Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s comic book series Kick-Ass is now a movie, but the artists were involved in the filmmaking process. They even joined the cast and filmmakers at press conferences at the South by Southwest film festival. Millar had a lot of insight into how the film remained faithful to the comic, and where it changed.
CraveOnline: How did you adapt your own material and what did you have to change to make it a film?
Mark Millar: As adaptations go, this is probably the most literal one I’ve seen outside of maybe 300, or Watchmen. Where it had to be changed, we were cool with it. It’s just a case of trusting the team that’s developing it. Luckily we all knew each other quite well and we got to know each other more and just knew it was in good hands, so it was quite relaxed. If anything was being changed, it was discussed and followed through easily. I’d say probably 90% of the movie is what we wanted.
CraveOnline: Including all the homages to other comic books and comic book movies?
Mark Millar: It’s the sort of thing it couldn’t have been made as a movie I think even five years ago, seven to ten years ago, but the world is very geek literate now. If you mention Wolverine now, everybody knows who you’re talking about. Everybody’s girlfriend knows who you’re talking about as well. It’s like everybody understands everything that we spent all our lives training for which is great.
CraveOnline: Why is the third act of the movie so different from the comic book?
Mark Millar: We had something hammered out but as I was writing the comic after Matthew had read the screenplay, I realized the episodic nature of comics meant I had to have an 8 act story, and perhaps reveals and twists and things that would have messed up the structure of the movie. So things like Big Daddy’s reveal would have been awful in the movie if I had gone that way. The original backstory for Big Daddy, for those of you that read the book, you find out that it’s a lie, that the guy is just a comic book fan like Dave and made up the whole stuff with his wife. It’s only one page in the comic but it turns everything on its head. That would have ruined the movie. Likewise, the jetpack scene wouldn’t have worked in the comic. In the movie, we’re building up so much stuff that we needed some Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star moment. It was only two or three real diversions it took but it was just necessary. We’ve all seen whenever somebody slavishly adapts a graphic novel, it can be tedious.
CraveOnline: Were you concerned there were large sections of the movie where Kick-Ass isn’t even in it, because Hit Girl and Big Daddy and other characters are taking over?
Mark Millar: I know what you mean, because something we talked about, remember, when we were settling in the edits and in a normal movie you’re with Luke all of the way from Tatooine to the blowing up the Death Star. I wish I didn’t know these names, but it’s true. You’re with Luke for his entire journey, but there’s like five minutes or 10 minutes where you don’t see [Kick-Ass] when Dave goes off screen, and I suppose we were struggling with that a little because it’s a chapter like the way a comic is done more like a book where you may not see the lead character for a chapter and then he comes back, so the introduction of Hit Girl and Big Daddy is the way we do that seamlessly. The hospital just seemed like the best time to kind of close Dave off for a moment and then go back to him later.
CraveOnline: What was it like to see actors fill the roles your drew?
Mark Millar: The thing is, when Red Mist was cast, Chris after he was put on camera, I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing that. My original suggestion was Zac Efron for Red Mist. My entire logic was any guy is willing pay 10 bucks to see someone beat the sh** out of Zac Efron.
CraveOnline: Could there be a bigger comic book buff than Nicolas Cage to play Big Daddy?
Mark Millar: Even his kid is called Kal-El, which is Superman’s real name, and that shows you the intensity of the guy. But the first day on the set, I looked around and saw comic fans, really, that were making the movie, our little geek club. And I think he was really happy that we were making the movie. He told us all of the stories about how close he got to playing Superman and how close he got to playing Lex Luthor and all of these things over the years. But to see him dressed as a Batman guy was cool. Another thing that I loved as well which was Big Daddy’s moustache. He had a small moustache but it’s quite a bit larger.
CraveOnline: Is there a scene you’ll look back on in years that will stick with you?
Mark Millar: I think being in a sewage factory on day one. I remember thinking, “How Hollywood, this is going to be awesome. We’re off to film. Nic Cage is in the scene. This is going to be great. It’ll be helicopters bringing in food for everyone. It’s going to be so cool.” It was literally a sewage plant in east
CraveOnline: Do you have ideas for a sequel?
