Kick-Ass 2 returns us to the twisted world of comic book creators Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s imagination, in which an ordinary boy named Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) decides to don a costume and become a real-life superhero vigilante. After taking down crime boss Frank D’Amico at the end of the first film, Dave and the now-orphaned Mindy Macready (Chloe Grace Moretz) try to settle into their lives as high schoolers, leaving their superhero antics as Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl behind.
Of course “retirement” doesn’t last very long, and soon the two would-be heroes are back on the streets and attracting friends like Col. Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) and Night Bitch (Lindy booth). However, Frank D’Amico’s son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is still scheming on how get even for his father’s death – and that answer comes in the form of a super-villain alter-ego, and a team of marauders who wreak havoc all across the city.
With a new writer/director at the helm, some controversial source material, and a cast of actors who are not known for re-treading the same ground (read: sequels), there was plenty to talk about at the Kick-Ass 2 press conference in New York. In attendance were writer/director Jeff Wadlow (the X-Force movie) and stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Moretz, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.
On the surface, one would think that hopping back into the zany characters and world of Kick-Ass would be a relatively simple task for the cast; however, according to the actors, that was simply NOT the case:
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: It was hard; I think we both have really cool different arcs in this one. Obviously now I am a different character; I’m much more dark and twisted and Hit-Girl is trying to find out [who she is] she’s like a little lady now; she’s starting to get emotions for boys and going to high school… I feel like we both had to take on a few little different character traits than our first movie so it was a little easier.
Chloe Grace Moretz: Yea it was interesting trying to find the reason to even come back to her. Trying to find why, what did you see in the first film that you would want to see in the second film, what is that? I think that was the main struggle with her because you saw so much Hit-Girl you never saw Mindy Macready. You never saw the girl behind the mask.
That’s what we wanted to show that whether she’s wearing a designer outfit going head to head with a bad girl or she’s wearing her wig and her mask she’s a superhero in her heart. I think that’s what we really wanna show that these superheroes are coming from inside. They don’t need to be Kick-Ass, they don’t need to be Hit-Girl, they need to be who they are to be the true superhero.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Yeah, it’s taken me a lot longer than [Chloe and Chris]. I’ll be honest, I think it was a challenge for sure and I think that’s when me and Jeff were working alongside right in the beginning to kind of develop that again. It’s really hard for me because….I go to a character and then I erase it and I just jump to something else. I find that a lot easier. But to go back to something and then try to make it feel like the same person is actually a lot harder than it seems, I feel.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: Especially after like 4 years
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Right, also for me… I’m very particular about things. If I saw the first one again I’d think, ‘Aw man I wish I did this or did that’ so I actually would want to take the character to a whole new level and it wouldn’t be the same character again. There was this documentary that came out in between ‘Kick-Ass’ and it was called ‘Superheroes’
Jeff Wadlow: An HBO documentary.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: and I loved that cause these are the real characters and there were some really quirky guys in there and I’d do impersonations of them and go ‘Aw wouldn’t it be great if in ‘Kick-Ass 2’ Dave was a bit more like this’ and [Jeff] would go yea that’s funny but that’s not Dave. You can’t do that.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: You can’t substitute who he was in the first one.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: And I’d think ‘dammit, dammit’ I wish I could have redid it again and that would just play in my head and it was totally wrong and luckily Jeff kind of was like, ‘Dude that is not what it’s about, that’s just the crap on the surface. Dave is just getting back to that personality and the real soul of—the essence of the character.’ It did mess with my head a little bit.
Jeff Wadlow: But you’re such a fantastic actor I was struck by two things working with you. One was, when we first started there was this question because it had been a few years, and you have a family now and the roles you were playing had grown up and some people were like ‘is it going to be weird seeing Aaron slip back into Dave?’ but you were so into the details; the shoes and the jacket and I think Sammy saved the glasses for you, and as soon as you got your hair back there you were, Dave again, immediately.
And the other thing that I was struck by was how you transformed Dave over the course of the movie. One thing we talked about was that he really had to change in this movie to become the superhero he wanted to be. You guys saw the film and you saw how Aaron did that. I just thought it was amazing to see you become the end product, this fully realized man… They’re all trying to answer that question who are they really? And I think the answer for Chloe’s character is Hit Girl tries to be a normal teenager.
Chloe Grace Moretz: With the van sequence it shows that, we never saw that in the first film. This girl with her blonde hair flowing in the wind being Hit Girl. I think that is what you want, you want to see that. You want to see a human doing it.
