Mark Millar, one of the comic-book industry's most popular and uncompromising personalities, told SCI FI Wire that he served as a very hands-on producer on Kick-Ass, writer-director Matthew Vaughn's upcoming big-screen adaptation of Millar's hardcore Icon Comics series. He also dropped a few hints about upcoming projects, including a potential Kick-Ass sequel.
Kick-Ass follows the adventures of Dave Lizewski, a Manhattan high schooler who moonlights as a costumed superhero. The pages of the comics are blood-soaked and filled with foul language, and Millar (Wanted) promised that the film—which stars Aaron Johnson as Dave; Chloe Moretz as an even younger assassin, Hit Girl; and Nicolas Cage as her father, Big Daddy—will be equally hard-hitting.
SCI FI Wire spoke exclusively to Millar by telephone last month. The following are excerpts from our interview with the Scottish writer of The Unfunnies, Civil War and more. Kick Ass is currently in production under Vaughn, the director of Stardust. (Possible spoilers ahead!)
How hands-on were you during production of the movie?
Millar: Oh, massively. The first film I did, Wanted, I just dropped by for a few meetings, talked to the guys about the script, dropped by the set to shake everyone's hands and then went home. But with Kick-Ass, it's been unbelievable. Matthew did the same thing with Neil Gaiman on Stardust, where basically Matthew and I spent weeks and weeks on the phone every day for a couple of hours while he was writing the screenplay. Then I would get out to his house, and we'd spend days blocking it all out and so on and changing stuff and nailing it down. Then there was the casting process, where, every day, we were looking at actors and actresses, and that took weeks and weeks and weeks. We almost couldn't find our lead, because there was nobody we liked, and then Aaron just came in at the last minute.
I was involved in the costume design, set design and then just on set for, I don't know, three days a week for the whole shoot. And now I'm involved with the editing. So Matthew has been brilliant. I got paid to be a producer on Wanted, and it wasn't a great deal of work, but Matthew has actually had me really involved at each stage, which I appreciate a lot. It's very satisfying to see it coming together the way you want to.
Would you say that comics and films are variations of the same thing, or are they entirely different beasts?
Millar: A lot of people said to me, "Oh, yeah, you'll be giving up comics, then." I'm like, "What?!" I don't see it as a graduation or anything. I just see films as another place to tell stories. And, to me, my stories are very filmic, are very, very similar. What I'd write as a [comic] is pretty much what I'd write as a movie, so the translation is very easy. Alan Moore's stuff, for example, is very dense. Sometimes it's like poetry, sometimes it's like prose, and it doesn't always translate well as a movie. And I'm very influenced by cinema, probably more than by comics, when I'm writing a comic. So to me it feels incredibly natural. I don't actually write thinking about other movies. I'm thinking about other comics. But luckily these guys are buying them up to make movies.
The success of Wanted as a film no doubt helped pave the way for Kick-Ass to get made. How much is riding on Kick-Ass? If it's successful at the box office, do you expect it will open the door to film versions of The Unfunnies and some of your other titles?
Millar: Wanted made $350 million. So that was the thing that opened the doors. I didn't expect that. For some reason I just assumed, "Oh, yeah, this will come out and do OK. If I get another movie at some point, wonderful." But what happened very quickly was that several of the titles got picked up to be made into movies. Kick-Ass. War Heroes. I'm doing American Jesus. Kick-Ass 2 is already being plotted out. We're planning it, because all the actors are quite young and we have to make it relatively quickly. So we'll definitely do that inside the next 18 to 24 months.
Wanted made a fortune. It made a ton of money, and it was a property nobody had ever heard of. And I think Kick-Ass is going to be even bigger. Everybody who's seen bits of it were rubbing their hands together with excitement because they think they've stumbled onto something very big. So I can't complain. It's not been a genius plan of mine or anything. It's just been a bunch of happy accidents that led to this.
So would you say that Dave is you, or are you Dave?
Millar: Well, Dave is probably as related to me as George Costanza was to Larry David, which is that all the worst aspects I remember from my memory I have taken and shoved into the story and then exaggerated them. So the core is definitely there. Our backgrounds are really similar. The family setup is similar. All that is exactly the same. The only thing I didn't do was make the costume. I planned to. I went to karate and bodybuilding. My friend and I were absolutely going to do it. The one big difference between us is that Dave had the balls to put on the suit, and I didn't.
Issue number 7 of Kick-Ass will be out on June 24, and 8 will be out later this summer. Give us a preview.
Millar: We've just seen the origin of Hit Girl and Big Daddy, and lots of Dave pussying around in situations with drug dealers and gangbangers and all these kinds of street thugs. Basically, Dave and his friends have pissed off the wrong guys by the end of issue 6. And we're picking up from there.