Mark Millar Interview, Part 2: On Being Punched in the Face

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Part 1 was Wednesday. This is the second and final part.

Here we discuss why the Kick-Ass movie was almost a huge disaster, Millar’s three favorite comics, Dr. Manhattan’s giant blue dick, what he learned from being punched in the face, twice, and the failure of a generation of comics writers.

It’s important to imagine Millar speaking with a thick, marble-mouthed Scottish accent. If you can imagine somebody pronouncing Kick-Ass as Keck-Ass, you’ve got it.

LEV: Kick-Ass was a big hit at Comic-Con last year. I was in the audience, and it was pretty electric. Did you even have a distributor at that point?

MARK: Oh no, no, we had nothing. I don’t know if you’ve heard the story, but Kick-Ass was almost the biggest disaster in history. What happened was, Matthew and I had sort of blocked out the screenplay, and written up a first draft, and he got Jane Goldman, who’s Jonathan Ross’ wife incidentally, to polish it and make it sing, and we sat back very satisfied with ourselves and said, yes, we believe this is the Pulp Fiction of superhero movie scripts, this is going to change everything, it’s brilliant.,

And then Matthew took it out to the studio that we had the deal with, and they said, we absolutely fucking hate this rubbish.

And we were like, what? And Matthew was like, oh, it’s OK, we’ll sell it somewhere else. And inside a week he had rejections from everyone. It was so weird, because we were so sure that we’d created a next generation of superhero films. But everyone hated it. They didn’t take the usual week or two to think about it, they all got back within 24 hours.

I’d never seen anything like it, and Matthew was so insulted by it, and what I really like about Matthew is that most people would then think, oh well then, fuck, I’ll go and make Die Hard 5 or something. But Matthew said, “Look, I know they’re wrong, and I’m going to show them they’re wrong.” So what he did was, he went off and raised $45 million himself, personally, just from friends, and this wasn’t like $45 million from AOL or something, this was like off his mates, and luckily Matthew is a rich dude and went to a very posh school and knows lots of rich guys. He went and he borrowed $45 million, he put some of his own money in, and the rest all came from investors, but his track record is good, and they trusted him. And he made the movie independently.

I think Peter Biskind is going to end up writing a bloody chapter on this someday. The notes we did get, one studio was kind of feigning interest in the script, and they wanted to make Hit Girl 25 years old, and all that kind of thing.

LEV: It’s a great story. How close did you feel like you had to keep the movie to the look of the comic?

MARK: You know Johnny and I were producers on the film as well and Matthew was amazing at keeping us involved at every stage — costumes, casting and everything. So he didn’t make any changes without us all talking about it, either me coming down to London, or we’d talk on the phone for a couple of hours. But really we just had to be practical. Like, Kick-Ass’s costume is identical except that when we started in rehearsals we realized that the actor couldn’t really express himself enough by not showing a little bit of his mouth. So we made a hole in it.

Hit Girl is pretty much the same, and Red Mist — it just didn’t work practically. Sometimes what works on the page doesn’t work in real life, and those bands across his face somehow didn’t work in real life. And Big Daddy, again, it was just one of those things where we wanted to show his face while he was acting. Especially when you have a name, the only name in the movie really is Nicholas Cage, and to have his face completely covered up for most of the movie would have been crazy.

LEV: I have to admit, I’m curious about Chloe Moretz [who plays Hit Girl]. She says such filthy things with such incredible conviction. Did you ever have a moment where you thought, my God, I’m debauching this innocent young girl?

MARK: No! We didn’t put any of those lines in the film. She ad-libbed a lot of that stuff. We had no swearing at all. She just thought, oh this will be good.

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