Kirsty Capes chats with director Jeff Wadlow during a roundtable interview for Kick-Ass 2…
You can tell that Kick-Ass 2 is a Jeff Wadlow film when you speak to him, because just like his movie, the writer-director exudes charisma. With Cry Wolf and Never Back Down the crown jewels on his list of directing credits, you don’t have to guess as to why Wadlow was chosen. With his taste for violence and gore, with just a dash of suave and style, Jeff is an obvious choice for the sequel to the hugely successful 2010 film based on Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s comic.
You were taking over from Matthew Vaughn when you were asked to direct Kick-Ass 2. Did Matthew Vaughn help you out or just leave you to it?
Jeff Wadlow: Matt was fantastic. He started his career as a producer – he was Guy Ritchie’s producing partner. He just knows exactly what you need as a filmmaker from your producing partner, and for me that took the form of allowing me to make my own movie. He said “I’m not going to get in your way”. He didn’t come to set once, he allowed me the freedom to do what I want. At the same time I talked to him almost every day, often for an hour at a time, just getting advice and his input on decisions I was making. So for me to know I had that kind of backup, but also knowing I’d been given that freedom was the perfect mix. I couldn’t have asked for more from him.
Not only were you making the follow up to a successful movie, but you were also following an adaptation of a successful comic book, and making an adaptation yourself. What was the most difficult thing about that scenario?
JW: It was definitely a bit of a headfuck. The first movie took some departures from the comic. For example Mindy’s mum is alive in the comic and Dave doesn’t end up with Katie in the comic. The second comic takes place the day after the first one while we set the movie four years later. So first of all it made my head spin… the first thing I did was take the comic, completely disregard the first movie and just write a screenplay that was an adaptation of the comic. Then I went back and watched the first movie like three times, just kind of got everyone’s voices in my mind. I wrote another screenplay as a sequel to the film and then I did another rewrite where I just brought some ideas in that I had about what I thought the sequel should be… ideas that I had pitched to Matthew that he got excited about.
How was the relationship with Mark Millar?
JW: I was quite nervous about it at first but Mark is such a great guy. He’s this odd mix of a nice polite guy who writes just the most horrible things. I was a little bit nervous about how he was going to feel about me adapting his work and the first thing he said to me was “it will serve me (Mark) much better if you make a hit movie than if you just make a slavish adaptation… do what you gotta do to make the best movie you can” and he said that because if you look at the first one there are things in it that aren’t in the comic and I’m totally okay with it because comics and movies are, I know its obvious, different mediums. So do what you need to make this story sell in this medium
Hit Girl had some choice language in this film. Are you ready for the backlash?
JW: Well, she’s older now. Chloe Moretz is fifteen. I joke that when they made the first film she was 11 but she looks about 9 when we made our movie she was fifteen she looks about 19, so I don’t really know if it’s going to be the same sort of response. We had her say the c-word in Russian because I knew people would be waiting for it so I thought it would be quite fun to tweak their expectations.
Obviously these films are extremely violent and have met some criticisms because of that. What about Jim Carrey’s response? Were you surprised by that?
JW: Shocked. Look, here’s the thing about Jim Carrey: we love him in his movies because we never know what he’s gonna say… well I ‘m here to tell you that in the real world you never know what he’s gonna say either. So I was quite surprised because he loved the first film, he read the script for our film. He was very invested in it… he paid for the prosthetics himself because our budget was quite modest, actually less than the first film; he wrote the Justice Forever creed, he sent it to me and was like “is there a place in the script for this”. He saw a lot of the movie when we did ADR . But, you know, Jim is an artist and he’s certainly entitled to his opinion and his right to change his mind and he seems to have… and if you actually examine the tweets he’s not really derogating the movie he just says: this level of violence is something I’m not comfortable talking about.
Have you been in touch with him again?
JW: I haven’t.
How careful were you to keep the violence and the comedy separate?
JW: I think you’ve got to go with your gut. I shot a lot of different options which let us cut away from things or hold the shot on a little bit longer… we did all the blood in post production so I knew we could always adjust the level of blood. by doing that we gave ourselves flexibility.
You’ve added a lot of new characters to this film from the comic books – who were your favourite new characters?
JW: Justice Forever are so much fun . But the bad guys weren’t really that fleshed out in the comics – so The Tumour, Genghis Carnage, Black Death – those are characters that I came up with because I thought it would be fun to mock the overt racism of the Motherfucker… so I really enjoyed playing with that space and following the lead that Mark set as far as the tone of these characters and the way we approached their names and costumes.
In the film there’s a balance between heart and over-the-top violence and swearing, was that a difficult balance to find?
JW: I think what was special about the first Kick-Ass movie was its ability to balance humour, action and genuine emotion… and I think that’s what defines that movie. It’s not a parody – the stakes are real – but it’s very funny, like an outrageous comedy, and it’s got big action moments. As big as any action movie. So I felt my mandate for the sequel was to balance those three things equally but also to push them further. So the emotion had to be more intense, the action had to be bigger, the comedy had to be broader. But I could never let one outpace the other. I just had to try and do what I could to make sure all three were being pushed.
You’ll be joining Mark Millar and Matthew Vaughn on X-Force – what is it like for you to go from this project to that one?
JW: It’s incredibly exciting Mark got that gig as Fox’s creative consultant while I was posting Kick-Ass 2 and I told him: “I would kill to write an X-Force movie for you guys”. I told him how I wanted to do it and he got excited and gave me a few notes, I incorporated them, we pitched it to the studio, they got excited.
Do you find you’re comfortable using CGI as opposed to live action stunts? Would you like to have seen more live action stunt work?
JW: In general as just a fan of movies I would rather see more live action stunts. When movies becomes too dependent on CG you start to emotionally disconnect from them. Obviously the audience knows you’re not gonna make a movie where someone will actually be in jeopardy or get hurt. For the most part safety is a big part of it, but still, when it’s a real person you’re engaged. When you can tell that it’s a CG person or environment you’re just not as engaged. I am much more interested in practical filmmaking and fortunately we didn’t have much money to do a lot of CG stuff so by and large we’re dealing with practical stunts.
How did you find filming in the UK?
JW: We only shot aerials in New York and our exteriors in Toronto. We shot all of our interior work and a little bit of exterior work here in the UK and I really loved it. The crew was fantastic, obviously some of the best crews in the world which is why everyone comes here to shoot. I used by and large the same crew that worked on the first movie – that was a conscious choice. They brought incredible strategic memory to the project and it allowed me to be the new guy so I could be the one advocating trying new stuff, while I could still rely on the people around me being consistent with what was done in the first film.
There’s going to be one more chapter of Kick-Ass the comic. Are you interested in getting on board for that one?
JW: Mark Millar is actually writing it right now and the second issue just came out. I saw the first film as a fan so as a fan I’m definitely excited to see where they go with it… honestly I’m not entertained with the third movie and getting involved with it because I’ve been so focussed on this film. I personally don’t like movies that overtly set up the sequel because the ending is not satisfying so I wanted to make sure that it was as satisfying as possible and one that doesn’t ask the audience to think about a sequel for that reason.
Many thanks to Jeff Wadlow for taking the time for this interview.