Jeff Wadlow: Yea it doesn’t matter if she has a purple wig on, that’s who she is.
Chloe Grace Moretz: She’s a superhero yea, totally.
While it may have been difficult to get back into the old Kick-Ass routine, the cast was definitely cognizant of how this franchise has changed both their careers and their lives:
Chloe Grace Moretz: I think Hit-Girl is that character that really did put me in a different light. I think it’s the character that I would say is my breakout role. It put me in the minds of people in this business and it’s an amazing role because it was something that was poppy and fun and the revisit was so fun. It’s just one of those characters that I definitely think changed me as an actor for sure.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: I think it was just good for people [to see me differently]. I did a bunch of comedies before ‘Kick-Ass’ and this, so I think it was cool for people to see me do something a little darker, more action involved.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: For me I think it definitely made an impact. I think it took me a little bit longer to come around because most people thought I was just a teenaged comic book fan boy. I’m far from the character.
When making an action flick, there is always the chance of injury while on set – and Kick-Ass 2 was not without its share of stunts gone wrong and actor injuries:
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: We were pretty much encouraged to do it all, ‘just get in there,’ ‘oh I don’t know,’ ‘no, no get in there.’
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: ‘…And if you feel like you might throw up we’ll use it.’
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: ‘Do it again!’ This is the great thing about playing these roles, there’s a bonus in it: we get to dress up as superheroes and do some amazing cool shit and I remember seeing Chloe do all of that in the first one, and me going, ‘aw man I wanna do that!’ and then for me and Chris they said, ‘Ok we’ll give you a fight scene, but you guys will slap each other.’
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: There’s this beautiful fight scene between Mother Russia and Hit-Girl and they’re so badass, then you cut to two seventeen-year-old boys wailing on each other.
Jeff Wadlow: But you guys were really going for it.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Well, there are a lot more fight sequences in this movie especially for my character. So I did a lot of fight training and a lot of MMA, boxing, jujitsu things like that. I’m telling you that gets you… properly into shape [laughter]. And then I’d go on the set and then Chloe would kick the shit outta me. So it didn’t really matter how ripped or how in shape you’d be, she would still throw me across the room.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: But yeah, we get to do some really good stuff here and you’re surrounded by an amazing stunt crew. Me and Chris would go at each other so much that they’d be like, ‘that punch needs to be a bit closer, a bit closer’ and then BOOM you punched me in the face.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: I felt terrible…
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Then I’d be like bleeding. Then I’d hit him; I mean I even got scars from the first one.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: I got a scar on the first one.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: I think that’s just cause we were so exhausted we’d end up hitting each other. I remember Tee had to do—
Chloe Grace Moretz: My stunt girl.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Chloe pretty much does absolute everything, only when it comes to Mother Russia, she kicks [Hit-Girl] half way across the room and she has to smash into something. Then they bring the stunt girl in, who when they did, she got cut.
Chloe Grace Moretz: She cracked her head open.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: They pulled her too hard and she hit the corner.
Chloe Grace Moretz: Well they used the hydraulics system where it wasn’t man-powered, it was hydraulics and it was too much and it pulled her an inch too far and she cracked her head on the bar.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Yeah she hit like the corner edge of a table.
Jeff Wadlow: Well we didn’t use too much hydraulics or cables. In the first film Hit-Girl and Big Daddy were very heightened and when they would fight they would have a heightened quality and had more of that Hong Kong vibe. When I started figuring out the movie with the stunt team, I said ‘this is about a superhero that’s spreading and real people fight, so the fighting should have a more grounded realistic vibe so when you see Aaron and Chris and other characters really going at it, it’s got a more reality-based fighting style,’ which means you had to have the actors in there more than they did in the first one.
Chloe Grace Moretz: Yea that was another thing, trying to find out how realistic can it be, Hit-Girl going head to head with Olga and how much could she fight back? How much could this little martial artist, crazy, wily little kid fight back realistically without just getting killed.
And obviously we fudged a lot of stuff, but at the end of the day you have to show the vulnerability, when she does get hit in the face when she does thrown into a glass table, you’re going, ‘This girl isn’t a superhero, she’s a 15-year-old kid!’ And that’s what I think is the coolest bit of vulnerability there.
As for the most bruise-inducing moments on the set?
