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Kicking Ass

22 Jul, 2010 By: Erik Gruenwedel

While edgy comic book heroes have found success in movies such as Sin City, Watchmen and The Dark Knight, making a film with a 10-year-old heroine who spews profanity while slicing and dicing bad guys was a tough sell to formula-driven Hollywood.

That’s the predicament director Matthew Vaughn (upcoming X-Men: First Class) faced pitching the comic book Kick-Ass as a feature film to the major studios.

A big fan of the eight-part series written by Scottish-born Mark Miller and distributed through Marvel’s Icon label, Vaughn assembled a group of private investors (including Brad Pitt) to finance the $28 million movie, according to illustrator John Romita Jr.

Romita and Miller co-own the rights to Kick-Ass and both served as executive producers on the film.

“Comic books bring their own built-in audience to a movie,” Romita says. “We self-published it, and Marvel distributed it.”

Adds Miller: “Marvel doesn’t see a cent from the movie.”

Romita, who illustrated a short flashback sequence of the Big Daddy character (played by Nicolas Cage) in Kick-Ass, says snippets and trailers released on the Internet coupled with buzz from the comic book at film festivals and conventions convinced Lionsgate to acquire the distribution rights.

“There was more European acceptance because it is such an edgy type of film,” Romita says. “Whereas Americans got a little put off possibly by the little girl cursing, which I think is silly.”

The movie follows ordinary teen Dave (Aaron Johnson), who decides to “do something” with his life and dons a superhero mask to fight real-life crime. After getting pummeled by bad guys, Dave is befriended by father/daughter capers Big Daddy and Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), and together they seek to take out crime boss D’Amico (Mark Strong). 

The film is “massively” autobiographical, Miller says, with several key scenes written when he was just 15 years old. He and his friends went to karate classes, worked out and designed costumes in youthful exuberance to become crimefighters.

“The story is basically about what would have happened if we tried to fight crime,” Miller says, alluding to the personal carnage he avoided when common sense and puberty intervened. “I knew for a fact I would have had the shit kicked out of me the first night.”

Romita and Miller declare themselves huge fans of DVD and Blu-ray Disc, with the special features as important as the actual movie. Romita says he was interviewed for featurettes found on the DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases of Iron Man, Daredevil and Spider-Man.

“I like to watch a movie with the commentary on to see the outtakes,” he says. “I enjoy hearing the ins and outs behind the scenes with the directors.”

Miller says he bought his first DVD player when Richard Donner’s Superman came out on DVD because there were four hours of special features on it.

“I sat up all night watching the movie without the commentary and then watching it again with the soundtrack,” he says, alluding to a love affair with DVD that now amasses more than 2,000 films. His favorites run the gamut from Citizen Kane and Japanese director Akira Kurosawa boxed sets to 1982 kung fu cult movie The Crippled Masters, about a guy with no arms and another guy with withered legs who team up to fight evil.

“I just eat that stuff up,” Miller says.

Miller says he is finishing writing the sequel, Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall, which features two new characters: Comrade Bitch (a female Russian cannibal) and The Colonel.

“He is a retired colonel who doesn’t like all the shit going down in his neighborhood, so he forms a super team [of crimefighters],” Miller says. He says the sequel will remedy Hit Girl’s hiatus from destruction.

“It will be like [Clint Eastwood’s] Unforgiven,” Miller jokes, “only for an 11-year-old girl.”

Kick-Ass will be available Aug. 3 as a Blu-ray Combo Pack ($39.99) and on DVD ($29.95) from Lionsgate.

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