Five For Fighting once said in their song "Superman" that "even heroes have a right to bleed." Kick-Ass, the latest blockbuster to be adapted from a truly graphic novel, takes the essence of this incredibly powerful ballad and runs with it. The main title character (played by Aaron Johnson) is a homemade costumed vigilante inspired by the characters of his comic books ("even heroes have the right to dream.") But unlike the Spider-Mans and Batmans of his imagination, the character Kick-Ass experiences a whole world of pain during his many fights for justice. Wait.
Everyone, from a grown man to a little girl, gets the sh*t knocked out of them in this movie. This isn't your little brother's PG-rated version of Fantastic Four - this is Kick-Ass.
Yesterday, I sat down with Aaron Johnson at Chicago's Four Seasons hotel to discuss the kind of violence portrayed in the film, what it was like to work with Nic Cage, the possibilities of Christopher "McLovin" Mintz-Plasse kicking ass, and more.
Kick-Ass is presented in a comic book kind of tone; the cinematography really accentuates the colors, etc. Do you think the characters of Kick-Ass are meant to live more in a reality, or still in a kind of a comic book world even though they are confronted with realistic violence?
I think that the way it's shot has more of this comic book feel, that's what this movie is. The violence is like that as well, and it's just an enjoyable watch. And the action in it, it's just ridiculous. But you do have those moments where you're brought back to reality again, and it's set in the real world. Sometimes it's the sense that you're kind of being dragged into that fantasy. Every now and again [the characters] are real, but once they dressed up as superheroes, they kind of feel like they're in this world that takes them on this journey - this mad sort of vigilante mess. I think you as the audience get caught up in it, the comic book feel of it. Then you're brought back to reality and you go, "Oh, f**k." I think it's good in that sense; it's made for that purpose I suppose.
From an actor's perspective, do you see many connections between Kick-Ass and (Spider-Man alter ego) Peter Parker?
Yeah, there's that line [in Kick-Ass], "With no power comes no responsibility." My character is a Spider-Man fan, also just as much as anything else - he gets a plate thrown at him and he becomes a sort of Wolverine. There are so many moments in this movie that play on cliches in other superhero movies, but with a twist - it's got that sort of energy to it. And it's kind of funny.
Did you at all audition for the new Spider-Man role?
You can't do that straight off of this. Spider-Man's f**king great, but ... this isn't Kick-Ass 4. It's good to be the first character.
If you could be any superhero from the past, and be in another actor's shoes, who would it be?
Tim Burton's Batman.
Is that your favorite version of Batman?
Is this movie confronting the "comic book violence" in movies like The Dark Knight and Watchmen, or is it taking what those are doing and running with it?
I think when you get something like Dark Knight or Iron Man, or Watchmen, which was really for adults because of attention span, and was political as well, those movies f**king push the boundaries and raise the bar high. I think Kick-Ass gave us an opportunity to f**king do just that, because we could use it as reality, and these were comic-book kids that were caught up in all of this s*it ... it was an opportunity for Matthew [Vaughn] to break the f**king barrier. I think Kick-Ass is going to make it harder for others I suppose. Iron-Man 2, I can't f**king wait for. I definitely think we had to give something a bit more shocking or risk-taking, and be like the comic book, which did really well with the fans. They were like, "F**king A, this is what I do all day anyway. I draw my own superhero costume." I want to see something like that.
Were you a comic book fan when you were younger?
No, I didn't read the books.
Did you get to hang out with Nicolas Cage (Big Daddy in the film)?
We didn't go out on the town or anything. He was really insightful, and just cool. Really down to earth, a chill-out guy. He does an Adam West impersonation which is funny as hell. He brought the character to life and really off the page, I think that's just inspirational - when you do big, bold confident choices like that. You pull them off and it's brilliant. That's just being creative, an artist.
Favorite Nic Cage movie?
Are you a big Coen Brothers fan?
Does Christopher Mintz-Plasse (who plays Red Mist) also have the ability to kick-ass?
If there's a sequel, I would f**king love it just to see Chris get really dark.
Do you think he could be as dark as Frank (played by Stanley Tucci)?
I f**king believe in Chris. We are gonna train him up like a motherf**ker, beat some sh*t into him. I'm gonna get him some whiskey, and it's gonna be mess. But he's gonna go down the Heath Ledger road, not as far, but he has that sort of sense of Dark Knight. He's gonna go dark-dark.
But seriously, and without the comedic edge?
Serious. That will be Chris' moment. Everyone will go "Oh my god." And I believe he can do it. And with a second one, if we do one, he's gonna be great, and we're just gonna keep him on that road, mess with his head.
If there were to be a sequel, do you think Hit-Girl would have more action scenes, and would you have less vigilante action scenes?
I hope so, I guess so.
Was there a scene that was filmed of Kick-Ass training, and didn't make the final cut?
No, but I think it would be a lot of fun [for the second one].
Do you think it means anything about Kick-Ass' changing view of justice when at the end of the movie he kills three people? Do you think that if there is a sequel, would he kill again?
I guess so. I haven't really thought about that. My character does actually kill. He kills three people ... weird, huh? I guess I do murder people.
If there is another [movie], and Kick-Ass might have a grip on killing now, and he's accepted it ...
I don't know. Maybe he's gonna get ... I don't know, sh*t. It's one of those things where the violence in this is comic-book, and kind of enjoyable. So its never kind of gory, you never get that sense of [having] nightmares after you've killed someone. It doesn't seem like that. And he's killing baddies anyway. It's not like he's cold-killing a nanny or something.
Quick Questions with Aaron Johnson
Favorite fruit? I don't know. I really love fruits - nectarines, plums, raspberries, blueberries, kiwis.
If you could be someone else for 24 hours? Daniel Day-Lewis, he's one of the f**king best.
Favorite movie of his? My Left Foot, maybe There Will Be Blood.
What did you have for breakfast? I had mixed berries, and I had oatmeal. Usually I'm full on hash browns, bacon, scrambled eggs.
Last movie you saw? Kick-Ass was the last movie I saw, last night. At the premiere, I was in LA, and I watched it again. I've seen it 9 times. Before that, I saw Greenberg.