Chloe Grace Moretz: The whole Mother Russia fight scene, that thing was crazy; but I think the fight scene I got most beat up on was that van. That van really, really beat me up.
Jeff Wadlow: Well you’re rolling around on an actual van – you’re on a green screen stage but it’s still real hunk of metal.
Chloe Grace Moretz: When I went home, cause of those hydraulics they had shaking the van and stuff, my whole entire ribcage was like purple and blue. I was just beat up cause they’re whipping me around and at one point they whipped too hard and I slid— I remember I slid like sideways – and I was shoved into it and I couldn’t breathe.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: I think Aaron pretty much covered mine. There was this one real big fight scene with him at the end and it was mainly just exhaustion. I was shooting a TV show in LA and I would fly back and forth from London to LA. I would literally land in London having jetlag and go straight to the set and work with Aaron.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Then he’d have to dodge punches.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: I’d have to dodge punches with fifty pounds of leather on my body. It was mainly just exhaustion and being tired. No battle wounds.
In the tradition of comic books, there is always the question of how a hero and/or villain would look on the other side of the law. The cast of Kick-Ass 2 had some tongue-and-cheek answers about how their respective characters would look “flipped” to other side of the moral divide:
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: Can I choose the damsel in distress? I’d love that. In the ’40s, in a dress? Tied to a railroad? Yea…so I can be like ‘Help me! Help me!”
Chloe Grace Moretz: I don’t know that’s a really hard question, I’d be a super villain? [turns to Jeff Wadlow] you’re the writer!
Jeff Wadlow: Yes but I have days and days to think about this stuff, I’m not supposed to improvise.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: Would you be a villain Chloe?
Chloe Grace Moretz: Well you’re saying if all good guys are bad guys—that’d be kind of fun to be a bad guy…
Jeff Wadlow: Well we talked about Mother Russia for this dark twisted version of Hit-Girl. If Hit-Girl could grow up to be Mother Russia I think we would have gone a different way ultimately and wouldn’t have cast Olga, but there was sort of a moment where we were kind of talking about the Gina Carano’s of the world and could Mother Russia be the twisted dark version of the grown up Mindy Macready. If Mindy stayed on this dark path…
Chloe Grace Moretz: She could be really creepy.
Jeff Wadlow: We went a different way with Olga and I don’t think Dave could ever be a bad guy. Dave is too much of a good guy. He just wants to do the right thing – that’s why he has the batons opposed to the hand gun. At his core he’s just a good guy and sincerely wants to make the world a better place, not at all like Aaron. [Laughs] Just kidding: Aaron personifies Dave in many ways.
The conversation wasn’t all serious and topics of discussion quickly took a turn for the geeky – starting with the cast’s breakdown of why Robin the Boy Wonder has zero chance of standing up to his dark alternate, Hit-Girl:
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: I can answer for her that, she would totally [take Robin].
Chloe Grace Moretz: Yea I would definitely beat up Robin, I think I would.
Jeff Wadlow: Does it depend on the Robin we’re talking about?
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Isn’t Joseph Gordon-Levitt Robin?
Jeff Wadlow: He’s been Robin in the most recent one.
Chloe Grace Moretz: Or is he the new Batman? That’s the question. [Smiles coyly]
Jeff Wadlow: My money is still on Hit Girl
Chloe Grace Moretz: Ok, I’ll take the compliment.
Not to be outdone, Aaron Taylor-Johnson was treated to his own geek inquiry when the subject of his previously-rumored candidacy for the Amazing Spider-Man franchise was brought up:
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: …I do think there are some characteristics that do kind of resemble a Spider-Man/Peter Parker thing. I think definitely Dave would have been a huge fan of Spider-Man and we play on that I think in the first one… and I’m going to leave it at that.
Jeff Wadlow: Even Mark has said in many interviews that ‘Kick-Ass’ is sort of the real-world more warped view of the Marvel universe – and not just the Marvel universe the entire comic book universe – because obviously Hit-Girl and Big Daddy are Robin and Batman and Kick-Ass is Spiderman. We talked about how the Colonel is our version of Captain America. While the other superheroes are sort of warped riffs on famous comic book characters—
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: like the Avengers or whatever…
An ironic statement from Johnson, given that he WILL be joining the actual Avengers, playing the character of Quicksilver in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Joss Whedon’s sequel to his highly-successful Avengers film.
Kick-Ass 2 will be in theaters on August 16, 2013.
Be sure to stay tuned for more of our interviews with the cast & crew.