Mark Millar: Yeah, we’ve got lots of ideas. We want to get the comic up and running before the
CraveOnline: Do you see the movie influencing the future of the comic book?
Mark Millar: I think it would be a mistake. I think if you tried to guess things, you just end up pleasing no one, and our job is just to do the best possible comic book we can and hope that gets used as the movie. If not, that’s fine. If it works as a comic book and not as a movie, fair enough, and the movie can sort of do its own thing.
CraveOnline: Was the comic as unsettling as the movie ends up being, and was that something you wanted to bring to the film?
Mark Millar: It’s funny, a lot of people think it’s quite a violent, dark, cynical film. Yet you look at the poster is all bright colors. In a way, I think it’s the most naïve and idealistic movie I’ve seen in years because it’s about a wee guy who every night could get killed. Spider-Man’s probably going to be all right. Superman’s fine. The movie sucked but he’s fine. Kick-Ass at any moment, even just one guy giving him a bad punch and he’s dead. It’s so hard when I was when I was watching it last night when he was fighting those three characters. There was something so nice about the fact that he was just waiting until the cops arrived. I see it as quite a sweet movie.
CraveOnline: How would you compare your experiences with Hollywood making Wanted vs Kick-Ass?
Mark Millar: It was worlds apart really. For those who don’t know, I did a comic book called Wanted about four years ago that was an Angelina Jolie movie last year. What they did with that was the first 38 minutes was the book and then they did their own thing. For those who’ve seen the movie, it’s all that stuff with the fate. Then it went back to being the book again in the final 10 minutes. I just thought this is what happens. The studio system chews your thing up and hopefully do a good job. Timur luckily did but it could’ve gone so horribly wrong. When I first saw the script, I was like, “My God.” The loom, I hated it, but that’s the advantage of being the director and he’s a great director, so I thought it was worth the price. It was the first time I’d ever met Angelina Jolie so I thought it was brilliant. I can’t even pretend to be cool about it. I was just like, “This is so exciting.” Then for Kick-Ass then to be another misdirection… no, a great misdirection. [Laughs] Look, to luck out like that, the first two movies with two guys at the top of their game is just incredible luck. I mean, they shoot a whole bunch of sh** movies to get one good one. So I’m really pleased at being kind of spoiled by it. People spotted us the other day. The scary thing is because there’s good buzz on both movies, all the books that I’ve done, people are starting to talk to me about them. You want to make sure the next guy’s good too. You don’t want to just take a check. I don't know where I’ll go from here. I’m not sure anyone else will meet this standard.
CraveOnline: How much was Kick-Ass influenced by real life?
Mark Millar: Oh, it was very autobiographical. When I was 15, my best friends and I were reading Frank Miller comics, like Batman: Year One. I don't know how wee you guys are but do you read comics? We were so into it, we should have been studying for exams at the time. We wanted to become superheroes like Batman. It was pathetic. We were five years too old really to be doing this. The story was really about what would have happened if we hadn’t come to our senses and actually gone out and done this. Most funny is the character I created was called Mr. Danger. I thought it was quite cool. My friend’s idea was Batman. It was Batman’s exact costume. “I see you’ve put a lot of effort into this. If DC get wind of this, you’re f***ed.” He was like, “They’ll never know who’s under the mask.”
CraveOnline: What were your thoughts when all the studios passed on the movie and Matthew Vuaghn got the financing together himself?
Mark Millar: I think it’s so exciting what happened. Living through it and at the time I remember it was not my money on the line. It was Matthew’s reputation and cash. In a way I was an observer. If you think about it, here’s a property you took to the studios, they all said no emphatically no and he said, “You know what? You’re wrong. I’m going to find the cash and make it and I’m going to sell it back to you for more money.” Then he did do that actually. All the same I’m thinking what a gamble it was. It’s like an architect showing somebody plans for a house and saying would you like invest in it? Well, I’m going to build this house with my own cash and sell it to you for twice the price. Somehow it worked out. Now it seems like the right move.
CraveOnline: Does the Atomic comics store in the film have anything to do with the chain?
Mark Millar: Yeah, the big mouthy guy who runs Atomic Comics is a friend of Johnny’s. So he needs the PR. I hope to get some free sh** next time I go there.