When Kick-Ass was released three years ago, it left the door wide open for a sequel, but even the film’s stars weren’t sure they’d ever walk through it.
“I think we were all very surprised, yeah,” says Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who plays the villainous Chris D’Amico AKA The Mother Fucker in the Kick-Ass films, but will probably always be best known as McLovin from Superbad. “We filmed Kick-Ass about four years ago, it came out three years ago, and it didn’t make as much money as I think people wanted it to. So a couple of years went by, and we just thought, ‘Well, alright, we made it and we’re proud of it and we’ll just leave it be.’
“And then we got word that through DVD sales, iTunes and digital downloads, people were really becoming fans of the movie. Soon enough, [Kick-Ass director and Kick-Ass 2 producer] Matthew Vaughn called me and said he found a great guy, Jeff Wadlow. He wrote a great script; it was funny, dark and action-packed, so we all signed on and wanted to do it.”
Naturally, Mintz-Plasse felt some trepidation about recreating what worked in the first movie, especially with the unheralded Wadlow – whose last film was 2008’s unremarkable Never Back Down – in the director’s chair instead of Vaughn.
“I think that’s always a fear, you know? When you make a movie like the first one and you’re very proud of it, you’re always worried that if you make a sequel it could ruin the first one. And yeah, I was a little sad that Matthew wasn’t coming back. I thought Kick-Ass was his baby. He made the first one strictly out of his own pocket, which was amazing, so when he called me [about Jeff Wadlow] I was a little bummed. But I had a meeting with Jeff and he seemed very passionate; he understood the movie and where it needed to go.”
With Wadlow replacing Vaughn at the helm of the film, it was up to Jim Carrey to replace the star power of Nicolas Cage. A self-professed fan of the original Kick-Ass, Carrey was tapped to play Colonel Stars And Stripes, an ex-mafia goon turned vigilante. Playing against type as a grizzled tough guy, Carrey excels in the role; a couple of months before the film’s release, however, he withdrew his support for it.
“I did Kick-Ass a month before Sandy Hook,” Carrey tweeted in June, “and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence. My apologies to others involved with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart.”
Mintz-Plasse is diplomatic when asked for his opinion on Carrey’s decision. “It came as a surprise,” he says. “He read the script. He loved the first movie, so we knew he wanted to be a part of it. We went to him and we were just so happy that he wanted to do the movie. When you read a script, there’s violence on the page, but you never know how it’s actually going to play out in the movie. So when he read the script, I think he said, ‘Alright, it’s violent, but I’ve done some movies like this in the past and I’ve seen movies like this, so it’s fine.’
“In all his scenes, he doesn’t have a gun, and there’s not too much blood, so everything he was shooting was fine. Once he left the set and we shot everything without him, and the action came to life off the page, it got really, really violent. And when he saw the finished product, it was just too much for him.
“I think people definitely have the right to think what they want and say what they want, and with all the tragedies that have happened, it’s totally understandable why he and other people are against the violence… I love violence in movies. I think it’s a fun escape. If done right, it’s great. But I totally understand why people say that.”
Of course, the wisdom of objecting to the high level of violence in a film called Kick-Ass 2 is debatable. Like its predecessor, this is a movie targeted at an audience that has long since been desensitised to screen violence.
“I think that’s absolutely what it is,” Mintz-Plasse agrees. “I’m very desensitised to action and violence. I was talking to someone recently about how in all the action movies that I see lately, the third act is always, ‘What’s the biggest city or the biggest monument or the craziest thing that we can blow up and destroy?’ To see New York City explode should be the craziest thing you see in your life. It should be the craziest thing of all time. But you see it in every movie. So it really numbs your brain and desensitises you to that.”
It’s exactly that indifference to violence that has led Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar to up the ante in his quest to shock modern audiences. While both films have been controversial (partly because of violence, and partly because of pre-pubescent vigilante Hit Girl’s colourful vocabulary), neither has pushed the envelope as far as Millar’s comics, and that’s OK with Mintz-Plasse.
“There were a couple of scenes in the comic book that were way too intense to put in the movie,” he says. “There was a rape scene and there was a scene where my character murders a dog. Jeff made the decision, and I think it was a great decision, to take those out. If you put a rape and the killing of a dog in a Kick-Ass movie…obviously the movie is dark, but it has this comic book-like, fun, hilarious tone to it, and if you throw a rape in there, it really brings it down and changes the mood. I think it’d be too much.”
The spectre of the rape scene still hangs over Wadlow’s film – The Mother Fucker clearly intends to commit rape, and is physically unable to follow through – but Mintz-Plasse believes the change is significant enough. “I thought that was actually a good scene for the crowd to see that Chris D’Amico is not totally bad,” he says.
“On paper, he wants to rape her, and he tries to, but subconsciously, he knows he can’t do that. He knows it’s not the right thing. That’s what his body shows in that scene.”
While he doesn’t share his co-star’s concerns about the film’s content, Mintz-Plasse admires Jim Carrey’s career arc. In much the same way that Carrey was able to go from Ace Ventura to Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Mintz-Plasse hopes to go from Superbad to dramatic roles of his own.
“I think that’d be a blast,” he says. “It’s always so much fun to challenge yourself and take yourself out of your comfort zone. I think that’s really good for a person to do. But I’m still young, you know? I’ve only done seven or eight movies so I’m still trying to figure out who I am in the film industry.”
BY ROHAN WILLIAMS
Kick-Ass 2is in cinemas August 22.