantastic head of shock red hair!’ That combined with her deep and rich English accent makes her stand out from the crowd in a very memorable way. Oh, and she also has what appears to be a pair of British schoolchildren sleeping soundly beneath her sweater.

Jane Goldman co-wrote the screenplay for Kick-Ass which is her second project to be directed by Matthew Vaughn after 2007’s Stardust. They reportedly are collaborating on a third film together called Bloodshot.

FSR: When adapting something with controversial aspects similar to the ones present in Kick-Ass do you try to work with and around those parts knowing that your end goal is a movie that can actually get a release in theaters? Or do you just adapt it without restraint and whatever happens happens?

Jane Goldman: I think certainly my attitude, which is one shared by the director Matthew Vaughn is that we really want to be true to the story. Because that’s what spoke to us about it, not the fact that, well I never saw it as a deliberately provocative story, but I think Hit-Girl is an interesting character because she’s so young. And if you were suddenly to say ‘how can we make this family friendly and get a different rating’ it would have been a completely different story than the one we were interested in telling. It was always our agenda to tell a story for adults. Some of the feedback from studios when we initially took this around was ‘oh could she be 18 years old’ but that to me would have been distasteful because suddenly it’s a sexualized girls and guns kind of bollocks and that’s not a story we’re interested in telling. She’s meant to be a proper anti-hero and that’s what was cool, that she’s at an age pre-sexualization. And that’s why people find it threatening. It’s sadly the only way you can make a non-sexualized bad ass female antihero, she has to be prepubescent.

Unfortunately if you read some of the comments online you can find folks who are still trying to find a sexual angle.

And that terrifies me. Yeah, I read some of those and I’m like ‘dude this is really saying a lot more about you than any of us.’ I find that really disturbing.

John [Romita Jr.] had mentioned two additional story arcs that would see Hit-Girl growing to the age of 17 or 18. How do you see that character evolving?

Well you have to look at a way to tell it in a fresh way, I mean certainly whatever Mark [Millar] and John do with the comic is one thing, but what works on the page doesn’t necesarrily work on the screen. So it’s something that Matthew and I will certainly have to address if we get that far, but lets see how it goes here first. This was a joy to work on and certainly I cant wait to read Mark’s follow-up volumes.

You seem to have fallen into a strong working relationship with Vaughn, and I’m curious about the differences between working so closely with a director and just heading off to a quiet room and writing something yourself.

That’s exactly right how you put it in that Matthew and I have just fallen into working together. We worked on Stardust first and the relationship continued because it worked and we both enjoy it. I’ve done my last one on my own while Matthew was editing.

Is that The Debt?

No, The Woman In Black, it’s a remake of a Victorian ghost story. But the process wasn’t really that different to be honest. I loved working with Matthew and I look forward to doing that again. You know sometimes you just get a working relationship that works well.

Speaking of Woman In Black, there was a rumor online that the producers had decided to make it in 3D…

Aww fuck.

That may have just answered my question, but if you knew going in that the movie you’re writing was going to be 3D, does that alter the way you write it at all?

Yeah, it’d make me leave the project. And at the point where that came up I had already done my first draft, and I did just say ‘what the hell are you thinking?’ Look I love 3D, and I’d love to write a 3D project, but that is not the right project to be made into 3D.

Because it seems more about mood and atmosphere…

It’s absolutely about mood and atmosphere, and it’s in more of a J-horror style. You want spectacle with 3D, and I love 3D, I’m not snobbish about it, but that is not the right story for it. You may as well do The Debt in 3D. It was an absurd suggestion, and they’ll probably hate me for saying that but I think there wasn’t full support for it. It was just an idea someone threw out and it wound up as a rumor online, but I think it’s pretty much been let go at this point i’m delighted to say. God yeah, that won’t be happening, and the director James Watkins does not want it to be 3D either. It’s not going to be 3D, I can confirm.

Seems pretty definitive… moving on. So the central Kick-Ass concept is of a normal kid becoming a hero, but with metal grafts and loss of nerve endings so there’s less pain, do you think maybe Dave’s transition into Kick-Ass isn’t as normal as the movie suggests?

I think in a certain sense, but we weren’t trying to introduce some kind of lame superpower with that. I think it was meant to be more, no I think that’s supposed to serve the story as much as could he really deal with being given quite a few beatings on a number of occasions? And the question is could you physically survive that? And it hopefully keeps us in the real world in that if you did have damage like this technically it would, you know, you’d have a slightly elevated capacity to take a kicking. But I mean it is essentially our world but i mean stylistically there’s a heightened reality. But actually, you know, technically we did try to keep everything to, I mean certainly some of the things that Hit-Girl does like intensive acrobatics, there are people who can do that. In terms of, without giving any spoilers, every piece of equipment you see in the film is something you can buy online. Matthew and I were just doing web searches, ‘can you buy that? yeah! but it’s pretty expensive.’ Like Big Daddy’s costume is all French riot police gear that you can buy online, and the particular piece of equipment that thwarts the ending, which is obviously where we do diverge most from the real world, you can buy on the web. We’re still mired in reality, or at least we try to be.

Did it seem obvious early on that Hit-Girl was going to be the big attention-getter? And was there any effort to tone her down so Dave and the others could maybe shine a bit more?

I think it was always important to us in the terms of how it started and ended that it be bookended as Dave’s story, but I mean there is a Han Solo element. Really Han Solo was much more interesting than Luke Skywalker, which is not to say Dave’s not an interesting character, but it strengthens it i think. You want in a sense to relate to the main character, so often the main character POV is a bit more of a blank slate. He’s supposed to be an everyman, and obviously Hit-Girl’s an extraordinary and weird little character, and the relationship that follows is fascinating and it’s obviously going to jump out, but I think if you made that the focal point it would just feel wrong. It’s the combination of the two that makes it so unusual. You can have too much of a good thing, so it feels to me right that it’s Dave’s story.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.